Here is a term paper on the ‘New Balance of Powers in Western Europe’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. The French Search for Security:
France though victorious had been exhausted by war. Prof. Taylor remarks “If events followed their course in the old ‘free’ way, nothing could prevent the Germans from overshadowing Europe…..” France suffered unspeakable horrors and enormous losses. The peace treaty was largely aimed at providing security against Germany.
Great Britain, by pledging herself to defend France’s frontier, would also show that she had no commitment beyond it. France depended much on the League of Nations for her security. The covenant of the peace treaty declared that the object of the League was to “promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war.”
The primary rivalry of the League was to allay international rivalry and thereby prevent war. The League rested upon a general and potentially universal treaty wherein signatories mutually guaranteed their ‘collective security’. “Had it been considered effective for this end,” David Thomson points out, “separate pacts and treaties and further specific guarantees would have been superfluous.” France, being disappointed with League’s measures, sought special guarantees in treaties of alliance in Eastern Europe.
But it was a great mistake for France. Tiny countries of Eastern Europe, weak in fighting capacities, could not be of much help to France. France freed herself from German claw in the First Great War at the cost of the British soldiers’ blood. It was only Great Britain who could provide security to France.
But so many problems deterred her to do this. Apart from her weakness due to war, America’s retreat from the League made England’s task difficult. England was despised by France. The inherent hatred of France towards England since time immemorial did not allow England to extend her helping hands toward France.
From the outset a serious handicap to the League of Nations was the refusal of the United States to join it. It thus lost the valued support and active cooperation of a Great Power. There were gaps hardly less serious. Germany and Russia were as yet not members of it. Hence France, who was bent upon securing a guarantee of security for her eastern frontier, could not rely upon the League which was young and weak.
President Wilson and British Prime Minister Lloyd George agreed to give such guarantee but the American Senate refused to ratify the President’s pledge and the projected tripartite treaty came to nothing. But it was for such guarantee that France had agreed in the Peace Conference to give up her ancient claim to a frontier along the Rhine. She now felt both cheated and vulnerable and looked eastwards for security. She concluded treaties of military alliance with Poland in 1921, with Czechoslovakia in 1924, with Romania in 1926 and with Yugoslavia in 1927.
These alliances were not sufficient for France for she created bitterness in Germany by extracting reparation from that country for her reconstruction. The French government did not raise the tax rate or collect money from within. This hard measure did not allow Germany to forget her enslavement at the hands of France and the occupation of Ruhr in particular.
System of Alliances:
France seeks security by a system of alliances. Among the south-eastern European States France found natural allies in her quest for diplomatic precautions against the possibility of future German resurgence. In 1921 it was possible on the part of France to conclude a mutual agreement with Poland. There was bitter contention between Germany and Poland over Upper Silesia, over Danzig and the Polish Corridor which wrested command of the Vistula and an outlet to the sea in the hands of Poland. This led Poland to hold the hands of France.
The Little Entente powers of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Romania had concluded entente in 1920 and 1921 ‘between each pair of its members.’ France came to conclude ‘political treaties’ with the Little Entente states. While France’s agreement with Poland was aimed at keeping Germany at bay, her agreement with the Little Entente states was to help her by them to enforce the Versailles Treaty.
“In return France had to help them against machinations of Hungary, Yugoslavia and Italy. Carr shows the” importance of this move was that it enlarged France’s conception of her own security. She was now definitely committed to the maintenance not only of the Versailles Treaty, but of the whole European peace settlement.” Little Entente has been described by Carr as a “modern counterpart of the Holy Alliance.”
These alliances alone were not sufficient for the security of France against Germany’s future resurgence. The result was the Geneva Protocol of 1924 which required its members to renounce all war and to take offensive measures against any nation which went to war by refusing to accept League arbitration.
Geneva Protocol sought to close the existing gaps in the Covenant which still smacked of the possibility of war. If the League Council failed to bring about a consensus on a dispute, the Protocol would submit all disputes of a legal character to the Permanent Court of International Justice.
