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Locarno Pact

Locarno Pact

Locarno Pact, 1925, concluded at a conference held at Locarno, Switzerland, by representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. The request of Gustav Stresemann for a mutual guarantee of the Rhineland met with the approval of Aristide Briand; under the leadership of Briand, Stresemann, and Austen Chamberlain, a series of treaties of mutual guarantee and arbitration were signed. In the major treaty the powers individually and collectively guaranteed the common boundaries of Belgium, France, and Germany as specified in the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Germany signed treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, agreeing to change the eastern borders of Germany by arbitration only. Germany also signed arbitration treaties with France and Belgium, and mutual defense pacts against possible German aggression were concluded between France and Poland and France and Czechoslovakia. As an adjunct, Germany was promised entry into the League of Nations. The "spirit of Locarno" symbolized hopes for an era of international peace and goodwill. In 1936, denouncing the Locarno Pact, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland.
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland on 5 October16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on December 1, in which the World War I Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, in return normalizing relations with defeated Germany (which was, by this time, the Weimar Republic). Locarno divided borders in Europe into two categories: western, which were guaranteed by Locarno treaties, and eastern borders (of Germany), which were open for revision..

Background

The Locarno discussion arose from exchanges of notes between Britain, France and Germany over the summer of 1925 following German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann's February 9 proposal for a reciprocal of his country's western frontiers as established under the unfavourable 1919 Treaty of Versailles, as a means of facilitating Germany's diplomatic rehabilitation among the western powers.

Parties and agreement

The principal treaty concluded at Locarno was the "Rhineland Pact" between Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, and Italy. The first three signatories undertook not to attack each other, with the latter two acting as guarantors. In the event of aggression by any of the first three states against another, all other parties were to assist the country under attack.

Germany also signed arbitration conventions with France and Belgium and meaningless arbitration treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, undertaking to refer disputes to an arbitration tribunal or to the Permanent Court of International Justice.

France signed further treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, pledging mutual assistance in the event of conflict with Germany. These essentially reaffirmed existing treaties of alliance concluded by France with Poland on 19 February 1921 and with Czechoslovakia on 25 January 1924.

Effect

The Locarno Treaties were regarded as the keystone of the improved western European diplomatic climate of 1924-1930, introducing a hope for international peace, typically called the "spirit of Locarno". This spirit was seen in Germany's admission to the League of Nations, the international organization established under the Versailles treaty to promote world peace and co-operation, and in the subsequent withdrawal (completed in June 1930) of Allied troops from Germany's western Rhineland.

In contrast, in Poland, the public humiliation received by Polish diplomats was one of contributing factors to the fall of the Grabski cabinet. Locarno contributed to the worsening of atmosphere between Poland and France (despite the French-Polish alliance), and introduced distrust between Poland and Western countries . Locarno divided borders in Europe in two categories: those guaranteed by Locarno, and others, which were free for revision. In words of Józef Beck: "Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west. The failure at Locarno may be also one of contributing factor in decision of Józef Piłsudski to overthrow parliamentary democracy in Poland . With regards to Locarno, Piłsudski would say "every honest Pole spits when he hear this word [Locarno]". Later, when a French ambassador assured him France would always back Poland and stand up to Germany, Piłsudski, foreseeing the appeasement, would say: "No, no, believe me, you will back down, really, you will."

One notable exception from the Locarno arrangements was, however, the Soviet Union, which saw western détente as potentially deepening its own political isolation in Europe, in particular by detaching Germany from her own understanding with Moscow under the April 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Political tensions also continued throughout the period in eastern Europe. Therefore this treaty made Germany pay $50 million dollars to the Soviet Union.

The Locarno spirit did not survive the revival of German nationalism from 1930. Proposals in 1934 for an "eastern Locarno" pact securing Germany's eastern frontiers foundered on German opposition and on Poland's insistence that her eastern borders should be covered by any western guarantee of her borders. Germany formally repudiated her Locarno undertakings in sending troops into the demilitarized Rhineland on 7 March 1936.

In both 1925 and 1926 the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the lead negotiators of the treaty, going to Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1925 and jointly to Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann in 1926.

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