Since World War II many things have changed in the world, both in economy and warfare. Post WW II atmosphere initiated competition for the world’s true hegemon. This competition brought us numerous good and bad things; one of the good things was the rapid development of technology, science, medicine, among many other things. Conversely, the increased competition succeeded in the manufacture and development of lethal weapons, bombs, machines and the great economic crisis.
The Soviet Union and the United States emerged from the WW II as the world’s leading superpowers. This set the stage for the Cold War, which lasted for the next 45 years. The United Nations was formed in the hope of preventing another such conflict. The self determination spawned by the war accelerated decolonization movements in Asia and Africa, while Western Europe itself began moving toward integration.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, leaving the United States as the sole superpower in a unipolar world. However, that is about to change.
Accordingly, regardless of the current global financial crisis, let’s take a look how some major participants of the World War II and participants of the later conflicts stand financially today and what can we expect from them in the future, these include: Allies Powers of the WW II: the USA, Russia, France, the UK and China. Axis Powers: Germany, Italy and Japan. Korean War participant: South Korea (Republic of Korea).
The United States was involved in WW II as a major military power and more or less in every military campaign since the WW II, almost always coming out as the winner. The United States, once in a great power, now is in a great trouble.
Today, major economic concerns in the US include national debt, external debt, entitlement liabilities for retiring baby boomers who have already begun withdrawing from their Social Security accounts, corporate debt, mortgage debt, a low savings rate, falling house prices, a falling currency, and a large current account deficit. As of June 2008, the gross US external debt was over $13 trillion, the most external debt of all countries in the world. The 2007 estimate of the United States public debt was 65% of GDP. As of October 1, 2008, the total US federal debt exceeded $10 trillion, about $31,700 per capita.
Unfunded Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, and similar promised obligations made the government liabilities to rise to a total of $59.1 trillion, or $516,348 per household.
The military spending by the US Government have created instability in the country. Conservative estimates that by 2017 the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost the US budget around five trillion.
Despite the current financial situation in the US, the US economy, according to reports is still the largest national economy in the world, with an estimated 2008 gross domestic product (GDP) of US$14.3 trillion (23% of the world total based on nominal GDP and almost 21% at purchasing power parity (PPP)).
Russia – Soviet Union, an Allies member, was also involved in many military conflicts including War World II and the Korean War. Russia came out of them undefeated. However, Russia than Soviet Union faced serious financial problems and stagnation; with the Cold War coming to a close in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, and with the US increased diplomatic, military, and economic pressure, the Soviet Union finally collapsed. Now, decades after the WW II, Russia is in a great power, not in a great trouble.
Recent rising of oil prices, increased foreign investment, higher domestic consumption and greater political stability have strengthened economic growth in Russia. The country ended 2007 with its 9th straight year of growth, averaging 7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998. In 2007, Russia’s GDP was around $2,089 trillion (est. PPP), the 7th largest in the world, with GDP growing 8.1% from the previous year, and $14,704 GDP per capita. Growth was primarily driven by non-traded services and goods for the domestic market, as opposed to oil or mineral extraction and exports.
Oil export earnings have allowed Russia to increase its foreign reserves from $12 billion in 1999 to $597.3 billion on 1 August 2008. Today, Russia has the third largest reserves in the world. Arms sales have increased to the point where Russia is first in the world in sale of weapons.
Also, Russia owns $74.1 billion or 2.77% of the US Treasury Securities.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This act brought the United States into World War II. After the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, along with the Soviet Union joining the war against it, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945. The war cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the country’s industry and infrastructure destroyed.
Despite Japan’s devastating destruction, today, Japan is one of the strongest independent economical and industrial powers on the earth. A major economic power, Japan has the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP, at around $4.381 trillion in terms of nominal GDP, and $34,296 per capita, and the third largest in purchasing power parity. Japan is a member of the United Nations, G8, G4, OECD and APEC, with the world’s fifth largest defense budget. It is also the world’s fourth largest exporter and sixth largest importer. It is a developed country with high living standards and a world leader in technology, machinery, and robotics.
Banking, insurance, real estate, retailing, transportation, telecommunications and construction are all major Japan industries. Japan has a large industrial capacity and is home to some of the largest, leading and most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles and processed foods. The US is maybe the biggest importer of the Japanese products in the world.
