Part V.—Military, Naval and Air Clauses
[The vertical rule indicates treaty text.]
Notes to Part V, Articles 159 to 213
The treaty restoring friendly relations between the United States and Germany, signed at Berlin, August 25, 1921 and in force on November 11, 1921 with retroactive effect to July 2, 1921, stipulates that “Germany undertakes to accord to the United States and the United States shall have and enjoy … all the rights and advantages” stipulated for its benefit by this part of this treaty, “notwithstanding the fact that such treaty has not been ratified by the United States”. The rights and advantages of nationals of the United States specified in the joint resolution of Congress approved July 2, 1921 (p. 18) were specifically mentioned in an understanding included in the Senate’s resolution of advice and consent to ratification of October 18, 1921. The Senate in that resolution made a further condition “that the United States shall not be represented or participate in any body, agency or commission, nor shall any person represent the United States as a member of any body, agency or commission in which the United States is authorized to participate by this Treaty, unless and until an Act of the Congress of the United States shall provide for such representation or participation”.[Page 302]
This part is, ipsissimis verbis, an annex, technically a schedule, of that treaty restoring friendly relations as printed by the Department of State in Treaty Series 658 but not as printed in 42 Stat. 1939.
It would be tedious and chiefly of professional military interest to follow in detail the ups and downs of German reduction of armament. At no time were the Allies convinced of the willing compliance of the German authorities with the requirements, as is evident from the salient instruments concluded on the subject, namely, the Paris protocol of January 10, 1920 (p. 743); the Spa protocol of July 9, 1920; the collective note of September 29, 1922; that of June 4, 1925 and the detailed statements attached thereto; the agreement of January 31, 1927; that of January 10, 1930; and the final report to the League of Nations of March 16, 1931. No subsequent control was attempted.
On April 20, 1920 the German Government asked for Allied consent until July 10 to the maintenance of an army of 200,000 men. The San Remo conference in a declaration dated April 26 asserted that the proposal “cannot even be examined so long as Germany fails in the most important obligations of the Treaty of Peace, and does not proceed with disarmament”. The Allies could not permit a continuation of infractions of the treaty, which “must be executed and remain the basis of relations between Germany and the Allies”. All measures, including occupation of German territory without any intention to annex, were to be taken to insure execution. The question raised by infraction and the necessary measures to insure execution “will be more easily solved by the exchange of views by the heads of Governments than by exchange of notes”. On June 4 the German delegation brought up the matter again for consideration at the Spa conference. (United Kingdom, Protocols and Correspondence between the Supreme Council and the Conference of Ambassadors and the German Government and the German Peace Delegation between January 10, 1920, and July 17, 1920, Respecting the Execution of the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, Nos. 110, 113, and 150.) Other questions were discussed during the Allied conference at Boulogne-sur-Mer from which on June 22 there were noted “the slowness and lack of good will evinced by the German Government in the execution of the military, naval and air clauses of the Treaty of Peace”. Germany was called upon to take certain action and to enact the legislation required by articles 170 and 211 (ibid., Nos. 165, 166, 168; file 763.72119/12056).[Page 303]
The result of these exchanges and the negotiations at Spa was two protocols, one of July 9 and the other of July 16, 1920. The first of these was duly concluded by the representatives of the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium, and Germany and in form was a statement of five conditions which Germany was to perform, in return for which the Allies agreed to seven concessions. The German Government undertook “faithfully to observe its provisions”; if before January 1, 1921 the terms were not faithfully executed, occupation of a further portion of German territory, “the region of the Ruhr or any other”, would take place until the executive and legislative measures were taken and the specified reductions of forces were carried out (ibid., No. 190; file 763.72119/10282). Non-execution of these conditions was acted upon in the inter-Allied decision of March 4, 1921 in connection with reparation defaults (see p. 430).
