Q.5 (c) “In the long run, the Locarno Treaty (December 1925) was destructive both of the Treaty of Versailles and of the Covenant.” Comment.
The Locarno treaty, signed in 1925, was a series of agreements involving Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, Italy, Poland and Czechoslovakia. All agreements were aimed at guaranteeing peace in Europe. The most important agreement was that Germany, France and Belgium promised to respect their joint frontiers; if one of the three broke the agreement, Britain and Italy would assist the state which was being attacked.
The agreements were greeted all over Europe, and there was hope for the reconciliation between France and Germany. Many called this period of enthusiasm and hope as the ‘Locarno honeymoon’, but it was not permanent.
The Locarno treaty was destructive both of the Treaty of Versailles and of the League Covenant:
(1) The treaty made the distinction between the eastern and western borders of Germany, as defined by the Treaty of Versailles. While Germany agreed that her western frontier with France and Belgium and permanent demilitarization of the Rhineland, were final and acceptable to her, she refused to treat her eastern border with Poland and Czechoslovakia with the same finality. She didn’t refuse to seek out revision of her border with eastern neighbours. Germany renounced the use of force to change its western frontiers but agreed only to arbitration as regards its eastern frontiers.
This had serious implication as it became clear that only such parts of the treaty of Versailles were really binding as were later willingly accepted by Germany. This made legally binding treaty of Versailles less applicable than voluntarily accepted Locarno treaty.
(2) Britain promised to defend Belgium and France but not Poland and Czechoslovakia. By this, Britain gave the impression that she might not act if Germany attacked Poland and Czechoslovakia.
In the words of Polish leader Jozef Beck, “Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west.”
In the long run, this in effect destroyed the treaty of Versailles and the Covenant which had promised peace and checking German’s aggression.
(3) The Locarno treaty encouraged both the view that the Versailles Treaty lacked binding force, and the view that governments could not be expected to take military action in defence of frontiers in which they themselves were not directly interested.
Almost a decade later, nearly all governments appeared to be acting on these assumptions which in effect destroyed the treaty of Versailles and the Covenant.
(4) Implications of the Locarno treaty became more apparent as time went on. Germany followed the ratification of the Locarno Pact by concluding in 1926 a new treaty of friendship with Soviet Union, a power antagonistic to the League system. Germany later on violated many provisions of the Versailles treaty by aggression and expansion towards east.
Hence, E. H. Carr, a member of the British Foreign Office, had rightly said that in the long run, the Locarno Treaty was destructive both of the Versailles Treaty and of the Covenant.