740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Eastern Locarno)/58

The Ambassador in Germany ( Dodd ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1300

Sir: Referring to my telegram No. 185 of September 11, 4 p.m.,38 I have the honor to enclose a copy, in the vernacular, of the German memorandum in reply to the proposal for an Eastern Pact of Mutual Assistance sponsored by the French and Russians, together with a translation of the same. A further brief comment by Baron von Neurath made in the course of a speech at the German Foreign Institute, which, however, does not add very much to the arguments, is forwarded as enclosure 3.38 A brief summary of the pact was contained in the above mentioned telegram. A further summary is to be found in enclosure 4,38 which represents a translation of the official press statement in regard thereto. Enclosures 5a to 5g 39 represent press comments, in translation, which supplement, sometimes quite pointedly, the official arguments.

The German memorandum may be said to close the first chapter of the proposed Eastern Pact. Whether there will be others remains to be seen. The Foreign Office by no means rejects the idea of further negotiations and indeed intimates as a general direction in which such might be conducted either a series of bilateral agreements, or a collective obligation of non-aggression together with consultation of the powers interested.

The German note is a smooth and clever document, enabling this Government to contrast itself favorably as a protagonist of peace in comparison with France and Russia. As far as one can see here, the net result of the Franco-Russian proposal sponsored by England is to establish a common ground of agreement between Germany and Poland, to give the Germans a pretext for making a more effective plea for equality of armament than they have hitherto perhaps been able to do, and generally to expose the unpractical side of the Franco-Russian scheme. Such a result would seem to be equivalent to a diplomatic defeat for France and the Soviets, and one is tempted to wonder how Barthou and Litvinoff came to place themselves in a position which they might have foreseen would have the result indicated.

Among my colleagues I have found two different points of view expressed; one, that the project for an Eastern Pact was merely to prepare the ground for a Franco-Russian alliance; and the other that the French persuaded themselves that the main danger of war lies in the Far East. The position of the British can be more readily understood. They are only interested to a very secondary degree themselves [Page 510] in the Pact; their advocacy of it presumably relieving them for the time being of the perennial French pressure for guarantees of security. They would have been indirectly benefited had the Pact turned out to be a success, and they are no worse off by reason of its rejection.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
J. C. White

Counselor of Embassy

German Memorandum Replying to the French and Russian Proposal for an Eastern Pact of Mutual Assistance

In June of this year the French Government and the Government of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics verbally informed the German Government of the broad outlines of the plan for a so-called Eastern Pact of Mutual Assistance. In July the British Government transmitted a written scheme of a Pact;40 according to this draft the first part of the new Pact system has in view a treaty between Germany, Poland, Russia, Czecho-Slowakia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; the chief stipulations provided that in the case of a crisis these States should proceed to joint consultations and in the case of an attack by one of the Contracting Parties against another of the Contracting Parties they should lend immediate military assistance to the country attacked. This eight-Power treaty is to be supplemented by an Additional Treaty between France and Russia in which on the one hand Russia would undertake the same obligations which England and Italy have undertaken as guarantors of the Rhine Pact of Locarno and whereby, on the other hand, France would be considered as a signatory of the eight-Power treaty so far as Germany and Russia were concerned and would be entitled to participate in consultations of these Powers.

On the basis of the informations hitherto received by the German Government with regard to the plan many important points are still left open. Nevertheless the German Government have carefully examined the fundamental principles of such a Pact system. The informations received call for certain observations which the German Government would like to make at this stage to the Governments in question. These remarks will, no doubt, help to clear the situation.