In this protocol the German Government undertook—
- to withdraw immediately the arms of the Einwohnerwehren and the Sicherheitspolizei;
- to demand the immediate surrender of all arms in the hands of the civilian population, with effective penalties in case of failure to comply with the proclamation to be provided by adequate legislation enacted by September 1;
- to enact immediately a measure for the abolition of conscription and for setting up a long-service army as provided in the treaty;
- to surrender for destruction all arms and military equipment in excess of what is allowed by the treaty;
- to enforce the naval and air clauses contained in the treaty and in the protocol of January 10, 1920, which were still unexecuted; particularly: (a) completion of the delivery of surface warships under article 185 of the treaty, and the delivery of material under the protocol; (b) handing over forthwith all plans and documents required by the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control under article 209; (c) execution by German authorities in the future of articles 205 and 206 of the treaty; (d) the delivery and the destruction of all war material to be surrendered under article 169 of the treaty; (e) completion by August 5, 1920 of the delivery and destruction of all aircraft material, except hangars and hydrogen plants, and of the payments provided for in the said protocol; (f) by February 15, 1921, completion of the delivery or destruction of such [Page 304] buildings, hangars, and hydrogen plants as may be specified by the Aeronautical Inter-Allied Commission of Control.
On the Allied side it was agreed—
- To extend the period for the reduction to 150,000 men of the Reichswehr to October 1, 1920, and to a further extension to January 1, 1921 for the reduction to 100,000 men, composed and organized as provided by the treaty;
- To allow the German Government to retain up to October 1, 1920, in the neutral zone effectives of a number fixed by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control for assisting in the collection of arms;
- To prevent the smuggling of arms from the occupied areas into the other parts of Germany;
- That 300 medical and 200 veterinary officers might be retained in addition to the 4000 officers permitted by the treaty;
- That the number of administrative officials in the Reichswehr “Ministerium” should be raised to 735 and be given entire control of the army;
- That a reserve of 50,000 rifles and 20,000,000 cartridges might be retained as a reserve in case of losses in internal fighting;
- That the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control might allow all formations to possess machine guns for self-defense.
The protocol of July 16, though “unanimously … decided” by the conference, which included representatives of Germany, was not signed by Germany. It related to the taking of measures, particularly legislation, to prohibit export of war material in accordance with the terms of articles 170, 201, 202, and 211 of the treaty. It contained no provision for sanctions (file 763.72119/10310).
The Conference of Ambassadors took timely measures to determine whether Germany had sufficiently fulfilled its obligations under part V to justify evacuation of the first occupied (Cologne) zone on January 10, 1925 as conditionally stipulated in article 429 (1). The Allied Military Committee of Versailles was asked on December 17, 1924 to furnish the relevant information. On January 5, 1925 a collective note of the British, French, Italian, and Japanese Governments to the German Government stated that the conditions of part V had not been faithfully carried out. They pointed out specific violations of article 160 as to the general staff organization and [Page 305] of article 174 with respect to short-term voluntary enlistment. Conditions contradictory of other provisions were specifically cited:
- Article 162, the reorganization of the police of the states was not yet begun;
- Articles 164–169, there were determined surpluses of military equipment of every kind and significantly illegal stocks of war material had been uncovered;
- Article 168, the transformation of factories for war material was far from being carried out;
- Article 211, the German Government had not anywhere near met the legislative and administrative requirements.
After further correspondence, in the course of which a German allegation was refuted that the Allied attitude was a “reprisal”, a collective note was handed in at Berlin on June 4, 1925 (Allied Powers, Note Presented to the German Government … June 4, 1925, No. 2 (1925), Cmd. 2429), in which it was stated that the numerous defaults, “if not promptly rectified, would in the aggregate enable the German Government eventually to reconstitute an army modeled on the principle of a nation in arms”. It was this circumstance that rendered “the totality of these defaults so serious a menace to peace”. Nevertheless, assuming good-will on the part of the German Government and having an assurance from the Reparation Commission that Germany was at the moment faithfully fulfilling its reparation obligations, they expected Germany to meet the requirements and so obtain the evacuation of the Cologne occupied zone. To that end, detailed statements were added: (1) of the status of execution of the military clauses (23 points); (2) of the points on which satisfaction remained to be given (13 conditions); (3) of the measures yet to be taken (65 points in 12 categories); and (4) the concessions previously granted (18 items).
