In the 1920s, countries began making treaties between themselves, bypassing the League altogether. This either showed that they were learning to get on peacefully, and that there was an ‘air of optimism’ about diplomacy in the 1920s, or they had no confidence in the League to keep peace!
- Washington Naval Conference 1921: USA, Britain, France and Japan agreed to reduce the size of their navies.
- Locarno Treaty 1925:__ __in a bid to improve relations between France and Germany, the German Foreign Minister, Gustav Stresemann, proposed meeting with France. They agreed that Germany would accept the borders that the TOV had defined and would give up any claims on land such as Alsace-Lorraine. They also promised that they would try to solve disputes peacefully.
- Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928__: __65 nations agreed not to use aggression to settle arguments.
Washington Naval Conference
It is clear from this photo that the Conference was an extremely high profile event. At the time, many supporters of the League asked why it could not have been conducted through the League.
Britain, France, Japan, and the United States held a conference to agree a reduction in the size of their navies.
This was positively received by the world, as they saw the Allied powers following the demands they had set to the losing powers of the War. This suggested that there might be an overall movement towards global disarmament.
Why did the WNC undermine the League?
- Disarmament was meant to be one of the fundamental aims of the League, but the Conference was done outside of the League.
- This suggested that the League was not the best place to get things done, and that already by 1921 (only one year into the League), countries already felt happy to go behind the back of the League.
- Working outside of the League may have been unavoidable because of America’s involvement; however, this further suggested that treaties would be meaningless without the League, and so highlighted that crippling weakness in the League’s membership.
The Locarno Treaties
Locarno is a beautiful city in the south of Switzerland, bordering lakes and mountains. It is easy to see how the Western powers could have been swept up in the positivity of the ‘Locarno Honeymoon’; however, beneath the surface of the Treaty, all was not well.
- Series of treaties drawn up at Locarno (Switzerland) in 1925 and then signed in London. Involved leading European countries (including Germany).
- Agreements to settle disputes peacefully.
- France, Britain and Belgium agreed not to invade each other.
- Germany agreed to keep troops out of the Rhineland. Germany accepted the territorial terms of the ToV of the Western Front.
- Notably, this contains absolutely no mention of the Eastern Front or agreements around Eastern Europe and those borders.
- Stalin is not invited.
- Countries left Locarno in what they called ‘Locarno Honeymoon’, a belief that everything was getting better, and the second half of the__ 1920s__ was going to be a great time.
- At the Locarno Conference, it was accepted that Germany could now join the League.
Why did Locarno undermine the League?
- The main issue with the Locarno Treaty was that, again, it was conducted outside of the League. This was the largest peacetime conference since the Treaty of Versailles, and so by having it outside of the League it seemed that the League was not important.
- Another highly significant issue is how this angered Stalin. Stalin had only just become the leader of the U.S.S.R., and this action increased his growing paranoia about Western opposition.
- Similarly, the lack of discussions and promises made on the Eastern Front, and Germany’s borders with Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia highlighted that the priorities of Britain and France were for self-preservation.
- It is clear to see that, in the 1930s, these are the areas that Hitler targets first – because Locarno starts to build a picture that the Western powers are not concerned about the East any more.
- Germany was accepted into the League at a conference that did not involve the League. This showed just how much the League was dominated by Britain and France.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928
- Initiative of US Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, and the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand.
- 65 countries signed the Pact.
- Each country promised not to use war as a way of solving international disputes.
- No sanctions were agreed upon for countries which ignored the agreement.
This map shows how many countries, and their colonies, signed up to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. How does this compare to the League?
Why did the Kellogg-Briand Pact undermine the League?
- What did the Kellogg-Briand Pact do, that the League didn’t already? The fact that countries felt the need to sign this treaty was a confusing development – what was the League even doing.
- This simply furthers the narrative that the League is a nice idea, but countries haven’t really committed to it fully. As such, when there is an important issue to resolve, they go outside the League.
Overall, how successful was the League in the 1920s?
Some historians argue that the 1920s were a large success for the League:
- There were many successful attempts at mediation.
- Aland, Silesia, Greece-Bulgaria, Mosul
- The agencies were doing good work with people’s everyday lives.
- There was a spirit of cooperation, disarmament, and peace in Europe.
However, this interpretation is not entirely convincing:
- The League never came up against a highly significant threat in the 1920s.
- The largest challenge faced by the League was the Corfu Crisis of 1923, which it massively messed up.
- It was clear, from the diplomacy going on outside the League, that countries were not fully behind the League and were still prepared to take disputes and initiatives elsewhere.
- Furthermore, no work had been done to address any of the fundamental and underlying structural problems plaguing the League (vetoes, no army, only meeting once a year…).
Define the following terms:
- Washington Naval Conference
- Your answer should include: 1921 / US / Britain / France / Japan / reduce navy
- Locarno Conference
- Your answer should include: 1925 / Germany / outside / League / Western Front / Stalin
- Kellogg-Briand Pact
- Your answer should include: promise / war / 1928 / 65 / signed / signatures