Great Britain refused to accept the Protocol as it was almost certain that she had to be engaged in armed intervention in the affairs of Eastern Europe where she had no direct interest. Although France and most of her allies and smaller state were very much enthusiastic about the Protocol, British refusal made the Protocol lose its significance.
Locarno Pact of 1925 was the greatest single step in the direction of international peace since the foundation of the League of Nations. Disappointed by the result of Geneva Protocol, now France determined to acquire specific British guarantee of her Rhineland frontier. From this policy the treaties of Locarno came into existence.
In 1922 Germany had advanced a proposal of mutual guarantee of non-aggression between Germany and France and in which Belgium and Britain would have to be inducted. All of them would sign the pledge “not to resort to war against one another” at least for a generation. But Poincare then refused such proposal. Now, in the more conciliatory mood of 1925, Britain came forward to give guarantee to the Franco-German frontier against aggression by either Germany or France.
During the course of negotiations in the summer of 1925 Belgium-German frontier was also included in the discussion and eventually was incorporated in the treaty settlement. Demilitarized zones, where Germany was forbidden by the provisions of the Versailles Treaty to station troops and building fortifications, were also taken into account. These were the basis of Locarno Treaty. Gradually Italy joined in. It was agreed that Germany should join the League of Nations.
In October 1925 the representatives of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and Germany met at Locarno in Switzerland and concluded three sets of treaties. By these treaties Germany accepted as permanent her western frontiers as defined by the Treaty of Versailles. Germany, Belgium and also France definitely renounced war among one another except in self-defence. Great Britain and Italy pledged themselves to support any one of these three powers that might be attacked by any other of the three.
Thus there was collective guarantee for the inviolability of the frontiers between Germany and France, and Germany and Belgium. There were further arrangements for arbitration in disputes between France and Germany, Germany and Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. This pact brought Germany within the councils of Europe, for, as a natural sequence, Germany entered the League of Nations in 1926 with a permanent seat on its councils. Undoubtedly the Locarno Pact was a big step forward towards world-peace.
Another important step in the same direction was the Kellog-Briand Pact of 1928. It was suggested by the French minister Briand and sponsored by Kellog, the American Secretary of State. Its signatories agreed to renounce recourse to war as an instrument of National polity. It was no more than a pious declaration for it lacked machinery for enforcement. But it was subsequently accepted by 50 nations including Russia and so it augured well for the desire to avoid war.
Attempts were also made to secure a general limitation of land armaments. The World Disarmament Conference met at Geneva in 1932 but proved abortive. From the beginning France and Germany could not agree, their view-points being diametrically opposite. France would not disarm. Her vital necessity was security and this security she wanted to base upon military superiority.
Germany felt insecure if France would not reduce her army and so insistently demanded parity with France. The conference could not find a way out of this impasse and was adjourned. Thus the final attempt to keep alive the spirit which created the League, ended in failure. Germany, now dominated by Hitler, withdrew from the Conference in 1933, and proclaimed her intention of re-arming despite the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles. No wonder a generous experiment failed.
Term Paper # 2. The Reparation Question and Franco-German Relations till 1934:
Germany was greatly handicapped by the necessity of making vast yet indefinite reparation payments to the Allies. The payment of reparations was stipulated by the Allied observations on the Fourteen Points. There was, therefore, no doubt that Germany, who had accepted the armistice on the basis of the Fourteen Points, had accepted to pay some form of indemnity.
The Allied note of 5 November 1918 had clearly mentioned that “compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and their property.” But the problem of fixing the amount of reparation became so great between Britain and France even before the peace treaty was concluded that the treaty only specified the principle of reparations and it was decided that the amount of reparation would be settled sometime in the future.
The divergent views of Britain and France had again surfaced in 1919 when they tried to fix a figure. While Britain was anxious to give Germany, her best customer before the war, a fair chance to recuperate economically, France, on the other hand, was determined to make Germany pay as much as possible towards the restoration of her devastated areas. Germany also showed no willingness to cooperate. “Far from attempting to estimate their capacity to pay, they deliberately kept their economic affairs in confusion, well knowing that, if they once got things straight, the bill for reparations would follow.”
