Here is a term paper on the ‘Disarmament Problem and Arms Control after the First World War’ especially written for school and college students.

Term Paper Contents:

  1. Term Paper on the Introduction to the Disarmament Problem and Arms Control
  2. Term Paper on the Geneva Protocol
  3. Term Paper on the Pact of Locarno
  4. Term Paper on the Washington Conference
  5. Term Paper on the Pact of Paris
  6. Term Paper on the Geneva Conference for Disarmament

Term Paper # 1. Introduction to the Disarmament Problem and Arms Control:

The First World War (1914-18) was fought on a scale hitherto unknown in the history of mankind. Naturally, after the war, the question of disarmament became a hot topic. In the war people had suffered unspeakable horrors and enor­mous losses. Hence leaders of the world determined to remove the causes of war once for all. The League of Nations also included covenant and hoped that civilised nations would fight no more wars.


President Wilson made the most significant declaration in January 1918 with the object of reduction of armaments. The dec­laration says “Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” 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.”

There­fore, the primary function of the League was to allay international rivalry and thereby to prevent war. This purpose is hoped to achieve by a limitation of arma­ments and by a mutual agreement not to resort to war until an attempt had been made to settle a dispute by peaceful means. Should any member state prove incalcitrant other members were pledged to bring pressure to bear upon it.

As the question of disarmament is very intimately connected with security, therefore, good sense prevailed upon the world leaders and they realised that security would always remain paper security if the nations could not be persuaded to disarm. But soon it proved that there were problems which presented great difficulties and eventually proved insoluble. Each nation wanted some other nation to take the initiative in the matter of disarmament, but no nation would take it.

The fact is that national armament might be dangerous in the future but disarmament might be still more so. The vanquished Germany was forced to accept compulsory disarmament but she contended that she had accepted it in the hope that other nations would also disarm in pursuance of one of the provisions of the Covenant of the League which contemplates a general limitation of arma­ments of all nations.


“That the maintenance of peace, required the reduction of national armaments, to the lowest point consistent with national safety.” In the Versailles Treaty the victorious powers also declared that disarmament was imposed on Germany “to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations”. So it comes to our notice that the Allied Powers had given Germany a promise when she was disarmed that other nations would do it shortly.

But this was a tough task. As the Allied Powers also gave much importance on their “national safety”, so it appeared that disarmament in their own countries had little or no scope. It could not be implemented in their countries. The conten­tion of these two conflicting ideas constituted the problem of disarmament. The problem gradually became insoluble when France felt herself that she was de­prived of the guarantee to her security.

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 moral support and active cooperation of a Great Power.

As Germany was still out of the League, France bent upon securing a guarantee of security for her eastern frontier which was vulnerable to German assault. She could not rely upon League. The United States and Great Britain agreed to give such guarantee to France, but the American Senate declined to ratify the President’s promise.


It was not possible for Great Britain to carry the responsibility alone and so she retreated from her earlier promise. 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 eastward for security.

Hence, the League Council in Nov. 1920 appointed a “Temporary Mixed Commission” to formulate plans for the reduction of armaments. It was com­posed of both civilian and military high officials. The draft of the plan was sub­mitted to the Assembly of the League in 1923. It proposed that in case of any outbreak of hostility, the Council of the League within four days should identify the aggressor and would take military action against the aggressor. France welcomed the draft plan though Great Britain and Scandinavian countries as well as the Netherlands rejected it.

Term Paper # 2. Geneva Protocol:

For pacific settlement of international disputes an attempt was made at Geneva in 1924. There were several loopholes in the Covenant which still left open the possibility of war. British Prime Minister MacDonald and French Premier Herriot came to Geneva to attend the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva and here they tried to settle outstanding disputes connected with French security.

Since the First Great War was over France was brat upon securing a guarantee of secu­rity which Britain could not afford, and, therefore, the search for French security underwent different channels. In 1921, when the League Council tried to solve the vexed question of disarmament, France apprised that she could not and would not reduce her armament. But in 1922 her proposal was that she could reduce only if other nations pledged to guard her security.

At Geneva, the discussions about disarmament now offered an excellent opportunity to settle the longstanding dispute over French security. A commission was appointed — “Temporary Mixed Commission” — to find out the expedient terms so that the world might be freed from war. The draft proposal of the Commission was rejected by Britain. For this Britain should not be made responsible as it was quite impossible for her alone to shoulder the responsibility of guarding France from future possibility of German aggression.

