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Demilitarisation or demilitarization may mean the reduction of state armed forces. Demilitarisation in this sense is usually the result of a peace treaty ending a war or a major conflict. A drastic voluntary reduction in size of a victorious army is called demobilization. Demilitarisation was a policy in a number of countries after both world wars. In the aftermath of World War I the United Kingdom greatly reduced its military strength. The resulting position of weakness during the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany was among the causes that led to the policy of appeasement.
The conversion of a military or paramilitary force into a civilian one is also called demilitarisation. For example, the Italian Polizia di Stato demilitarised in 1981, and the Austrian Gendarmerie merged with the national police, making up a new civilian body.
Demilitarisation can also refer to the policies employed by Allied forces during the occupation of Japan and Germany after World War II. The Japanese and German militaries were re-badged to disassociate them from their recent war history, but were kept active and reinforced to help the allies face the new Soviet threat that had become evident as World War 2 ended, and the Cold War began.
Demilitarisation can also refer to the reduction of one or more types of weapons or weapons systems (See Arms Control) or the removal of combat equipment from a warship (See Japanese battleship Hiei).
A demilitarised zone is a specific area, such as a buffer zone between nations previously engaged in armed conflict, where military persons, equipment or activities are forbidden.
Examples of demilitarisation include:
- The Treaty of Versailles barred post–World War I Germany from having an air force, armoured vehicles, and certain types of naval vessels. In addition, it established a demilitarised zone in the Rhineland.
- The massive reductions of military personnel in the Allied countries, following World War I.
- The Washington Naval Treaty
- The Chemical Weapons Convention
- Haller, Oliver, Destroying Weapons of Coal, Air and Water: A Critical Evaluation of the American Policy of German Industrial Demilitarization 1945 - 1952 (Philipps-Universität Marburg: Marburg, 2006).
- List of countries without armed forces
- Washington Naval Conference of 1921–2
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