The Peace Conference then referred the whole question of reparation to a Commission which in April 1921 fixed the total German indemnity at 1,32,000 million gold marks ($ 33,000 million or £ 6,600 million) of which 1,000 million marks were to be paid by the end of May. It was obviously a staggering sum. It was hoped that the entire amount of reparation would be paid over a period of 30 years.
The first payment was not received until August, when Germany was threatened by France to occupy Ruhr and a loan was granted to Germany by London bankers. During the next three years Germany paid the installments not in cash, but in kind. At the beginning of 1923 German government declared it to be grotesque and quite beyond their capacity to pay.
But A. J. P. Taylor did not accept the theory that Germany was unable to pay the installments of reparation. On the contrary, they were not minded to pay reparations at all and evaded payment except for a few installments.
According to Taylor “Germany was a net gainer by the financial transactions of the nineteen twenties – She borrowed far more from private American investors (and failed to pay back) than she paid in reparations.”
Taylor points ‘out that Germany did not take the reparation as an obligation of honour. French claim of reparation was not unjustifiable because North-East of France had been ravaged during the war and France rightly thought that Germany should help to restore the damage.
But eventually France found herself cheated. The French sentiment was divided, while one section wanted to destroy Germany once for all, others hoped that no reparation should be taken from Germany, so that the French army of occupation could stay in the Rhineland. French people were dissatisfied when their government raised the rate of tax, though they were previously told that Germany would pay for the war.
Taylor points out – “In the end, the French were cheated in their turn: they got virtually nothing except the moral blame for having demanded reparations at all.” All this criticism against her made France compel to grant “series of concession in order to please the Germans” and eventually they had abandoned the “claim to reparations”. For this failure, Taylor made the French leaders responsible as they showed singular incapacity.
Although the end of reparation was a tantalizing matter, it was a sore subject to the Germans. Franco-Germany relations reached its nadir particularly when the Belgians and the French, “led by the intransigent” French premier Raymond Poincare, resolved to apply force despite the disapproval of Britain and the United States.”
French and Belgian troops crossed the Rhine and occupied the Ruhr region, the most important centre of Germany’s coal and iron industry. It was definitely a step of doubtful legality and questionable wisdom. The Germans, outraged by foreign incursion, resorted to passive resistance. All workers in the Ruhr region struck work and this general strike ended in the economic collapse of the country.
German industry, as a result, was ruined and the Value of Mark fell to almost nothing. The French were strangling the goose which was to lay the golden eggs. Their policy was ruinous to Germany without being beneficial to France. It was clear that the reparation arrangement urgently needed revision. The deliveries of coal and iron from the Ruhr to France were insufficient to cover the expenses of the operation. Germany, on the other hand, found herself complete economically bankrupt.
This one incident shattered the entire economic structure of Germany. Carr points out “Before the end of 1923, 50,000 milliards of marks could be obtained for one pound.” This obviously showed the incapability of German government in tackling the morbid economic situation. It appears France played the role of Moloch.
Once the process began to roll the German leaders abandoned all attempts to arrest it. The inflation depleted the energy of both people and government and the outcome appeared as a macabre disaster for Germany than the destruction caused by the war. Therefore, it seems that the reparation arrangement urgently needed revision. The French policy was not only ruinous to Germany but also no more beneficial to France.
At this stage, the advent of Gustav Stresemann, a politician hitherto unknown abroad, took up the rein of unkempt administration of Germany in 1923 and placed it on the right track. The German Republic seemed to gain in strength and stability. By this time the reparations were revised, and always downwards. Stresemann was perhaps the most statesmanlike of all post-war Germans. He was determined to solve German problem by the persistent pressure of events, not by threats, still less by war. He called off passive resistance in the Ruhr, stabilised the currency and resumed reparation deliveries to France and Belgium.
About this time a new arrangement known as Dawes Plan prepared by Charles Dawes, an American banker, came into effect in 1924. Both Germany and the Allies had accepted the Plan. It proposed a two-year moratorium on payments, return of the Ruhr to Germany and foreign loan to Germany of 800 million marks ($ 200 million or £ 40 million).