But in the changed circumstances of 1924, when the two leaders of Britain and France appeared together at the League Assembly, the Assembly drafted a proposal and asked the governments for their approval. The agreement came to be known as the “Geneva Protocol”. By this the League of the nations not only strengthened its position but also succeeded in bringing unanimity among the member states.

The Protocol for its better functioning 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. Great Britain refused to accept the Protocol. Most probably, she needed to carry on warlike activities for the maintenance of her vast empire in Asia and Africa and, hence, she could not accept this Protocol.

The other was that if she accepted the Protocol it was almost sure to draw her into armed intervention in the affairs, say, of Eastern Europe, where she was not directly interested. Hence the Protocol was dropped.

Term Paper # 3. Pact of Locarno:

Failing to implement the Geneva Protocol, France “reverted to her quest for specific British guarantees of her Rhineland frontier”. Here comes the Pact of Locarno in 1925 which was the greatest single step in the direction of interna­tional peace since the foundation of the League of Nations. In 1922 Germany proposed to France that both of them should make a mutual pledge, with which Britain and Belgium should be included, “not to resort to war against one another for a generation.”

But then France rejected the proposal. Now in 1925 Britain was found to be prepared to guarantee the Franco-German frontier against any attack either by Germany or by France. Later, Belgium-German frontier was also in­cluded in the discussion. This Pact was signed in a beaming environment by Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. By it Germany accepted as perma­nent her western frontier as defined by the Treaty of Versailles.

France, Bel­gium and Germany definitely renounced-war among one another except in self-defence, Great Britain and Italy pledged themselves to support any one these three powers that might be attacked by any other of the three. The guarantee was not limited only in this but also it extended to demilitarised zone where Ger­many was prevented from maintaining troops and constructing fortifications.

It was also decided that after signing the agreement Germany would enter the League and get a permanent seat on its councils. This pact brought Germany within the Council of Europe, a collective guarantee for the inviolability of the frontiers between Germany and France, on the one hand, and Germany and Belgium, on the other. There were further arrangements for arbitration in disputes between France and Germany, Germany and Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

There were several defects in the Treaty of Locarno. Britain did not give any guarantee to Germany’s eastern frontiers, but only of her western. France gave guarantee to Czechoslovakia and Polish frontiers and Germany agreed to solve frontier disputes, if any, by means of arbitration.

Thomson remarks “It was the best that France could secure in the circumstances. In the favourable atmosphere of 1925 the treaties undoubtedly contributed to the general pacification of Europe” and it was definitely the first great attempt to realise impartially and seriously the needs of both France and Germany.

Nevertheless, the reluctance of Britain to give guarantee to the Eastern frontier was unholy and undermined the general obligations of the Covenant. The distinction between frontiers appeared to be precarious for the safety and security of world peace.

Term Paper # 4. Washington Conference:

Some success was achieved in respect of the prevention of rivalry in naval armaments. A conference was held in Washington in 1921 by which the five great naval powers — Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France and Italy — agreed to limit their battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers in a fixed ratio.

But England refused to limit light cruisers while France and Italy refused any agreement in regard to submarines. Despite these drawbacks the Washington Treaty represented the most substantial efforts to secure disarmament since the Armistice.

Term Paper # 5. Pact of Paris:

Another important step forward towards world peace was the Pact of Paris — better known as the Briand-Kellogg Pact — in which French Minister Briand pro­posed to the United States in April 1927 “a pact whereby the two countries would renounce war as an instrument of national policy between them”.

Frank B. Kellogg, the American Secretary of State, in turn, proposed that the pact should include other powers and Briand agreed. In August 1928 representatives of the six great powers, the other three Locarno Powers and the British Dominions and India signed the Pact of Paris. An invitation was extended to other powers to join it.

The pact declared that every signatory condemned “recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in relations with one another”, and that every signatory agreed “that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts, of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

It was after all no more than a pious declaration for it lacked machinery for enforcement. In all, sixty-five nations — including the Soviet Union, but exclud­ing Argentina and Brazil — accepted it and so it augured well for the desire to avoid war.

These all attempts definitely spurred the nations to come to terms in respect of limitation of arms. With the death of Stresemann of Germany, the world eco­nomic slump and the rise of National Socialists in Germany, the Franco-German relations took a new turn. Germany became source of danger to France. Thomson remarks, Germany’s “good will and good faith now lay between the continued pacification of Europe and a relapse to preparations for war”.

