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The Axis Powers had many reasons to go to war.

 Axis Powers


The reasons range from ideological, practical, political and geopolitical; the role of this article is to understand the motivations of Nazi Germany (1933 to 1945), Imperial Japan (1894 to 1945), and Mussolini’s Italy 1922 to 1943).

This is a guest post by writer Jonathan Riley. Find out more about him on his Medium page, as well as his LinkedIn, and his blog.

This article will focus on practical, geopolitical and political reasons behind the motivations of the imperial ambitions of the three Axis powers; this does not mean ignoring or undermining the atrocities committed by the Fascists and imperialists during and before World War II.

The Italian peninsula, the Japanese islands, and Germany do have similarities, these being mountainous terrains that make it harder to expand their populations. With Germany’s third of its territory, mountains can be seen in an inverted V on maps.

Japanese islands are mountainous; about three-fourths of the national land is mountains, and long mountain ranges form the backbone of the archipelago. For Italy, 40% of its land mass is also mountains.

To understand the reasons behind the actions of the Axis powers, it must be strongly emphasized that the economic free trade and globalization as we know it only existed in the creation of the American security blanket after World War II.

What this meant for most nations with access to the materials of industrialization was that the only way to survive was to secure trading markets by conquering territories.

This means that in the political orthodoxy of the time, the only real option for Germany, Japan and Italy was to go for and conquer new territories.

These are the motivations of the French, English, Dutch, and American Western expansion connecting America from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

Nazi Germany

Historically Germany was surrounded by enemies, with the Danish and Swedish to the north, the French to the West, and the Russians and Polish to the East. Finally, the Austrians threatened Germany in the south.

With Germany being in the center of Europe, for the country to survive, it had to become a militaristic and technical State been highly efficient in combating its many enemies.

Germany, unlike Japan, doesn’t lack material resources but successfully secures its borders; it requires territory and room for population growth.

Germany began its industrialization in the mid-19th century. It took them five generations to industrialize, which led to the decline of its population and the country’s urbanization.

In contrast, in the United Kingdom, it took seven generations of industrialization beginning in the mid-18th century, which meant its population had the time to adapt.

Reasons for Germany’s war of expansion is due to the nature of his political environment because Europe at the time of World War II was the bloodiest continent on the planet and had been that way since the fall of the Western Rome Empire in 476 AD.

Furthermore, international trading did not yet exist worldwide because the United States had yet to create a security blanket that provided an environment of trust which enabled international trade and security on the high seas.

Put simply, there was just too much bad blood between the nations of Europe and other countries across the planet.


On July 8, 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, seeking to re-establish for the first time in over 200 years regular trade and discourse between Japan and the Western world.

This meant, in practical terms, that Japan was a medieval country in an industrialized world with its territory lacking natural resources to industrialize.

To combat this problem, the Japanese imported technology. They sent those capable of studying Western technology, but this left the only possibility for Japan to prosper in an imperialist and Mercantilism world was wars of conquest.

International trade and any trade before 1945 through the economic system called Mercantilism; this was where nations would conquer territories and use those territories to import and export resources.

This article is not an economics article, so to understand the basics, nations mostly traded within their empires. For Japan to survive, it needed other countries’ resources to get goods and export.


Europe has had many hegemonies or regional powers throughout its long and bloody history, with the French, Germans, and Italians at different times dominating the continent.

Italy was one of those nations with the potential to dominate Europe until stronger and better-located geographical nations like France, Spain, and Germany outcompeted it.

The Italian motivations for expansion in the 1920s and the build-up to World War II were primarily due to the need to expand into markets, in this case, other nations’ economies, to sell goods and services.

Economics and the USA

Looking at resources, land acquisition, and geographical problems may seem incredibly bland. Still, these are the main factors and driving forces of history empires are not built for glory but for the transfer of goods and services.

The British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever seen and may ever see; it was built to acquire goods and services and sell them by taking over territory.

This same philosophy applied to the Axis powers, and the motivations to go to war may seem asinine explanations.

Still, it should be strongly emphasized that suggesting trust between nations before 1945 would have been a laughable idea.

The United States of America invented globalization and began international trade between nations, which has given Japan, Germany and Italy prosperity.


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" Axis Powers and Their Motivations to Go to War" History on the Net
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June 12, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/axis-powers-and-their-motivations-to-go-to-war>
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