Germany undertook to resume payment in increasing annuities and for a time the scheme worked well and even helped to bring prosperity to Germany after the catastrophic collapse of 1923. But by this time it became clear, at least to the experts, that Germany was paying the installments “out of American money and that her solvency depended on the continued popularity of German loans in Wall Street.” Dawes Plan did not pare down the German indemnity but made it payable in annual installments spread over a long period.
On the other hand, the acceptance of Dawes Plan by Germany brought the withdrawal of the French troops from the Ruhr and greatly contributed to aid the economic recovery of all Europe. Stresemann’s diplomacy was also attended with success. To meet the insistent French demand for security he negotiated the Locarno Pact which secured something like European guarantee for the inviolability of the existing frontier between France and Germany (1925). As a consequence of this Pact, Germany gained admission to the League of Nations with a permanent seat on its council.
On the death of Elbert in 1925 who had been elected as President of German Republic since 1919 a popular election became necessary to choose a successor. Field-Marshal Hindenburg contested the election as a candidate of the Nationalists against a Republican candidate. By conviction Hindenburg was a monarchist and the Nationalists hoped that he would use his position to forward attempts at restoring the Hohenzollern Empire. But he observed complete loyalty to the Republic, thus broadening the basis on which it rested.
Germany had been nursed into financial convalescence by the Dawes Plan. For four years she steadily paid substantial installments, though she tried her best not to allow foreign regulation of her domestic affairs. Germany complained that the total amount of indemnity was too heavy and insisted that it must be paired down.
Therefore, another commission of economic experts was appointed under the Chairmanship of an American financier, Owen Young. The new Commission headed by Young recommended the reduction of German indemnity by three-fourths and spread the payments over a term of 58 years without direct foreign supervision. This involved a new international loan to Germany of 1,200 million gold marks ($ 300 million or £ 60 million). To the Germans this was unwelcome and therefore condemned, but accepted both by the Reichstag and by popular referendum.
The Young Plan came into existence in 1929 and as part of the scheme the evacuation of the Rhineland by the Allies began to be completed in 1930. The Young Plan, however, proved abortive as the whole reparation problem was submerged under the worldwide economic depression which began in 1929. Germany was paying reparation payments mainly from the loans which she received from the United States.
But the financial and commercial slump of 1929 compelled the USA government to suspend all loans. The cessation of American loans produced a crisis in Germany and in 1931 she declared her inability to pay reparations any longer. As a consequence reparations as well as inter-allied debts were practically wiped off the slate of international accounting. In 1934 Hindenburg died and Hitler combined in his own person the office of the President and the Chancellor.
Term Paper # 3. The Locarno Pact — Its Implications:
The Locarno Pact of 1925 was the greatest single big step in the direction of international peace since the foundation of the League of Nations. Disappointed by the result of Geneva Protocol, now France determined to acquire specific British guarantee of her Rhineland frontier. France was in quest of security and Britain, she thought, could provide her this. The League of Nations had failed to produce a general system of sanctions against the aggressor and thereby failed to provide security to any country.
Hence emphasis was put on regional pacts and alliances. So long Germany was reluctant to come to any terms with France and to speak the truth she maintained a hostile attitude towards France because of occupation of Ruhr by France. Germany was also anxious to secure the evacuation of the Rhineland by the Allied forces and also wanted to join the League of Nations.
At this stage in 1922 Germany had proposed the Rhine Mutual Guarantee Pact of non-aggression between Germany and France and in which Belgium and Britain would have to be inducted. All of them would sign the pledge “not to resort to war against one another at least for a generation.” Poincare who was out and out anti-German rejected the proposal.
The new French government led by Heriot and Stresemann, the new German Foreign Minister, were more accommodating and cooperative in seeking a solution of the Franco-German problem. In this more conciliatory mood in 1925, Britain came forward to give guarantee to the Franco-German frontier against aggression by either Germany or France.