The German Ambassador in Paris on October 23 sent the Conference of Ambassadors a conciliatory note, a week after the initialing of the instruments of the Locarno settlement (United Kingdom, Misc. No. 12 (1925), Cmd. 2527). This note reported the status of German compliance and suggested setting November 15 as the date for evacuation of the Cologne zone. It reported 14 demands that had been fulfilled, 20 which would be fulfilled by November 15, 23 of which the execution would be assured by November 15, and 5 of which the execution “involves special difficulties”. The items of this fourth list were: [Page 306]
- Police, titles of the higher officials; rules for personnel; barracks;
- High command;
- Prohibition of training with certain weapons;
- Artillery arming of the fortress of Königsberg;
An interim reply of November 14 discussed the measures contemplated by the Conference of Ambassadors for relaxing the controls of the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission in the demilitarized zone. A further note of November 16 informed the German Government that evacuation of the Cologne zone would take place in January 1926, to be completed by February 20. This decision followed the reaching of “complete agreement” between the experts respecting disputed points on armament. “It only remains”, said the note, “to verify the execution of the undertakings already given respecting lists I–III annexed to the German note of the 23rd October, as well as of the above-mentioned agreement regarding List IV; reservation is nevertheless made in respect of points Nos. 20 and 21 of List III.” The reservation related to “import and export of war material” and “possession of, trading in, and illicit manufacture of, war material”.
After the dissolution of the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission and the filing of its report with the League of Nations on July 31, 1927 (Official Journal, 1927, p. 1058), the Conference of Ambassadors continued to maintain its Allied Military Committee of Versailles (C.M.A.V.) in being until March 16, 1931. That committee kept in touch with the status of armament affairs in Germany through military experts attached to the diplomatic missions of the Belgian, British, French, Italian, and Japanese Governments at Berlin until January 21, 1930.
In transmitting the report of the experts to the Council of the League of Nations, the President of the Conference of Ambassadors on March 16, 1931 gave a final summary of the status of German compliance with the terms of part V of the treaty (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1931, p. 783). This letter and four documents transmitted with it were approved after discussion at the 327th meeting of the Conference of Ambassadors on January 12, 1931 (file 763.72119/12460).
The procès-verbal of January 10, 1930 (document No. 2) was concluded between the governments represented at the Conference [Page 307] of Ambassadors and the German Government. In addition to providing for the withdrawal of the military experts and to laying down the conditions for the complete execution of part V of the treaty, it provided that henceforth matters dealing with German armament should be handled between the German Ambassador in Paris and the Conference of Ambassadors.
The report of the experts (document No. 1) was supplemented by document No. 3, which showed the results from January 31, 1930 to February 28, 1931, and the amendments to be made in consequence in the corresponding sections of the experts’ report. It also showed the deficiencies still existing at the latter date, and the questions in respect of which time-limits had been laid down, some of which continued until July 1, 1933. The report of the Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control of July 31, 1927, the experts’ report of January 31, 1930, and this document No. 3 were to be regarded as containing the whole of the provisions to which Germany had undertaken to conform in order to insure the execution of the military clauses of part V of the Treaty of Versailles.
The status of German compliance with the treaty in March 1931 was summarized in the document No. 4 referred to. From this it appeared:
- Article 160. Failures with respect to short-term enlistment, anticipated leave, periods of instruction and the preparation of reserve cadres, all of which had been prohibited by a decree of the President of the Reich dated December 31, 1926 gave rise to grave doubts. The correctness of the published tables of effectives was dubious, and illegal organizations (Grenzschutze) had always existed.
