The Main Strengths and Weaknesses of the Major Powers of 20th Century

The Main Strengths and Weaknesses of the Major Powers of 20th Century

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The Main Strengths and Weaknesses of the Major Powers of 20th Century At the beginning of the 20th century the five main powers in Europe
were Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia and Austria-Hungary. On 28th
June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of
Austria-Hungary, was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Within six
weeks most of Europe was at war. Leading up to this war the five main
powers were all at different levels. In this essay I will discuss the
strengths and weaknesses of these five powers leading up to this war
taking into consideration the different factors such as economy,
military and political.

Germany had improved vastly from the 1850s and was, by the early 20th
century, the second most powerful country in Europe behind Britain, if
not the most powerful. One factor that influenced this dramatic change
was their improvement in industry. They had the second largest coal
production to that of Great Britain but their annual steel production
exceeded that of Britain by more than 10 million tonnes so this was a
great strength. This was also a strength for Great Britain, she too
had a strong industry, with the second largest annual steel production
and the largest coal production. By 1914 Russia had industrialised and
the production of coal, oil, textiles and steel grew rapidly.

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Russia was devoted to textiles and food processing rather than
chemicals and engineering. This, in the long term, would be a weakness
because the army would have nice uniforms and nice rations but not
efficient and useful armament. Austria-Hungary’s industry was behind
all the others but it was improving and in certain areas its
industrial capacity was reasonably good.

One of France’s strengths was that it had a large overseas empire and
therefore only one enemy- the German empire. This would prove a
strength for the future war. Unlike Austria-Hungary who had many
potential enemies. This is a massive weakness because Austria-Hungary
was located in the middle of all its enemies and could obviously not
fight on all these fronts and couldn’t do anything without the support
of Germany. One of Britain’s biggest strengths was also her empire.
She had the largest empire ever- over 20% of the worlds land surface,
and formed the Triple Entente with Russia and France, gaining
stability in Europe.

One of Russia’s main weaknesses was its political structure. Its
ruler- Tsar Nicholas the second had many faults in his character to
say the least suggesting that Russia in reality was not a strong
state. Germany was similar in this respect because its policy was
hectic due to the Kaiser’s personality flaws and the absence of
collective responsibility and decision-making in government. France
also had problems with its Third Republic. It was unstable and was
frequently changing governments resulting in a lack of continuity to
military and naval dealings. It was only in 1911 when the army was

Britain had the biggest navy of the 5 powers with the most
battleships, cruisers and submarines. However its army was very weak,
it was the only European power that did not introduce conscription.
Russia was different however, it possessed the largest peacetime
standing army and its military expenditure exceeded that of Germany.
France’s military, however, was no match and the republican
politicians put no faith in the army’s loyalty resulting in a late
organisation. Germany had made rapid progress and by 1914 they had an
army of 8.8 million and could equip millions of reserves. The German
army’s equipment and training was of the highest standard.

In conclusion I think the main strength of Britain was its empire.
This would be a strength for the long term as it would help them in
future wars to have allies. Great Britain was the strongest power in
this respect although France also had this advantage. However I also
think that their strong economy is an important strength because their
biggest weakness was their army but they could still fight a modern
industrialised war because they had immense wealth. Russia and Germany
were different however, both their armies were strong but they both
had weak rulers who had personality flaws and this proved to be
critical when it came to decision making and would cost them. A
difference between these two countries however was that Germany had a
strong industry and Russia had a weak industry which in the long term
would cost dearly because they could not provide the materials needed
to fight in a modern war. Although Austria-Hungary was improving it
was still the weakest out the five. I think one of the main weaknesses
is its enemies. It could not possibly fight all its enemies and would
even struggle with the help of Germany. Another important weakness was
that there were many ethnic groups within the country resulting in
tension. These 5 countries might have shared weaknesses and strengths
but overall they were all on different levels.
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