There is an observation of a fundamental character which the German Government must make at the outset. They have in the course of the disarmament negotiations always held that by far the most effective way of guaranteeing the security of all countries would be a general disarmament or at least the establishment of a reasonable and [Page 511] just proportion of armaments between the different States. At the same time they expressed that they would be prepared to participate in other agreements of a political character in so far as these agreements complied with the demands for complete reciprocity and in so far as they actually would serve as guarantees of peace. It was with this idea in mind that the German Government have repeatedly offered to conclude long-term non-aggression pacts with all neighbouring countries, renouncing the use of force in any form. The German Government stands by this attitude. They desire nothing more than peace for Germany. They firmly reject the idea of aggression against any other State or the use of any kind of force in international relations. On the other hand it is only logical that they can not participate in any kind of international system of security so long as other Powers will contest German equality of rights with regard to armaments. A self-respecting nation can not be expected to enter into a special kind of political relationship with other Powers, if they simultaneously treat it as a second-class nation and as a nation of minor rights, where a question is concerned which is inseparably bound up with what this relationship aims at. Moreover, any system of security which is not firmly based upon equality of military rights must in practice necessarily work out to the disadvantage of the State differentiated. Considering the protracted discussion concerning the relation between security and disarmament, considering the Five-Power Declaration of December 1932,41 as well as the facts which led up to Germany’s withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations, and considering more especially the disarmament negotiations between the Great Powers in the course of the first months of this year, the German Government did not expect to be called upon to participate in a Pact system involving extensive new obligations, while her equality is still being treated as an open question. According to the documents transmitted by the British Government the latter obtained the consent of the French Government to a declaration bringing the conclusion of the proposed Pact into relationship with the disarmament question. This declaration would seem to confirm the apprehensions of the German Government with regard to what the initiators of the plan are aiming at, rather than to dispel them. “The conclusion of such a Pact and Germany’s participation in the system of reciprocal guarantees now contemplated”—so the British draft says—”would afford the best ground for the resumption of negotiations for the conclusion of a convention such as would provide for a reasonable application of the principle of German equality of rights in a regime of security for all nations.”42 The interpretation [Page 512] given to the declaration by the initiators of the plan appears clearly from a public speech made by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs when he stated that there could be no question of disarmament being negotiated parallel to the Eastern Pact; it could only be said that the conclusion of the Eastern Pact might perhaps create a new atmosphere which would permit to examine what effect this Pact might have on disarmament. The German Government must emphasize that they can not be a party to such a policy. Without justification Germany is called upon to make prestations by anticipation which she would have to reject, even if the construction of the Pact did justice to the German point of view. The negotiations with regard to the realization of German equality of rights in the beginning of this year led to an almost complete agreement between the British, Italian and the German Governments;43 on the basis accepted by the three Powers they might rapidly and without difficulty have been brought to a conclusion, if all Powers concerned had been willing. If now the realization of the new demands for security is to be given preference to an international settlement of disarmaments, thus leaving the latter in a state of complete uncertainty, the German Government can not agree to this; more especially as all the highly-armed States have since last spring proceeded to a further increase of armaments, thereby more and more reducing the chances of a general limitation of armaments, to say nothing of a general disarmament.

There is another point in connection with the previous question. Under the present scheme the entry into force of the new Pact system is subject to the entry of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics to the League of Nations. No mention is made in the scheme of Germany’s future relations to the League of Nations. If this omission is to indicate that the initiators of the plan are taking it for granted that Germany will return to the League of Nations as a matter of course, the German Government must refer to their declaration repeatedly made that Germany’s future relationship to the League of Nations can not be discussed so long as her equality of rights is in any way questioned from certain quarters.

This decisive point having been made clear, the German Government would make the following observations with regard to the proposed Pact system.

It is evident that the essential point of the system is the obligation of the Contracting Parties to lend immediate assistance in case of war. Thus the idea of joint assistance of States to another State in case of attack is once more put into discussion, an idea repeatedly brought forward in varying forms in certain quarters ever since the foundation of the League of Nations. All international negotiations [Page 513] conducted in connection with the sanction clauses of the Covenant have shown with increasing evidence the extraordinary difficulties met by any attempt to introduce a collective Pact system providing for the obligation of an automatic military assistance, a system which in a crisis would function justly and on an equal basis for all. These difficulties hardly diminish if a system of sanctions and guarantees comprising all States or a large number of States is replaced by regional Pacts of certain groups of States. Except under circumstances and in the case of problems of quite a special kind as they exist, for example, in the case of the Rhine Pact of Locarno, a regional Pact system of this kind will in practice, as a general rule, either fail completely or it will merely operate along the lines indicated by other political engagements and interests of different Powers and corresponding in no way to the aims of the Pact. Even on the supposition that at the critical moment, the contracting parties will give preference to considerations of loyalty to the Pact over other engagements and interests, it is difficult to imagine how such a Pact could afford adequate protection to partners of military inferiority against partners of strong military power. Moreover the tendency to secure as far as possible the automatic functioning of assistance would involve the danger of the Pact being put into operation more easily in an arbitrary way and by political machinations.

If the proposed Pact system is examined from the points of view indicated above, serious doubts must arise as to whether, under the existing circumstances, this system can really be considered as an effective instrument of peace, working indiscriminately under all circumstances. The question arises as to what considerations have led to the selection of the eight Powers named as partners of the Eastern Pact. In this connection it must further be asked for what reason France is called upon to act as a guarantor of the Eastern Pact, and for what reasons this guarantee is to be so stipulated in a special treaty, that it only applies to Germany and the Soviet Union and not to the other Contracting Parties to the Eastern Pact. The serious complications which might arise from this or a similar grouping of Powers can easily be gathered, if you consider the geographical situation of the Powers concerned, their individual political interests and furthermore the fact that several of these countries are already bound by other political engagements. Far from putting into doubt the loyalty of the Governments concerned, yet the German Government does not feel convinced that the engagements stipulated by the new Pact system would in every case prove sufficiently strong and that they would not come into conflict with given realities. The assistance provided for in the Pact is, in the case of war, to be given “immediately” i. e. at once and unconditionally, no time being given to wait for the result of the consultation between the Governments or the decision of [Page 514] any other Institution and no allowance being made for the agreement of the States obliged to offer assistance. Is it not likely that, under such a system, the Powers obliged to lend assistance will have different views as to which of the States drawn into the conflict has been attacked? Is it not likely that in case of such a divergence arising it would easily happen that either the attitude of the strongest Power or Powers would decide and compel the other partners to follow suit, or that the question at issue would lead to the formation of opposing groups among the partners, resulting in a war of all against all? But, putting aside the possibility of such differences of opinion, would it not lead to extraordinary difficulties in many cases, if the Contracting Parties are bound not only to military assistance but also to permit the troops of any other partner to march through their own territory? Finally it should not be left out of consideration that the formation of such groups, in so far as it actually increases the security of Contracting Parties, might, for this very reason, under certain circumstances cause reactions on States not being partners which would be out of harmony with the general interest in the preservation of the peace of the world.