- Article 162. The Conference of Ambassadors was unable to determine that Germany was living up to the agreement of January 10, 1930 especially with regard to the police lodged in barracks, the type of their instruction, and the distribution of the number authorized. Application of the general statute concerning officials to the Schutzpolizei of the various states was postponed by the states’ laws for years, in one case until October 1, 1936.
- Article 177. On the eve of withdrawing the Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control the German Government, under pressure from the Conference of Ambassadors, issued on January 17, 1927 a circular to the German states (Länder) prescribing the immediate dissolution of associations which concerned themselves with military questions, as a fulfilment of laws and decrees in force. The most [Page 308] important of these associations continued to devote themselves to military exercises. Only Prussia took prohibitory measures against the Stahlhelm section in Rhenish Prussia, and these were lifted immediately after the evacuation of the occupied territories.
- Article 178. Military transport was still governed by pre-war regulations which contained provisions relative to mobilization. A new project of regulations submitted to the Conference of Ambassadors required modifications to bring it into harmony with the treaty clauses, but no effect had been given to its demands. A certain number of buildings had been transformed before April 1, 1929, but evidence was lacking of the extent to which the process had been really effected and of the amount of alienation and transformation of military buildings which remained to be realized “in spite of all the efforts made to facilitate the execution of its engagements by the German Government”.
The Conference of Ambassadors in transmitting the four documents to the Council of the League of Nations, which would have the duty of directing the right of investigation under article 213 of the treaty, emphasized that the faithful observance of part V depended upon the practical application of its provisions. It called attention to the fact that, after the dissolution of the Inter-Allied Commission of Control on January 31, 1927, “responsibility lay neither with the experts maintained at Berlin, who had no supervisory powers, nor with the Conference of Ambassadors, which respected the provisions of the Treaty”. The letter continued:
“The Conference is, therefore, not in a position to formulate any general judgment on the observance of those of the military clauses the conditions for whose application were regarded as settled when the Inter-Allied Commission of Control was withdrawn. The Conference is likewise not called upon, in virtue of its functions, to pass any general judgment on the increase in the military budgets of Germany, seeing that the question of military expenditure is not directly referred to in the Treaty”.
The conference stated that the results secured “cannot be regarded as satisfactory” and closed by saying that “it will rest with the Council to draw from the facts reported any conclusions it may think expedient”.
Since the Council of the League was not called upon to exercise the right of investigation and the Conference for the Reduction and [Page 309] Limitation of Armaments was scheduled to include Germany, the further application of part V was not pursued.
In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses which follow.
Note to V, Preamble
This preamble was a basis of action for many years. In the reply of the Allied and Associated Powers to the observations of the German delegation on the Conditions of Peace dated June 16, 1919, it was stated that the military, naval, and air clauses were “the first steps toward that general reduction and limitation of armaments which they seek to bring about as one of the most fruitful preventives of war, and which it will be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote”. The duties of the League of Nations in this respect were defined in article 8 of the Covenant, and they were pursued from the first Assembly in November–December 1920 until the final activities of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments in 1938.
This preamble became a talking-point for Germany during the period of rapprochement resulting from adoption of the plan of the First (Dawes) Committee of Experts on reparation in 1924. The Locarno treaty of guaranty and accompanying instruments (54 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 289) were initialed on October 16, 1925 and entered into force on September 8, 1926 with Germany’s admission to the League of Nations. With the setting up of the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference by a resolution of the Council on December 12, 1925, the League’s undertaking assumed proportions corresponding to the size of the task, with Germany a full-fledged participant. A little earlier the United States had begun to accept membership in the League of Nations bodies for the study of the armament problem. The draft disarmament convention was adopted by the Preparatory Commission on December 9, 1930 as the basis for the work of a future conference.
