Opinion & Analysis

Is it Morally Right for Nations Responsible for WW2 to Lead Europe Again?


The aftermath of World War II witnessed the emergence of a new global order and the foundation of international organizations such as the United Nations, which aimed to prevent such a catastrophic conflict from occurring again.

In Europe, the question of whether the nations primarily responsible for World War II should take up leadership roles has been a subject of ongoing debate. Germany and Japan, two of the main aggressors during the war, have played pivotal roles in Europe and the world since the war’s end. This article explores the moral implications of nations responsible for WWII taking up leadership roles in Europe.

World War II was a devastating conflict that claimed the lives of millions and left Europe in ruins. The nations primarily responsible for the war, including Germany, Japan, and Italy, played key roles in the conflict and bear a significant moral burden for their actions. However, in the years following the war, these nations have undergone profound changes and expressed remorse for their wartime actions.

One of the fundamental lessons of history is the potential for transformation and redemption. After World War II, Germany has embarked on a path of reconciliation and atonement. The country acknowledged its war crimes, paid reparations to victims (heavily disputed by Poland), and sought to make amends with its European neighbours. This process of reconciliation led to the establishment of the European Union (EU), which aimed to ensure peace and prosperity through economic and political integration.

Japan, too, has made efforts to address its wartime past, issuing apologies and establishing peaceful relations with its neighbours. These actions demonstrate a commitment to learn from history and foster cooperation rather than conflict.

The moral question of whether nations responsible for WWII should take up leadership roles in Europe depends on their actions in the post-war period. Both Germany and Japan have transformed themselves into responsible global actors and have contributed to the promotion of peace, democracy, and economic stability. Their leadership within international organizations and cooperation with other nations have played a significant role in Europe’s post-war recovery and stability.

Germany’s leadership within the EU at times has been instrumental in fostering unity and cooperation among European nations. The EU has acted as a vital force for peace and prosperity, demonstrating that nations can overcome their past and work together for the greater good.

However, recently growing European hostility, particularly towards its central and easter members, such Poland, may raise serious and uncomfortable questions, such as – Is the Union’s growing hostility towards Poland a continuation and extension of the Nazi sentiments that were present in WW2?

Even the freedom of movement of labour in the European Union in practice (majority of the Eastern European workers are employed in unskilled factory work and farms) really resembles that of the Nazi Forced Labour Policy and reminds us of the typical “propaganda poster” that most of you will be familiar with. Is this a well-disguised and legalised form of Nazism in the European Union? The people are, of course, not offered an alternative. However cynical that may sound. We do not see thousands of Germans coming to work to Polish farms or factories, for example, as per the Union’s policy. Nor do we see eastern European lawmakers having any significant role in the Union’s policy. All we hear is complaints and disagreements…

While it is essential to acknowledge the moral progress made by Germany and Japan, concerns about power imbalances and potential misuse of leadership roles exist. Some may argue that the nations responsible for WWII should not hold disproportionate influence in Europe due to the potential for hegemony and the resurgence of nationalistic sentiments. Particularly when large numbers of communities with antisemitic views find a haven in Germany. It is a fact that antisemitism is a growing (not shrinking) problem in Germany.

To address these concerns, it is crucial for the international community to maintain a balance of power and ensure that the moral lessons of history are not forgotten. Europe’s leadership structures, including the EU, should be based on principles of equality, cooperation, and shared decision-making. All nations, regardless of their history, should have a voice in shaping the continent’s future.

The question of whether nations responsible for WWII should take up leadership roles in Europe is a complex and morally charged one. While the past actions of these nations are undeniable, it is equally important to recognize their post-war transformation and commitment to peace and reconciliation. The lessons of history teach us that nations can change and make amends for their actions.

Ultimately, the moral rightness of nations responsible for WWII taking up leadership roles in Europe hinges on their continued commitment to cooperation, peace, and the shared values of the international community. As long as these nations uphold these principles and work collaboratively with their European neighbours, they can play a positive and morally justified role in shaping the continent’s future. Europe, as a whole, must ensure that power is balanced and that the mistakes of the past are not repeated, and that the lessons of history continue to guide its path towards a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Tomas Dūminis
Dr. Tomas Dūminis, the BR guest author is a scientist and has special research interests in Baltic Anthropology. He is a graduate of Queen Mary University of London.

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