During the course of negotiations in the summer of 1925 Belgian-German frontier was also included in the discussion and eventually was incorporated in the treaty settlement. Demilitarized zones, where Germany was forbidden, by the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, to station troops and building fortifications, were also taken into account. These were the basis of the Locarno Treaty. Gradually Italy joined in – It was agreed that Germany should join the League of Nations.
In October 1925 the representatives of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and Germany met at Locarno in Switzerland and concluded three sets of treaties. By these treaties Germany accepted her western frontiers as permanent as defined by the Treaty of Versailles. The Locarno treaty guaranteed Franco-German and Belgian-German frontiers; treaties of arbitration between Germany on the one hand, and the group including France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Poland, on the other; and treaties of mutual guarantee between France on one hand, Czechoslovakia and Poland on the other.
The treaties were all formally signed in London in December. Germany, Belgium and France definitely renounced war among one another except in self-defence. Great Britain and Italy pledged themselves to support any one of these three powers that might be attacked by any other of the three.
Thus there was collective guarantee for the inviolability of the frontiers between Germany and France, and Germany and Belgium. There were further arrangements for arbitration in disputes between France and Germany, and Germany and Belgium. There were further arrangements for arbitration in disputes between France and Germany, Germany and Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia. This pact brought Germany within the councils of Europe, for as a natural sequence Germany entered the League of Nations in 1926 with a permanent seat on its councils.
The Locarno treaties were hailed by some scholars as a landmark in solving the problem of security. “It gave”, says Hazen, “a nervous and tense Europe a sense of relief and security as Germany accepted her Western frontiers and also gave a pledge not to use violence for the revision of her Eastern and Southern frontiers.” Austin Chamberlain described it as “the real dividing line between the years of war and years of peace.”
Again, someone said, “It struck for the first time since the war a fair and impartial balance between France and German needs.” Lord Balfour called it “the symbol and the cause of a great amelioration in the public feeling of Europe.” Historian Taylor describes it as the “turning-point of the years between the wars.” It gave Europe “a period of peace and hope.” But in the same breath Taylor points out Locarno was the greatest triumph of “appeasement.”
If Munich appeasement of 1938 whetted the appetite of Hitler for enlarging Germany’s frontier, the Locarno appeasement did not direct the German leaders to hurl any shattering blow for the disruption of world peace. This is the difference between the two. Its repudiation eleven years later marked the prelude to the Second World War. Henceforth international affairs began to be settled by discussion instead of by the rattling of arms.
Even without the presence of United States and Russia in the League, affairs ran smoothly. But Taylor has marked Italy’s inclusion as a “graver flaw” than the absence of the United States and Russia”. No one believed at this time that Italy had any such influence or power to “hold the balance between Germany and France.” Italy was brought into the Locarno arrangement solely in order to reinforce the British appearance of impartiality.
In France Briand and in Germany Stresemann be fooled their people sketching pictures as bright as they could by contradictory arguments. Taylor remarks “which were bound to end in disillusionment”. While Briand assured the French that the Germans would soon “forget their grievances” against France because of the Locarno, Stresemann assured the Germans that the “purpose of Locarno was to bring further concessions at an ever faster rate.” Both leaders were disappointed.
However, it can be argued that Germany nursed a deep resentment against France and, therefore, deliberately deceived France. Hence, according to critics, “in the long run, the Locarno Treaty was destructive both of the Treaty of Versailles and of the Covenant.” The remark is justified when we analyse the reason. Germany had accepted voluntarily only her western frontiers and not her Eastern or Southern frontiers fixed by the Treaty of Versailles.
The frontiers were divided into two classes. One was guaranteed by the Great Powers but the other was not. France found herself in a very critical situation, particularly when, in 1934, Poland signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany and in 1936 Belgium terminated her military alliance with France, and Germany was able to win over Yugoslavia to her side. Germany introduced conscription and began to rearm. In 1935 Germany concluded a naval agreement with Britain.
Finding herself in a hapless position in May 1935, France entered into a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. The treaty provided event of either France or Soviet Union being threatened by any European State, both the countries would consult each other before taking any measure. In protest of this treaty Hitler announced that France’s fact with the Soviet Union had invalidated the Locarno Treaty from which Germany withdrew.