Article 53 of that draft convention read as follows (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1931, p. 347):
“The present convention shall not affect the provisions of previous treaties under which certain of the High Contracting Parties have agreed to limit their land, sea or air armaments, and have thus fixed in relation to one another their respective rights and obligations in this connection.[Page 310]
“The following High Contracting Parties … signatory to the said treaties declare that the limits fixed for their armaments under the present convention are accepted by them in relation to the obligations referred to in the preceding paragraph, the maintenance of such provisions being for them an essential condition for the observance of the present convention.”
To this article the German delegation, exercising a right generally practiced with respect to that draft, attached the following reservation:
“The German delegation stated, in connection with Art. 53, that, in so far as it does not refer to the Washington and London treaties, the German delegation would vote against the Draft Convention as a whole. The draft, as drawn up by the majority of the Preparatory Commission, excludes essential elements from the limitation and reduction of land armaments. Instead of leading to real disarmament, this draft would serve only to conceal the real state of world armaments or would even allow armaments to be increased. To accept it would at the same time be tantamount to a renewal of the German signature to the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles.”
The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments convened at Geneva on February 2, 1932, and Germany was elected to the Bureau which was the steering committee of the body. On July 23 the conference adopted a resolution defining the points agreed to and setting forth the program for the second phase of the conference. Germany, not satisfied that the level of its own armament was to be fixed without regard to the limitations of the treaty of peace, left the conference on that day after voting against the resolution, declaring that it could not take part in the work of the conference unless its proceedings were in future conducted on the basis of a recognition of legal equality between the states.
Representatives of France, Italy, Great Britain, the United States, and Germany joined in the following months in negotiations which resulted in the following communication to the president of the conference on December 11, 1932:
“1. The Governments of the United Kingdom, France and Italy have declared that one of the principles that should guide the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments should be the grant to Germany, and to the other Powers disarmed by treaty, [Page 311] of equality of rights in a system which would provide security for all nations, and that this principle should find itself embodied in the Convention containing the conclusions of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.
“This declaration implies that the respective limitations of the armaments of all States should be included in the proposed Disarmament Convention. It is clearly understood that the methods of application of such equality of rights will be discussed by the Conference.
“2. On the basis of this declaration, Germany has signified her willingness to resume her place at the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.
“3. The Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy are ready to join in a solemn reaffirmation to be made by all European States that they will not in any circumstances attempt to resolve any present or future differences between the signatories by resort to force. This shall be done without prejudice to fuller discussions on the question of security.
“4. The five Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy declare that they are resolved to co-operate in the Conference with the other States there represented in seeking without delay to work out a Convention which shall effect a substantial reduction and a limitation of armaments, with provision for future revision with a view to further reduction.”
The General Commission of the conference welcomed this declaration but emphasized that conversations outside of the conference did not constitute a precedent, there being no question of decisions being taken out of the hands of the conference or of presenting it with agreed solutions. Germany resumed its collaboration on December 14, 1932.
On March 16, 1933 the British delegation submitted a draft convention embodying the decisions taken in the framework of the 1930 draft, and on March 27 this text was made the basis of discussion. A first reading extending to June 8 resulted in a formal decision to accept the text as it then stood as the basis of the future convention.
German amendments to this draft convention (Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Preliminary Report on the Work of the Conference Prepared by the President, p. 152) provided—
Counting of all “trained reserves”, in addition to “reservists”, among effectives for seven days’ duty annually;[Page 312]
No comment on assignment of 200,000 land armed forces to Germany, but proposals to include with such forces “stationed in home country” those “in oversea territories in the neighborhood thereof” and to confine use of armed forces stationed in distant territories to those territories only;
Destruction of all guns above 115 mm. within five years and prohibition, after their destruction, of land guns above 155 mm. and tanks above 16 tons.
