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What was the extent and effect
of foreign involvement in the
Spanish Civil War?
The Nationalists benefited far more from
foreign assistance the Republicans
Their military support was of much better
quality and quantity
Timing of their assistance was also more
favourable – for example, the airlift in 1936
Much of the support given to the Republicans
harmed rather than helped their efforts
Aid to the Republic: the USSR
The main aid to the Republic came from the Soviet
They gave tanks, aircraft, and military advisers
Stalin’s main motive for helping the Republic was
not so much to promote Communism, but to protect
the position of France
Also, he wanted to oppose fascism and Nazism in
Aid was reduced from 1938, when Stalin realized
the Republic was doomed, and redirected the aid to
the Far East
Aid to the Republic: The International
The Republic also received help from the
‘International Brigades’
It was a force of volunteers from all over
Europe who wanted to help protect the
Republic from fascism
In total, there were 35,000 men fighting in the
International Brigades
Most of the volunteers were industrial
workers and political refugees
Aid to the Nationalists: Germany
Germany gave the most important assistance
They airlifted the Moroccan army to mainland Spain
in 1936, and sent their Condor Legion, a combined
air, tank, and artillery unit
Their motives for sending this assistance was
probably to help weaken France
They also gained economically, acquiring raw
materials for German rearmament
And of course, the Germans saw the war as an
opportunity to fight against communism
Aid to the Nationalists: Italy
Italy also supplied important assistance
They helped in the airlift in 1936, and sent
60,000 troops to support Franco’s side
They too saw the war as a fight against
Communism, and a chance to weaken
Mussolini was also seeking more prestige
and glory following his campaign in Abyssinia
Non-intervention: Britain
Britain did not involve itself in the war for
several reasons
They did not want the conflict to turn into
another European war
They were eager to appease Italy
Most British politicians were reluctant to help
any side associated with Communism
Non-intervention: France
France’s decision to remain neutral was more
surprising, since it also had a Popular Front
But there were many political divisions which
weakened her position, and made the
government reluctant to commit to aid
France knew that it would be acting without
the assistance of the British
Like Britain, France did not want the war to
Non-intervention: The USA
The United States had its own concerns
They had for many years been following the policy
of isolationism from European affairs
The Depression was still blighting the country:
involvement in a foreign war was the last thing they
The USA was far too involved in its own economic
recovery (the ‘New Deal’)
However, this did not stop the US Texas Oil
Company supplying the Nationalists with oil on
The non-intervention committee
This committee was set up in August 1936 by the British diplomat
Lord Plymouth
Its aim was to enforce an embargo on arms to Spain, ban
volunteers, and to force them to withdraw
Members of the committee included Italy, Germany, and the
By denying the Republicans the right to buy arms, it reduced a
legitimate government to the same status as the rebel army
which was trying to overthrow a state
Non-intervention did not impede Italian and German aid, but did
succeed in making the Republic almost entirely dependent on the
Soviet Union, which in turn helped spread Soviet Communism in
In short, it was a disastrous failure
The results of intervention: Spain
The Nationalists benefited far more than the
Republicans from the position of the
international community
Without help from the Germans and the
Italians, it is unlikely that Franco would have
been able to start, let alone win, the war
The results of intervention: Germany
Germany gained more than any other country
from the Spanish Civil War
Fascism had been promoted
France was weakened
The alliance with Italy was strengthened,
making the Anschluss possible
The prolonged war had helped to distract the
western powers from Germany’s plans to
move in on Czechoslovakia
The results of intervention: Italy
Italian relations with Germany were
France was weakened, and fascism was
However, Italy achieved less than Germany
The Italian army had performed badly during
the war, yet had cost a lot of money to put
into the field
The results of intervention: USSR
Soviet involvement brought few rewards
The Spanish Republic had been destroyed
Relations between the USSR and Britain &
France had been damaged
The results of intervention: Britain and
One of the main reasons why Britain had not
intervened was to avoid damaging relations
with Italy
Although an agreement was signed between
the two countries in 1938, by this time Italy
had moved much closer to Germany
France had been weakened by the war,
because a fellow socialist republic had been
overthrown by fascism