Woodrow Wilson and a Revolutionary World, 1913-1921

By Arthur S. Link | Go to book overview

Chapter Three

WOODROW WILSON AND THE
REBIRTH OF POLAND

KAY LUNDGREEN— NIELSEN

Although the Polish state was reestablished more than sixty years ago, the debate over the factors that were decisive for Poland's restoration has raged for years. Many factors contributed to the creation of a Polish state. The policy of President Wilson was one of them.

During the First World War, as in the Second World War, the American leaders avoided participating in discussions on territorial problems, especially those which concerned eastern Europe, before the war was over. 1 In both cases, the vital, direct American interests in that part of the world were not great. 2 However, even though the United States did not have a large stake in the Italian-Yugoslavian conflict, it became deeply involved in this affair. The problem was that, in Wilson's opinion, American policy toward Italy was becoming a threat to his vision of a peace settlement. Although he was not a rigid doctrinaire, neither on the problem of Italy nor on other questions, it is worth briefly mentioning his general principles, for his policy on Poland is not clear without reference to them. 3

Wilson favored the worldwide development of self-governing, democratic states. He believed that a world consisting of such states, organized within a League of Nations, would be the best guarantee for peace in the future. As far as new frontiers were concerned, therefore, the principle of national self-determination should guide the postwar settlement. These democratic states in the League of Nations would work for disarmament; the new order would preserve the peace more effectively than the old diplomacy, which relied on the

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