In view of a prospective naval conference in 1935 Germany also offered to undertake—
“(a) Not to exceed as regards surface vessels the numbers hitherto assigned to her as a limit;
“Not to lay down the keel of more than one vessel to replace one of her capital ships which are obsolete”; and
“Germany has not yet abandoned hope that the present conference will decide to abolish submarines altogether,”
As to air armaments, Germany proposed “the prohibition of all preparations” for bombing from the air and the destruction of all military and naval air material within two years and “the effective control of civil aviation”—proposals going somewhat further than the text adopted;
Germany objected to providing provisional figures of expenditure promptly after the end of a fiscal year and to allowing the Permament Disarmament Commission to call for the “budgets and individual accounts of ministerial departments” on the ground that the provision was “political in character”.
The National Socialists had assumed control in Germany on January 30, 1933, which created anxieties concerning the unsettled state of Europe. The president of the conference visited Paris, Rome, Berlin, Prague, Munich, and London in July and continued negotiations during September in London, Paris, and Geneva. The questions which appeared to be not easy of adjustment were:
- Period of duration of a convention;
- Size of tanks and artillery;
- Reduction of land war material;
- Manufacture of and trade in arms;
- Military and naval aviation;
- Penalties for violation of a convention.
At the meeting of the Bureau on October 14, 1933 a program of future work which was felt to hold promise met general approval. Immediately after that meeting there was received the following communication from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany:
“On behalf of the German Government, I have the honor to make to you the following communication: In the light of the course which recent discussions of the Powers concerned have taken in the matter of disarmament, it is now clear that the Disarmament Conference will not fulfil what is its sole object—namely, general disarmament. It is also clear that this failure of the Conference is due solely to the unwillingness on the part of the highly armed States to carry out their contractual obligation to disarm. This renders impossible the satisfaction of Germany’s recognized claim to equality of rights, and the condition on which the German Government agreed at the beginning of this year again to take part in the work of the Conference thus no longer exists. The German Government is accordingly compelled to leave the Disarmament Conference.—Baron von Neurath.”
On October 16, the General Commission authorized the following reply:
“I have now communicated to the General Commission Your Excellency’s telegram of October 14th announcing the decision of the German Government to discontinue participation in the work of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments and indicating the reasons for that decision. The German Government took this step at a moment when the Bureau had just decided to submit to the General Commission a definite programme. This programme, to be completed within a limited period, provided for the realization progressively, in accordance with resolutions of the Conference in which Germany herself concurred, of reductions of armaments comparable to those contemplated in the draft Convention submitted to the General Commission. This programme provided also, with corresponding measures of security, for the realization of equality of rights, which the German Government has always placed in the forefront of its demands. I regret therefore that this grave decision should have been taken by your Government for reasons which I am unable to accept as valid.—Henderson, President of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.”
Germany in a note of October 19 gave the League of Nations notice of its intention to withdraw, and immediately ceased collaboration. [Page 314] It ceased to be a member of the League of Nations on October 21, 1935. It had obtained freedom from the obligations of the Covenant, and in the interval between the notice and its maturity had acted without regard to the obligations which were still incumbent upon its government.
After the defection of Germany the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments continued through the Bureau. The General Commission on June 8, 1934 laid down a program of work for the Bureau, which on November 20, 1934 decided to concentrate attention on three questions which might be agreed upon and brought into force without waiting for the completion of a full convention. These questions were:
- Control of the manufacture of and trade in arms, on which the United States was finally ready to negotiate and on which it had submitted a draft;
- Budgetary publicity;
- Setting up of the Permanent Disarmament Commission.
The Bureau at its last meeting on May 1, 1937 decided on the submission of proposals on those subjects to the governments, which were asked to support the proposals by the League of Nations Assembly in 1937 and 1938. Insufficient approval was received. The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments was not, however, closed.