The example of the Rhine Pact of Locarno, providing under certain circumstances, for the automatic assistance of the Guarantor Powers, can not be cited as against these possibilities. The Rhine Pact deals with a very concrete and clearly defined political problem. Its application was from the outset sufficiently clear to the limited group of Powers concerned to enable them to form an accurate opinion on the extension of their obligations. Complications as indicated above are, as matters stand, practically out of the question. There is no need to prove that matters would be quite different in the case of the new Pact.

The Governments now supporting the plan of an Eastern Pact must appreciate that the German Government can not take into consideration such an extensive project but with the utmost caution and after weighing carefully all possibilities. The central situation of Germany in the midst of heavily armed states makes this imperative. How can Germany undertake the obligation to intervene in indefinite conflicts of other States which do not concern her or in which she is not interested? She would thereby make herself the battleground for all possible conflagrations in Europe and draw upon herself dangers which no serious adherent of such a Pact can possibly expect her to face. These apprehensions can not simply be dispelled by stating that the object of the Pact is precisely to prevent the outbreak of war and that therefore this eventuality need not be seriously considered. That is a petitio principii; for by so reasoning you are taking for granted what, in the opinion of the German Government, must be a matter of doubt, i. e. whether such a Pact would actually have the effect of guaranteeing the maintenance of peace between the Contracting Parties under all circumstances. [Page 515] There is therefore no ground whatever for the argument that any apprehensions with regard to the consequences of the proposed Pact provisions may be dispelled by expressing the mere hope that these provisions will never receive practical application.

Furthermore Germany can hardly expect any real advantages from the Pact which would outweigh the dangers referred to. The German Government can not refrain from speaking quite openly about certain delicate points raised by the problem presented to them, the other Governments having opened the plan of the Eastern Pact to public discussion although they could have no doubt as to the German point of view. The German Government is under the impression that the Additional Treaty referring to the mutual obligations of France and Soviet Russia is a construction which is neither called for nor suggested by the natural requirements of the situation in Eastern Europe nor by any need for a greater stability of the Locarno system. Whatever may be the ideas of the other Powers interested in eastern questions or partners to the Locarno system with regard to the part now to be played by the two countries France and Russia, Germany can not see how she might gain thereby. Even if the Additional Treaty were so drawn up that the guarantee given by France and Russia were to act equally in favor of Germany, this would, as a matter of fact, only constitute a formal equality. The German Government can not consider it a practical reality that Germany, one day, should be defended in her own territory by Soviet-Russian troops against an attack from the west or by French troops against an attack from the east.

In expressing the aforesaid doubts and apprehensions, the German Government does not wish to evade a joint examination of the question as to whether and what new guarantees for security can be created for Europe or for certain parts of Europe in addition to the settlement of the armament question. They are inclined to believe that, in general, the best results will be achieved by the method of bilateral agreements, because such agreements can always be adapted to the concrete circumstances and therefore do not run the risk of either remaining pure theories or of leading to complications. They do now, however, wish altogether to reject the idea of multilateral pacts. In case the other Governments would wish to pursue the idea of multilateral pacts, the German Government would, however, earnestly suggest that stress should not be laid on the agreement to immediate military assistance in case of war, but rather upon other methods of securing peace. The idea of a collective obligation of non-aggression and the idea of consultation between the Powers interested, in a political crisis, would present themselves in the first instance. It is known that both ideas have already been discussed in the course of the disarmament negotiations at Geneva and have at the time generally been accepted as part of the Disarmament Convention. They might, however, [Page 516] be developed along various lines so that thereby real guarantees of peace would be created. Without entering into details the German Government would merely like to indicate the general direction in which, in their opinion, further considerations might well be carried on. Other possibilities need thereby not be excluded. They would only have to be considered from the point of view that the best guarantee of peace will ever be not to prepare for war against war, but to extend and strengthen the means apt to prevent any possibility of an outbreak of war.

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  5. Ante, p. 499.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. i, p. 527; for correspondence concerning Germany’s demand for equality of armaments, see ibid., pp. 416 ff.
  7. See enclosure No. 2 to despatch No. 1067, July 24, from the Ambassador in Germany, p. 500.
  8. See pp. 1 ff.