Term Paper # 6. Geneva Conference for Disarmament:

The League of Nations under German pressure decided to concentrate on disarmament. In 1926 the League appointed a Preparatory Commission to study the problem and make recommendations preparatory to the calling of a dis­armament conference. After five years of toil in accumulating information the commission submitted a draft treaty to the League Council.

The World Disarmament Conference then was summoned at Geneva on February 2, 1932. E.H. Carr points out “The Preparatory Commission had provided more signposts to the pitfalls of disarmament than to promising lines of advance” as the conference proved a failure.

The conference was attended by representatives of sixty-one states and pre­sided over by Arthur Henderson, the Foreign Secretary of British government. From the very beginning the conference began limping.

The President of the Commission, Henderson, in the ensuring general election lost his seat in Parlia­ment and his Labour Government was defeated and replaced by the Conserva­tives. Carr remarks “it was therefore as a private individual that he presided over the conference. This was an unforeseen misfortune”.

This misfortune, along with the economic crisis, Japan’s invasion of Manchuria, and from the beginning France and Germany could not agree, their viewpoints being dramatically opposite, sealed the fate of Disarmament Con­ference. 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. After Hitler coming to power in 1933, the entire Arcadia became poisonous. Hitler determined to rearm Germany. The conference could not find way out of this impasse and was adjourned.

German delegation at the conference consistently demanded “all armaments prohibited by the Versailles Treaty were offensive, all others defensive,” while Great Britain and the United State delegations regarded submarines offensive and battleships defensive. France considered heavy tanks over seventy tons as offensive, but British delegation regarded a limit of twenty-five tons. Delegates of lesser nations regarded all tanks as offensive.

Initially, Sir John Simon, British Foreign Secretary, in his opening speech suggested “qualitative limitation”, i.e., limitation of armaments not by numbers but by the complete abolition of certain types of offensive armaments. All these disputes were referred to the three commissions separately formed by army, naval and aeronautical experts.

Meanwhile Germany demanded that either complete disarmament would be accepted by the nations or she would be allowed to enjoy equal rights with other powerful nations for stocking armaments. Negotiations did not yield any result. “The German issue dominated everything else”.

When despair completely ruled over the conference, British Prime Minister MacDonald came to Geneva with a new formula known as “MacDonald Plan” and the plan was felicitated by the conference. Carr observes “This plan put the conference in possession for the first time of a complete draft convention containing figures of limitation of men and material for practically every country in Europe.”

Though the plan was cordially received but differences of opinion among the nations were so great that no compromise could be achieved. The rise of Germany under Hitler bullied France and although she declined to come to terms with Germany, nevertheless, the exigency for peace compelled her to extend her hands towards Germany without further delay.

France proposed an international supervision over armaments would be made for four years. Limitation on armaments, a secondary prospect, would be taken later. The British and Italian governments seconded the two parts of French plan. Sir John Simon approved the plan on October 14, 1933, and within a few hours Hitler directed German delegates to withdraw from the Disarmament Conference as well as Germany retracted from the League of Nations.

The withdrawal of Germany from both international organisations – which were destined to establish peace in the world — was a severe blow. Although Germany withdrew Hitler did not want to contravene world opinion and, there­fore, continued his attempt for discussion over the matter.

In 1934 Anthony Eden held a discussion with him and Hitler demanded that Germany could accept the limit for the German army “which was equally accepted for the French, Italian and Polish armies and to fix the German air force at 30 percent of the combined strength of the air forces of Germany’s neighbours or 50 per cent of the strength of French air-force, whichever figure was the lower.”

The French government, however, protested against the proposed “legalisation of German rearmament.” She insisted to impose penalties on Germany for her failure of fulfilment of the provisions necessary for disarmament. Citing German military budget, France showed the clear infringement of the provisions of Versailles Treaty.

Here comes the end of the conference. The causes of, the failure of Disarma­ment Conference was largely due to the viewpoints of Germany and France which were diametrically opposite. The major powers cultivated distrust against one another. They themselves did not believe their own national interests could be subordinated to peace. France would not disarm.

Her vital necessity was secu­rity against Germany 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. British interests were clashed with United States’. Germany under Hitler could not accept its deplorable condition as a result of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler determined to lift Germany to its pre-war position and if possible to surpass the other great powers in all respects.

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, coming out of the conference and the League, vowed to rearm despite the restrictions of the League.