Following the withdrawal of Germany from the conference the representatives of France, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States consulted from November 19 to 21, and the Bureau on November 22, 1933 noted that the existing divergencies of opinion on important political questions were too great to render discussion of texts in the General Commission fruitful. The Bureau intimated that parallel efforts between states and the use of diplomatic machinery might be useful. There ensued up to April 17 a correspondence that centered around exchanges between France and Germany, and included notes and memoranda by the president of the conference and the Governments of Great Britain, the United States, France, and Italy (Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Conference Documents, iii, 743, 867, 882; United Kingdom, Memorandum and Further Memoranda on Disarmament, to April 17, 1931, Misc. Nos. 3 and 5 (1934), Cmd. 4512 and 4559; France, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Négociations relatives à la reduction et à la limitation des armements). In reply [Page 315] to a British memorandum dated January 29, 1934, the United States on February 19 communicated an aide-mémoire to the British Ambassador in Washington in which three main methods for limiting and reducing armament were presented. These were, first, abolishing weapons of primary use in invasion; second, continuous and automatic inspection; third, “a universal pact of non-aggression in which an undertaking would be given that the armed forces of no state should invade the territory of another country in violation of treaty rights” (Department of State, Press Releases, x, 109).
Germany was willing in its declaration of April 16 to accept the United Kingdom memorandum of January 29 as the basis of a convention only with “certain important modifications”. These related to extending the time for reducing armaments actually in existence, methods of insuring the non-military character of paramilitary (Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel) formations, and “equality of rights”, which involved the timing of German rearmament and the guaranties of execution. On the latter point, “the German Government continues to recognize the treaties of Locarno”, but return to the League of Nations was to be delayed until after the solution of the “questions of disarmament”. The abstention of the Germans from the Bureau prevented this apparently responsive declaration from having any effect. Further, in a memorandum of April 17 the French Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out that the action of the German Government, whether or not of set purpose, “rendered impossible negotiations the basis of which it had destroyed”. The German Government on March 22 had increased its budget for armament by 352,000,000 marks and, without awaiting the results of negotiation, “wished to impose its determination to continue every form of rearmament to an extent of which it claims to be the sole judge and in defiance of the provisions of the treaty which, in the absence of any other, continues to fix the status of its armaments”. The presence of Germany in the Assembly at Geneva was indispensable for the realization of a satisfactory system of guaranties of execution. France regretted that the brusque action of Germany rendered futile the pursuit of negotiations by the two countries with good-will and good faith.
The position in the summer of 1934 was described by the British Prime Minister as follows (United Kingdom, Prime Minister, Statement Relating to Defence issued in Connexion with the House of Commons Debate on Mar. 11, 1935, p. 5, Cmd. 4827): [Page 316]
“The Disarmament Conference had virtually come to a standstill. Further negotiations, it was clear, would be hampered by the fact that Germany was not only re-arming openly on a large scale, despite the provisions of Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, but had also given notice of withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference. Japan also had given notice of withdrawal from the League. All the larger Powers except the United Kingdom were adding to their armed forces.”
On March 9, 1935 the German Government announced the reconstitution of a German military air force. Article 198 of the treaty of peace stipulated that “the armed forces of Germany must not include any military or naval air forces”. On March 16 the Chancellor of the Reich convened the Ambassadors of France, Great Britain, Italy, and Poland in Berlin and communicated to them the text of a law reestablishing general compulsory military service in Germany and providing for a reorganization of the army to bring it up to 12 army corps and 36 divisions. Article 160 of the treaty of peace limited the army to 7 divisions of infantry and 3 divisions of cavalry.
The French Government laid the matter before the Council of the League of Nations in a telegram which, after reciting the facts, said (League of Nations, Official Journal, 1935, p. 569):
“In both cases the German Government has deliberately repudiated by a unilateral act the contractual engagements embodied in the treaties which Germany has signed. When entering the League of Nations, of which she still remains a Member until the expiry of a period of two years from her notification of October 21st, 1933, Germany, in virtue of the Preamble to the Covenant, undertook to observe a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another. In these circumstances, and since, under the terms of paragraph 2 of Article 11, it is the right of each Member of the League to bring to the attention of the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends, the Government of the Republic has the honour to seize the Council of the League of the situation created by the attitude of the German Government. Owing to the gravity of the question raised by Germany’s initiative, I have the honour to request you to arrange for an extraordinary meeting of the Council to examine the present request.—Pierre Laval.”