Japan owns $593.4 billion or 22.17% of the US Treasury Securities.
Germany was a major European power from the 1930s to the mid-1940s. Its historical significance lies mainly in its responsibility for escalating political tensions in Europe by its expansionist foreign policy which resulted in World War II. The state came to an end in 1945, after the Allied Powers succeeded in seizing German occupied territories in Europe and in occupying Germany itself. Germany like some other European countries was seriously destroyed during the WW II.
Today, Germany is the largest national economy in Europe, the third largest by nominal GDP in the world, around $3,320 trillion. Also Germany is ranked 5th by GDP (PPP) at around $2,812 trillion; its growth rate in 2007 was 2.4%. Since the age of industrialization the country has been motor innovator and beneficiary of an ever more globalized economy. The export of goods “Made in Germany” is one of the main factors of the country’s wealth. Germany is the world’s top exporter with $1.133 trillion exported in 2006 (Euro zone countries are included) and generates a trade surplus of ‘165 billion. Most of the country’s products are in engineering, especially in automobiles, machinery, metals, and chemical goods. Germany is the leading producer of wind turbines and solar power technology in the world.
Concerning the European Union, Germany was and still is the Union’s biggest net contributor; with the biggest economy, she is responsible for about 23% of the EU budget.
Germany owns $41.1 billion or 1.54% of the US Treasury Securities.
South Korea – The Republic of Korea
In the 1950s South Korea became one of the poorest countries in Asia; its infrastructure and resources were severely exploited during the Japanese occupation and completely destroyed by the Korean War.
However, following the military coup led by General Park Chung-Hee in 1962, South Korea became for four straight decades one of the fastest-growing economies in the world history, completely transforming itself from farming and fishing based economy into one of the world’s most high-tech industrial powers.
Today, South Korea is a major economic power and one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. The South Korean economy is highly developed and one of the four largest in Asia and 13th largest in the world. Often called the “Miracle on the Han River”, South Korea’s tremendous economic growth was fueled by the export of high-tech goods. The South Korean economy continues to grow at a very fast speed, having one of the highest GDP, at around $1,201 trillion, export and industrial production growth rate in the developed world. By 2050, the South Korean economy would have grown to over $4 trillion and have an income per capita of over $90,000, surpassing almost all of the current G7.
Today, South Korea is leading several key industries in the world, particularly in the fields of science and technology. The South Koreas strongest industries are automobiles, biotechnology, construction, computers, electronics, petrochemicals, robotics, semiconductors, shipbuilding, and steel.
South Korea owns $35.3 billion or 1.32% of the US Treasury Securities.
There are many other participants who were defeated or seriously affected by the WW II and the Cold War, although stands strong today, these include: the UK, Austria, Italy, France, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria among others.
If we look at the above records, it looks like that all Allies Powers except the US, who contributed mostly to the WW II, stands economically strong today, including Axis members, who by all studies are the strongest ones.
Consequently, one question rises from this: did the Allies Powers really defeated Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II?
It looks like they did not. Today, Germany, Italy and Japan are very powerful countries, and if they unite for some mutual cause, they might become unbeatable. As an example, if Germany, Italy and Japan decide to start a new war by forcing out the US military basis from its territories, what can we expect; can we expect to see all five major Allies Powers and Security Council members joining against them for the second time?
Knowing that Germany and Italy became major European powers, and Japan Asian power, is that really possible?
If this war comes to place, Russia would look for her own interests this time, and that is Europe. Russia learned her lessons from the Cold War. China would stay neutral, although, closer to Russia than to the US. France would not be able to help the US; France has too many problems these days, France would have to stay in good relations with European members in order to prosper. The UK is the most interesting one; she would be in very difficult situation, to help closest friend and ally, or to bond closer to Europe.
If the UK fails to provide necessary help to the US, who will? In that case the United States could only expect help from the South Korea and the State of Israel.
This is just a theory, however, one day Germany, Italy and Japan will try to force out the US military basis from its lands. Let’s just hope that it will be done in peaceful and understanding way so that we do not get the chance to see millions of people killed and nations destroyed all over again.