Let's focus on European powers that existed from the 18th century until today.

There's a common theory which basically says:

giving concessions or not being firm enough towards dictators always brings them to "wanting" more and creating excuses to be more aggressive.

Following this line of thought non-dictatorial powers should always be much more firm towards any dictator and her possible aggressions.

In principle I tend to agree with this theory, but I wanted to know:

Do we have some statistics/facts that support this idea?

I think that theory is supported with what happened with Hitler before WW2 (I am referring to the appeasement policy of UK), but are there other examples in history that can potentially support this idea?

  • 4
    What has your preliminary research shown? How will you select an authoritative answer?
    – MCW
    Mar 2 at 11:02
  • 1
    Having made all of the complaints above, I think it is possible for history to explore securitization as a tactic for autocrats to obtain legitimacy. An autocrat whose legitimacy depends on securitization cannot be appeased. I don't think this applies to Putin. Unfortunately, this is an opinion, or at most a hypothesis, hence the comment rather than an answer. I invite anyone to develop this further.
    – MCW
    Mar 2 at 11:20
  • Thanks for the insights @MCW . Maybe I should be more "strict" about the period to consider? I'm interested to explore this idea mainly considering the late modern era (let's say from the 18th century onwards). Should I make it more clear in the question?
    – Enrico N
    Mar 2 at 11:28
  • There's an interesting question here, but as it is presented it's kind of hard to answer, as there have been very few European dictators in the last few centuries who fall into the Hitler/Mussolini/USSR/Putin camp of making serious threats for territory. If you count up European aggression episodes since 1700, they are overwhelming not associated with dictators. (Does it make sense to expand to include kingdoms and aristocratic oligarchies?)
    – Mark Olson
    Mar 4 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


While I understand the downvotes, I think there is a reliable and factual way to answer it.

Short answer:

Not always at all.

Long answer:

Of course, each dictatorial regime has its specifities, and analysing them could easily explain whether it will always want more or not:

An agressive dictatorial regime is not (only) based on corruption, cruelty or willingness to be mean. It is based on ideology. Few easy examples:

  • Nazi Germany: Racial ideology
  • Fascist Italy: Social ideology
  • USSR: Social ideology
  • Today's Russia (because I suppose that's why you're asking the question): Cultural ideology (?)

Understanding the ideology behind the regime gives you the key to analyze what the regime wants, and what people under regime could feel legitimate to want.

For example with Nazi Germany: Giving Tchecoslovaquia at Munich was not enough because regime and people mostly feel legitimate to "group Germans in Germany" as their theory said. But this is only the traditionnal pangermanism part of Nazi ideology. It was clear that Nazi Germany had a supplementary doctrine: Lebensraum, which meant conquering non-german territories (Poland, Russia). In theory, giving Russia and Poland (but it was not practically possible becaue France and UK could not decide for USSR) could have settled down Hitler's ambitions.

Today's Russia could be analyzed as such (as well as any dictatorial regimes, but also democracies): The ideology behind Russia's ambitions seems* to be cultural: recreate the Russian Empire with people of Russian culture (language, etc...). If you agree with this vision, is Donbass part of Russia? Yes Is Ukraine part of Russia? Not really but one could argue Ukraine and Russia were united from the Middle Age until 1990 Is Switzerland part of Russia? No, never.

So with this analysis (WARNING: might be erroneous of course is the underlying ideology is wrong), Russia might want DOnbass, Ukraine, and stop there and never try to conquer Switzerland.

*Alway difficult to speak of present


Of course not wanting to conquer someone does not mean you won't be at war with them. For example, Nazi Germany did not want to conquer UK but the war started because UK wanted to defend Poland.

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