World War 1 saw the Entente forces take on the Central Powers, in the largest conflict ever seen.
The official winners of the Great War (World War I) were the Entente allies. The most powerful amongst them were the French, British, Russians, and the United States. They beat the Central Powers led by Germany and including Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. However, the reality is more complex. Russia certainly did not win, signing a separate peace before their regime collapsed. Meanwhile, none of the other Entente allies achieved their long-term goals.
The Entente allies had so many different interests, that is hard to classify them all as victors.
The French arguably had more on the line in the war than any of the other major powers. After all, the vast majority on the Western front took place within it or in the neighboring country of Belgium.
France had been invaded and defeated by Germany in the 1871-1872 Franco-Prussian War, and had based its entire foreign policy since on facing that threat. To this end, they had reached an alliance with Tsarist Russia and repaired a tense relationship with the British Empire.
However, this policy only succeeded in bringing Germany and Austria-Hungary into a closer alliance, by creating a shared fear of the Russians in both German-speaking countries.
Indeed, it was the alliance with Russia that got France involved in the war, to begin with. After the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a crisis developed between the Russians and the Austrians over the future of Serbia. This only deteriorated into a world war because of the Franco-Russian alliance.
As we all know, World War 1 did not solve the French security problem despite their supposed victory. A generation later, they would be invaded and occupied by Germany.
The United Kingdom
The British came closer to winning the war politically than the French did. Their goal was never as far-reaching. Britain had traditionally sought to prevent a single actor from dominating all of Europe.
The ultimate goal of their policy was to allow the Europeans to fight it out while they continued to dominate ocean-bound trade and perpetuate the British Empire.
For that reason, they sought to block the rise of Germany rather than destroy the country. Indeed, after the war, they sought to prevent France from overpowering the down-and-out Germans.
Although nominally part of the winning Entente alliance, Tsarist Russia did not win World War 1. Nor did its successor state, the Soviet Union, benefit particularly from the outcome.
The war brought immense hardship to the Russian people. Also, the government in St. Petersburg mishandled the war terribly as their forces suffered defeat after defeat. This did nothing to endear the already unpopular Tsar and his wife on the Russian people.
To get the Russians out of the war, Germany supported dissidents who worked against the government. They managed to help foster a revolution, which ousted the Tsar. First, he was replaced by a liberal government and then a Communist dictatorship.
The new Soviet government signed the treaties of Brest-Litovsk, which saw it drop out of the war. It also ceded control over Ukraine, Baltic States, and Poland. Though the USSR would later regain many of those territories, this was not a victory.
The United States
The Americans were on the winning side militarily and politically. The entry of U.S. forces into the deadlocked Western Front did a lot to undermine the German position and its morale.
However, the United States had much wider ambitions than defeating the Central Powers. President Woodrow Wilson wished to see an entirely new world order based on liberal values take hold and ensure international peace and stability.
To this end, he published the 14-points in which he called for self-determination, open trade, and international institutions to come to the forefront of international relations.
However, Wilson was unable to oversee this transformation of global politics. He helped establish the League of Nations, which he hoped would dominate future diplomacy.
However, while trying to convince Americans that they should join the organization, Wilson experienced an incapacitating stroke. Congress defeated the bill for US accession to the treaty. After Wilson’s death, the US turned to isolationism and did not intervene as tensions and conflict returned to Europe and East Asia. This would eventually force it to pay close attention to global events.
In conclusion, while the Entente allies nominally won the war, some members of the coalition gained more than others. As often happens with war, the sides struggled to achieve their major political goals even if they did achieve some of their military ones.