Wikipedia lists following as "cascade effect" leading to the disastrous conflagration called World War I:
- Austria Hungary threatens Serbia
- Russian treaties with Serbia commit it to mobilise in Serbia's defense
- France mobilises in sympathy with Russian ally
- French mobilisation kick starts the Schlieffen Plan, and the eventual invasion of Belgium by Germany
- Britain's treaty with Belgium commits it to defend Belgium from all aggressors
A two front war was a certainty because France had signed a mutual military assistance treaty with Russia in 1892. Britain also had a treaty with France (and later, Russia, creating the Triple Entente, which as I understand it constituted an alignment rather than an actual treaty), the Entente Cordiale - but this was not a mutual defense treaty, which is why the proximate cause of British entry into WWI was the invasion of Belgium (thereby violating the 1839 Treaty of London, which guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium), although that begs the question whether Britain would have entered the war anyway if Belgium had allowed Germany free congress in it's invasion of France.
Anyway, that's all the background. My question is, what if France had repudiated their treaty with Russia, leaving Germany free to fight the Russians on a single front? I sure we can all see multiple scenarios; one of course is that World War I takes place a little later in time and for different proximate reasons; but the nationalist tensions and grating empires would inevitably have led to a great war. The rest of the history of the 20th century continues not much changed (except that maybe the second world war occurs in the 1950s, featuring the nuclear-armed industrial juggernaut called the Germano-Russian Empire ...).
The second, more hopeful scenario is that a swift victory for Germany in Russia means the there is no Russian Revolution (I'm a quasi-socialist, but by no stretch of the imagination do I see the Russian Revolution as a good thing); no World War II; no holocaust (and thereby no Israel, no occupation, etc)... no cold war. On the flip side, the European empires last vastly longer than they do in our history - perhaps with no great wars to deplete the resources of the empires de-colonisation is fanciful idea (although the collapse of empire seems to be a historical inevitability - economically at least). Or would the socialist revolution happened later, just not in Russia, but maybe in a German Empire weakened by the cost of pacifying Russia (is revolution possible in an industrial society)?
Is it possible that a swift German victory in WWI would have made for a better world?
Or is there a certain amount of historical inevitability that things like the Cold War would occur - that the 20th century would necessarily create two (or more) nuclear armed superpowers or empires, that would necessarily view each other suspiciously purely because irrespective of ideology they were a potential threat to each other's dominance?
Can't we all just get along?