History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2004: Q.5 (d)
Q.5 (d) “The most important single factor … in the years following 1919 was the French demand for security.” Comment.
As soon as the First World War ended, France embarked upon policy of search for security against possible German aggression in future. This remained the major concern of French foreign policy throughout the the period between first and second world war.
France tried the following methods of dealing with the problem:
(1) Trying to keep Germany weak
For her security, France thought it necessary to keep Germany permanently weak, economically and militarily.
(a) Insistence on a harsh settlement
The imposition of harsh terms on Germany in Versailles treaty was the result of French quest of security to keep Germany weak. German army was limited, heavy reparation was imposed, German Rhineland was de-militarized, and France was to use the Saar valley for 15 years.
(b) Attempt to force the Germans to pay
Germany was unable to pay the heavy reparation but France insisted on it to keep Germany economically weak. In case to nonpayment, French and Belgian troops occupied the German Ruhr industrial area.
(2) A network of bilateral alliances
At the peace conference, French demand of physical guarantee was not accepted by Britain and the USA. As a physical guarantee, France wanted to expand her territory upto the Rhine. But the Treaty of the Versailles only provided for the complete demilitarization of Rhineland. However by the Anglo-American guarantee treaty of 1919, Britain and the USA gave the guarantee of French security in case of German aggression. But this treaty did not materialised as US Senate refused to ratify it.
France felt cheated and insecure. She now proceeded to build a network of security alliances with less important nations with similar interest. She signed security pacts with Poland in 1921 and later with Czechoslovakia (1924), Romania (1926) and Yugoslavia (1927).
(3) France worked for a strong League of Nations and regional security alliances
France looked towards League of Nations for her security. She wanted strong League of Nation to ensure collective security.
Upon failure of the League of Nations to provide collective security, France made her security arrangements outside the League by concluding regional security pacts and alliances.These were: Geneva Protocol, Locarno Treaties (1925), Kellogg – Briand Pact (1928).
(4) Compromise and reconciliation
When forced reparation and occupation of Rubhr did not work, France was prepared to accept a compromise leading to the Daves Plan which increased time span of reparation.
France also tried to approch the German problem with reconciliation by improving relations with Germany and Britain.
From 1925, after the Locarno Pact, there was some change in the French attitude towards Germany. As a result of British assurance to France for her security against German aggression, French attitude towards Germany became liberal for a time being but still she was always fearful.