The 85th (extraordinary) session of the Council convened on April 15, and on the 16th representatives of France, the United Kingdom, and Italy submitted the following draft, which was unanimously adopted on the 17th as a resolution, by a roll-call vote of the representatives of the Argentine Republic, Australia, Great Britain, Chile, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with Denmark abstaining (ibid., p. 551):
- That the scrupulous respect of all treaty obligations is a fundamental principle of international life and an essential condition of the maintenance of peace;
- That it is an essential principle of the law of nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty nor modify the stipulations thereof unless with the consent of the other contracting parties;
- That the promulgation of the Military Law of March 16th, 1935, by the German Government conflicts with the above principles;
- That, by this unilateral action, the German Government confers upon itself no right;
- That this unilateral action, by introducing a new disturbing element into the international situation, must necessarily appear to be a threat to European security;
- Considering, on the other hand,
- That the British Government and the French Government, with the approval of the Italian Government, had communicated to the German Government as early as February 3rd, 1935, a plan for a general settlement, to be freely negotiated, for the organisation of security in Europe and for a general limitation of armaments in a system of equality of rights, while ensuring the active co-operation of Germany in the League of Nations;
- And that the unilateral action of Germany above referred
to was not only inconsistent with this plan, but was taken
at a time when negotiations were actually being pursued:
- Declares that Germany has failed in the duty which lies upon all the Members of the International community to respect the undertakings which they have contracted, and condemns any unilateral repudiation of international obligations;
- Invites the Governments which took the initiative in the plan of February 3rd, 1935, or which gave their approval to it, to continue the negotiations so initiated, and in particular to promote the conclusion, within the framework of the League of Nations, of the agreements which may appear necessary to attain the object defined in this plan, due account being taken of the obligations of the Covenant, with a view to assuring the maintenance of peace;
- Considering that the unilateral repudiation of international obligations may endanger the very existence of the League of Nations as an organisation for maintaining peace and promoting security;
That such repudiation, without prejudice to the application of the measures already provided in international agreements, should, in the event of its having relation to undertakings concerning the security of peoples and the maintenance of peace in Europe, call into play all appropriate measures on the part of Members of the League and within the framework of the Covenant;
Requests a Committee composed of [representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia] to propose for this purpose measures to render the Covenant more effective in the organisation of collective security and to define in particular the economic and financial measures which might be applied, should in the future a State, whether a Member of the League of Nations or not, endanger peace by the unilateral repudiation of its international obligations.
On April 20 Germany in a note addressed to the governments of states represented on the Council contested their right “to set themselves up as judges of Germany”; the resolution was “absolutely rejected” as “an attempt at a new discrimination against Germany”.
- Section I.—Military clauses
- Chapter I.—Effectives and cadres of the German Army (Art. 159 to 163)
- Chapter II.—Armament, munitions and material (Art. 164 to 172)
- Chapter III.—Recruiting and military training (Art. 173 to 179)
- Chapter IV.—Fortifications (Art. 180)
- Table No. 1.—State and establishment of Army Corps Headquarters Staffs and of Infantry and Cavalry Divisions
- Table No. 2.—Tabular statement of Armament establishment for a maximum of 7 Infantry Divisions, 3 Cavalry Divisions and 2 Army corps Headquarters Staffs
- Table No. 3.—Maximum stocks authorised
- Section II.—Naval clauses (Art. 181 to 197)
- Section III.—Air clauses (Art. 198 to 202)
- Section IV.—Inter-Allied Commissions of Control (Art. 203 to 210)
- Section V.—General articles (Art. 211 to 213)