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The immediate cause of the First World War was the Kaiser’s violation of Belgian neutrality, as part of a planned assault against France. The direct cause of the Second World War was Hitler’s invasion of Poland, after a secret agreement with Stalin to carve up its territory. In both cases, German aggression was not deterred by the prospect of conflict with European states individually or in combination. In both cases, too, the late entry of the US as a belligerent made a decisive difference to the outcome.
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