Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century

By Bruce F. Pauley | Go to book overview

8 / THE ERA OF TRADITIONAL
DIPLOMACY AND WAR,
1933–1941

The same mixture of traditional and totalitarian tactics and goals found in the domestic policies of the totalitarian states can be found in their diplomatic and even their military policies during the 1930s and the early stages of World War II. None of the dictators, moreover, was particularly secretive about his goals, All three of them had delineated at least the outlines of their foreign policy ambitions—for anyone who chose to take them literally, which almost no one did—in numerous prewar speeches and publications. Mussolini wanted a new Roman empire in and near the Mediterranean—which he would populate with a rapidly growing population—and constantly glorified war. Hitler laid down the outlines of his foreign policy in Mein Kampf, in which he stated his desire to make Germany a world power through the conquest of at least large parts of the Soviet Union. To ensure success he would form an alliance with Italy and avoid a conflict with Britain. Stalin wanted to extend Russian influence deep into Europe and if possible have a ring of satellite states that would obey his every command. He also favored the expansion of the Communist ideology and Communist movements abroad provided the ideology remained orthodox (in his view) and the movements remained dutifully subordinate to his commands.

Nevertheless, the actual tactics pursued by the totalitarian dictators for a long time remained relatively traditional and restrained, thus fooling many people, both at home and abroad, into thinking that the dictators had only limited and fairly reasonable ambitions. The restraint turned out to be temporary and resulted not from the modification of long­range objectives, but from the realization by the dictators themselves that their countries were simply too weak either industrially or militarily or both

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