Lieven concludes his rather exhausting history of the diplomatic buildup to the First World War as seen from Russia, with some Big Ideas:
The First and Second World Wars were essentially wars fought between Russia and Germany for control of Europe. The first war ended in stalemate, Russia won the second one.
This explains why both the world wars started in eastern Europe, in the badlands between the two empires – with the Austrian attack on Serbia in 1914, and the Nazi attack on Poland in 1939.
The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to a vacuum. It led to the creation of a host of smaller nations (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, alongside the existing weak powers of Bulgaria and Romania), none of which was strong enough by itself to stand up to either Germany or Russia, making the second war, if not quite inevitable, then a lot more likely.
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