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11-08-2015, 16:51


Unwilling to entrust peace negotiations to subordinates, Wilson took the unprecedented and controversial step of assuming direct control of the U.S. mission. He left for Europe on December 4, 1918, to attend the peace conference in person. This meant that his ideas about the shape of postwar Europe would be heard, and signalled the importance of America's claim to a central place in any settlement. Enthusiastic crowds greeted Wilson in Paris and London and inflated his hopes for a peace along the lines of his Fourteen Points. But, in the end, Wilson misread public opinion in Europe and the history of European rivalries. Wilson's proposals prevailed only in part, generally where dismantling empires and disarmament meant breaking up the might of the defeated Central Powers. What had been the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the western part of the Russian Empire were reorganized on the basis of nationalities, and the Versailles conference recognized the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Newly independent countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia—still ethnically mixed but designed to satisfy the national allegiances of most of their populations—fulfilled Wilson's hopes. And the major powers committed themselves to a League of Nations. He failed, however, to prevent Britain and France from requiring Germany to pay heavy reparations to the victorious powers. The French, moreover, got the right to occupy the Rhineland for fifteen years. He failed likewise to win the United States Senate over to his project for a League of Nations.