World war II is definitely the most destructive armed conflict in modern history. Most of the countries-participants suffered enormous losses of human lives and damage to economic development.
The Soviet Union suffered the heaviest losses among all the countries in the anti-Hitler coalition. The estimates of Haynes (2003) suppose that the total number of deaths, including increased mortality rate in the rest of the Soviet Union because of the war and those who got lost in the occupied territory amounted to 26.6 million people.
The population of the USSR has returned to pre-war levels only after 30 years. The economy was destroyed and about 25% of the national wealth was lost. More than 1,700 towns and townships, 70 thousand villages and about 32 thousand factories and plants were completely or partially destroyed. By the end of 1945, indicators of industry and agriculture were much below pre-war values.
An additional problem in the restoration of the Soviet economy was the division of the world into two hostile camps. This has led to a marked decrease in foreign trade with Western countries. In the period from 1945 to 1950, the foreign trade turnover of the USSR with the West fell by 35%.
The United States did not take a direct part in the early years of the war in Europe. World War II has largely bypassed the North American continent so there were no large-scale destructions and mass death of civilians. Anti-crisis programs that were launched in the framework of the Roosevelt’s New deal were already active. However, according to Wandrei (2017) the Second World War helped the United States to cope with the aftermath of the great depression that began in 1929.
Lend-Lease program of US aid to allies has become one of the most important sources of enrichment of the country during the world war. The official name of the program was “An Act to Further Promote the Defense of the United States”. Lend-lease provided the mass marketing of American goods and products in the foreign market.
The increased role of the state has sharply increased the public sector of the economy. The state was the main customer for the production of weapons and ammunition. Large-scale construction of new enterprises in the United States was carried out. Non-ferrous metallurgy and Metalworking has also begun to develop at a faster pace.
In the midst of war, the United States produced 60% of world industrial production. In 1948, the U.S. share in the industrial production of Western countries was 55%. The share of the U.S. economy accounted for 50% of world coal production, 64% oil, 53% of steel production, 17% of grain production, and 63% of corn. After the Second world war, the United States concentrated about 2/3 of the world’s gold reserves in their hands, the share of American exports in the foreign trade structure of the Western countries was about 30%.
The so-called “Marshall plan” has played a significant role in the recovery of the European countries and the enrichment of the United States. It was proposed by the US Secretary of state, George Marshall during his speech at Harvard University in June 1947. The plan called for the provision of aid to Europe under the condition of use of funds for production growth and financial stability, cooperation with other countries in reducing trade barriers and supply in USA scarce materials, preservation and promotion of private American investment.
Sixteen European countries have given their consent to participate in the “Marshall plan”. Within four years, the US has allocated $13 billion for the implementation of the “Marshall plan”. More than 2/3 of this amount was spent on purchasing of American goods. Thanks to the “Marshall plan”, US foothold in the European market, got rid of surplus production in the country as well as increased investment in the economy of European countries.
Years after the end of the Second world war, it is obvious that the countries of the “Axis” overestimated their military and economic capabilities. The strategy of “blitzkrieg” worked only against weak States.
Nazi authorities failed to do anything to stop that giant volume of production of military equipment which was deployed in the USSR and the USA. In addition, Nazis have shown the inability of the military forces to control the occupied territory and provide resources to their economies which were required to increase military production.
However, lack of resources and the production capacity is only part of the great victory in 1945. As noted by many historians and critics of the Soviet Union, including Z. Brzezinski (2016), the selfless struggle against fascism which killed millions of people, especially on the Eastern front in the battles at Kursk, Stalingrad, and other heavy fighting has turned the tide of World War II.
After the end of World War II has begun the restoration of developed European countries by their “Americanization”: the active promotion and import of American goods, large-scale lending (public and private), restructuring of industrial structures (especially in Germany and Japan) under the direct control of the United States, “Americanization” of the world monetary system.
There is a new, bipolar world order. After the Second World War, European countries ceased to be an independent player in the opposition of the leading powers – the USSR and the USA. Europe has lost its influence in the world and the old colonial system collapsed. The United States had the opportunity to impose conditions on its Western partners.
- Brzezinski, Z., & Sullivan, P. (2016). Russia and the United States (1st ed.). Florence: Taylor and Francis.
- Haynes, M. (2003). Counting Soviet Deaths in the Great Patriotic War: A Note. Europe-Asia Studies, 55(2), 303-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966813032000055895
- Wandrei, K. (2017). How Did World War II Help the U.S. Recover From the Great Depression? | Synonym. Classroom.synonym.com. Retrieved 18 March 2017, from http://classroom.synonym.com/did-world-war-ii-us-recover-great-depression-18222.html