740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Locarno)/882: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

462. Reference my 407, March 25, 11 a.m.89 In the course of a conversation today with the Belgian Ambassador he said that he expected the declaration of the French and British Governments regarding the release of Belgium from the obligations assumed in March, 1936,90 to be made public within the next 2 or 3 days.

He said that in connection with this matter Belgium had assured England and France that she was prepared to resist with all her forces any aggression against Belgium whether by land, sea, or the air. This statement—which of course implies the corollary that, Belgian neutrality having been guaranteed by England and France, in the event of foreign airplanes flying over Belgian soil, Belgium would immediately notify her guarantors of this violation of Belgian sovereignty—at that time satisfied the British preoccupation concerning immediate notice in case for instance German planes should fly over Belgium headed for England.

The Ambassador said that the Belgian Government in deciding upon its new policy of “voluntary neutrality” as announced by the King last October, and now shortly to become an accomplished fact, had been motivated in addition to the desire not to become involved as a tail to the French kite in conflicts not directly affecting Belgian interests by the desire again to have the status of a neutral state in the eyes of the world. He said for instance that if Belgium had continued to appear as the ally of France then, in the event of some future war in which Germany might again strike at France through Belgium, world opinion would be inclined to feel that that was perhaps after all some excuse for Germany’s action against Belgium. With the return to the status of a neutral state voluntary, this time a violation of Belgian neutrality would have the effect, as it had in 1914, of enlisting the sympathy of the rest of the world particularly of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. This fact was of course apparent to Germany and to [Page 69] that extent would operate in the future as a deterrent if Germany were ever again tempted to invade Belgium in order to get at France.

The Ambassador said that he felt that Belgium in throwing off her special ties with France had rendered France a real service; heretofore, the French line of defense against Germany in the north had been the Liège–Namur line which France would have attempted to assist the Belgians in holding in case of German invasion; now, however, the change in the status of Belgium had obliged France to extend the Maginot line on France’s northern frontier; henceforth France would have two lines of defense against German attack in the north, the Belgian defense on the Liège line as before plus the French defense back of the new Maginot line.

The Ambassador went on to say that in any event he saw no danger of war in Europe in the immediate future; the Germans had had some unpleasant experiences in Spain where they had found that their pursuit planes and their light tanks were defective and it would take a year or 2 years to make good these deficiencies. In the meanwhile British and French rearmament for defensive purposes was increasing apace. He felt that the situation in Europe looks much better.

The Ambassador referred to Hitler’s offer to guarantee Belgium’s territorial integrity which had he said been “taken note of” by the Belgian Government and went on to say that once the status of Belgian “voluntary neutrality” had been recognized by England and France he would not be surprised if Germany would make a formal declaration guaranteeing Belgium’s territorial integrity.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Agreement of mutual assistance drafted by the Locarno Powers, London, March 19, 1936, and approved by Great Britain, France and Belgium. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. i, pp. 206257.