740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Locarno)/419: Telegram (part air)

The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

89. No action has taken place here further than that which I have reported. Geneva is merely attentively watching the attitudes of the governments as revealed in their respective capitals. Viewed from Geneva at present, the implications of what appears to have taken place in its broader aspects seems to me to be substantially as follows:

(1) It would appear almost fantastic that the Council be seriously expected to impose sanctions against Germany. The precedent of action against Italy does not, as I have previously suggested, seem to carry any weight. Aside from general political considerations, the probable position of Poland and an almost total disbelief here that Great Britain would support such a measure, in themselves dictate its great improbability.

On this score the Ministers of the Balkan Powers inform me that sanctions would be totally impracticable as far as their countries are concerned due to the integration of their commercial existence with Germany. Furthermore the juridicial question which undoubtedly could be invoked respecting such a procedure is so close that should it come to the point a French demand could most probably be denied on legal grounds (Consulate’s despatch 1323 Political, July 12, 193574).

The governing thought here is, no matter what Paris may declare now, that France cannot at least successfully bring such a question of sanctions forward in the Council.

(2) In the impasse created by the respective German and Franco-Belgian positions it is generally believed that a compromise must be reached with the French compelled to grant the major concessions.

(3) Certain of the Little Entente and Balkan representatives while they have expressed themselves to me as sympathetic toward the general position in which France finds itself and are inclined as are the French to adduce juridical arguments which technically cannot be gainsaid, nevertheless profess themselves to be at a complete loss as to what position their states can or will adopt in various possible exigencies. It is evident that with the prospect before them of far-reaching changes taking place in the European political realm, they feel that their states should not prejudice their cases in advance.

(4) The small European neutral powers for the same general reasons with obvious modifications whatever their sentiments may be evidently are undesirous of taking any position.

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(5) The foregoing decidedly includes the taking of positions in the Council or in the Committee of Thirteen. The radical change which has taken place in the situation in the entire European political field has in reality moved the center of gravity out of the Covenant. Thus the terms employed in the Covenant and the symbols of expression of the League have with startling suddenness lost their accustomed meaning (Consulate’s 80, March 8, 5 p.m.,75 sixth paragraph). Thus their employment, for example, by the French seems already either outworn or as having a purely partisan significance.

I do not believe that I can overstate the change in the character of the League in this respect which in my view has already occurred. While this may be a temporary phase I feel that the League procedures which are about to take place should be observed in the light of this concept. Aside from confusions and uncertainties it is primarily this which warns the small League states to be extremely cautious in actively participating in what up to now has been not only normal League action but action which they were under covenantal obligations to support and which was furthermore a most important feature of their respective foreign policies.

The foregoing is of course predicated on the immediate question not being in essence avoided by the Council or possibly through a compromise coming before it in a non-controversial form.

(6) I find diplomatic opinion here reiterating the general phrase that Germany’s action is not displeasing to London especially in the opportunity which it may present for a reconstruction of the European situation. This extends to the belief in some quarters that London was cognizant in advance of the German program and tacitly welcomed it in principle although probably not in all of its manifestations.

In detail an advantage to the British although of secondary importance is that they are tacitly freed to the extent they may desire from certain commitments in Geneva and to certain League states and can reform their policy independent of these trammels. Thoughts along these lines have been sufficiently stated in private on the part of British officials in the past to indicate the undercurrent of their feelings in this respect.

In a more general sense a possibility is opened to London and will presumably be pressed to recapture Great Britain’s balance of power position, her relinquishment of which for immediate ends has obviously irked London more than almost any feature of the recent series of situations.

Difficulties are naturally perceived in a reconciliation of British aspirations respecting the continent and the threat to the Empire in the [Page 232] Italian position in Africa—to the extent that the concept is true that the latter in reality constitutes such a threat. I believe it may be seen, however, that although Germany’s recent action is of advantage to Rome certainly technically as respects the League and also as a compelling diversion, it is not necessarily to Italy’s fundamental advantage. While London would undoubtedly in view of her two diverse interests wish to handle the German and Italo-African situations independently it does not seem that this would be possible except to a limited degree. Associating these interests it may be believed possible that London can successfully reassure Italy respecting the fundamental German threat in southeastern Europe and obtain in return some concessions respecting Africa.

(7) I am still inclined to believe that any European reconstruction program advanced by London would for excellent tactical reasons be based on a project for League reconstruction (Consulate’s 80, final paragraph). A particular difficulty is naturally seen in harmonizing Russia’s membership in the League with Germany’s expressed attitude which situation is obviously complicated by Franco-Russian and Russian Eastern European involvements.

In this connection I have learned that certain American organizations are re-constituting their efforts in this respect which includes, although presumably remotely, the bringing of the United States into the picture (Consulate’s despatch No. 1209 Political, March 21, 193576 and previous referred to therein).

(8) The Argentine and Chilean representatives have called upon me and in the course of a general discussion of the situation have expressed their extreme anxiety over the necessity of their participating in the Council and in the Committee of Thirteen, seeing undesirable involvements flowing from almost any position they might adopt. They tell me that they are as yet without instructions for which they have urgently telegraphed but volunteered to inform me of their nature when they are received.

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