Monday marked 100 years since the British declared war on Germany, after the Germans ignored Belgium’s refusal to allow troops to pass through its borders to France.
Four years and 16 million lives later, World War I set the stage for the rest of the 20th century. A century later, University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie says the hot points of global conflict in the 21st century can be traced to the consequences of “the Great War” in Europe and Asia.
“It was almost an incomprehensibly large war,” Gaddie says. “What’s going on between Ukraine and Russia is a consequence of the unraveling of the Russian Empire. The disputes in the Balkans – this is a consequence of the unraveling of the Habsburgs in Austria-Hungary. Also, look at the Middle East, where the arbitrary lines drawn by the British – the unraveling of the Ottoman Empire.”
World War I also fundamentally changed conflicts between nations through the introduction of chemical weapons and aerial bombing.
“The first time we had ever banned a weapons is after World War I,” Gaddie says. “In many ways, we are still in World War I.”
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