Briefing Book Paper
The Disposition of the Ruhr
It is recommended that this Government oppose the separation of the Ruhr from Germany either through internationalization or through the creation of a separate state or through annexation by one or more neighboring states.
Proposals for the disposition of the Ruhr need to be judged by their contribution of long-range security and by the degree to which they would allow a full utilization of the resources of the area for the restoration of European productivity and living conditions.
Security proposals, in turn, need to be measured by the criteria of effectiveness, economy of effort, and prospects of durability.
To find effective security measures against Germany, it is submitted, constitutes no serious or complicated problem. A Germany deprived of trained soldiers and arsenals could not launch a new war and a few and relatively simple restraints can effect that deprivation. Multiplication of restraints and their attendant instrumentalities of enforcement beyond the minimum consistent with effectiveness would mean for the victor powers a rejection of the principle of economy of effort and the assumption of unnecessary burdens. Such a multiplication of controls, however, would not only entail a superfluous expenditure of international energy; it would also constitute a potential threat to the durability of the whole system of security. The more complicated the control machinery the more quickly all or some of the enforcing powers will tire of maintaining it and divisions of opinion will arise between them. Once the victors in weariness and mutual hostility begin to abandon controls there is little prospect of agreement on a stopping place short of the complete emancipation of Germany from any control whatever. The experiences of the victor powers after 1918 suggest the validity of such considerations and emphasize the fact that the danger does not reside so much in Germany’s evasion of controls as in the Allies’ unwillingness to enforce them when the heat of war has abated.
Since it is unreasonable to suppose that Germany could fight without trained soldiers and arsenals, the impulse toward a great multiplication of prohibitions and controls must apparently be explained [Page 587] as the result of a fear that a lesser number of prohibitions and controls would not be effectively enforced. The assumption is not well grounded, however, that security can be bulwarked by additional measures of control when the victors are unable or unwilling to enforce the basic prohibitions of trained soldiers and arsenals. The rational means of dispelling such a fear is not to seek further and more complicated controls which would tax still more seriously the energies of the enforcing powers but to concentrate on those controls which, by their simplicity and economy of expenditure, offer the best prospect of being maintained.
Since the separation of the Ruhr from the remainder of Germany could not prudently be considered an alternative to basic security controls for the whole of the country which, if enforced, would suffice to keep the peace, a special regime for the Ruhr would clearly be subject to the criticisms stated above.
An effective security plan requires a calculation of the eventual political consequences in Germany of any proposed course of action. In the long run the most effective form of control over Germany would be the self-control of a nation willing to play a constructive role in the world’s peaceful pursuits. Under the best of circumstances such a Germany will be hard to build and it behooves the victor powers to avoid giving unnecessary opportunities to ultra-nationalistic agitators to exploit not only the grievances of the German people but the discords which may arise amongst the victors over the treatment of Germany. The loss of the Ruhr would probably be second only to the forcible breakup of Germany into partite states as an incitement to embittered resistance on the part of the German people. Since this recommendation is based on the conviction that the separation of the Ruhr from Germany is not necessary for security reasons, its internationalization would mean delivering into the hands of the most dangerous elements in Germany a powerful weapon and would, therefore, endanger security rather than make it doubly certain.
Any proposal for the separation of the Ruhr from Germany raises a further question involving security implications. This question is to what state, or states, the Ruhr should be assigned?
Direct cession to one state would create too many political and economic dislocations to be admissible. Likewise a single trustee or mandatory is hardly a feasible solution. The small neighboring powers would not have the resources to undertake such a formidable task and there are strong objections on both political and economic grounds to allowing any one of the large European powers to attempt it. Under present circumstances an extension of Soviet power and influence into the heart of Western Europe through the device of trusteeship would manifestly be open to grave doubt. The assignment [Page 588] of the Ruhr to France, in turn, would be equally questionable since it cannot be accepted as axiomatic that the increment of national strength which would come to France through acquisition of the Ruhr would be a guaranty of security. It can be anticipated that French control would cause serious perturbation in Belgium and the Netherlands and would create such resistance in the Ruhr that the area’s productive capacity, so essential for European reconstruction, would be heavily impaired.
A multiple trusteeship would also raise difficult and prospectively insuperable problems: selecting the states which would participate, determining the powers of the trustees, allocating the degree of authority of each, prescribing the character of the administration and the political role of the inhabitants, deciding the economic relationships with other areas, and devising machinery for composing the differences which would be inevitable in such a complex undertaking. If the several trustees brought to the Ruhr divergent conceptions of economic organization and equally different views of the uses to be made of the trusteeship—and this state of affairs would be hardly inescapable in almost any circumstances and notably certain in the case of Soviet participation—the consequences could only be to the jeopardy of European tranquillity.
An examination of the Ruhr in the light of the second criterion—full utilization of its resources for European reconstruction—likewise results in a judgment against the separation of this area from the rest of Germany.
Any form of removal of the Ruhr from Germany which did not entail a substantial degree of economic separation would be meaningless in terms of the generally professed security reasons for the action. It must be assumed therefore that under internationalization, as well as through annexation by another power, Germany would lose control of the enormous productive capacity to some international agency. It is therefore in order to consider the consequences for Germany and for the whole of European reconstruction and to anticipate how the Ruhr could be treated economically.
This Government has already agreed to a considerable transfer of German territory in the East.2 Into the Germany thus reduced in size and resources and heavily damaged by the war there will be poured several million persons of Germanic stock from Poland and Czechoslovakia. It is no sentimental generosity to point out that the seventy and more million Germans concentrated in restricted frontiers must be allowed a tolerable standard of living. In our treatment of the Germans the immediate necessity, and equally the long-range necessity, is enough sustenance for them to prevent starvation, disease and [Page 589] dangerous political unrest. To make Germany into a permanent national poorhouse would be to close the door to any hope of Germany’s eventual assimilation into the society of law-abiding peoples. The simplest form of security insurance is to spare Germany a standard of living so low as to engender political desperation.
Without the Ruhr’s production of legitimate peace-time goods German economy would be gravely impaired and, in all probability, the national life could be put on a functioning basis only through the reintroduction of some form of autarchy, a development which it is to our national interest to forestall.
It is furthermore the policy of this Government that Germany shall make reparation for damages inflicted upon its victims both out of existing stocks and out of current production. The Ruhr is an essential source of reparation if payment out of production is to make a significant contribution to European reconstruction. The most equitable use of that productivity would be made, not through separating the Ruhr from Germany and placing its wealth at the disposition of annexing powers or of the states represented in an international administration, but by pooling its reparation production with that of the remainder of Germany and distributing it on the basis of a fair division among the claimant states.
The Ruhr economy has developed in an extensive free-trade area and to cut it off from that area would be to introduce serious disturbances over and above war damages that would impede its own conversion to peace-time production and therefore the rehabilitation of Europe. Establishment of the Ruhr as a separate economic unity would obviously doom it to a decline accompanied by local disturbances and by agitation throughout Germany. Finally, a plan whereby all of the states participating in international control would have a special economic relationship to the Ruhr would raise up insuperable tasks of reconciling national objectives in the treatment of the area, of allocating the degrees of national authority in the administration as between the participating small and large states, of adjusting the production of the Ruhr to that of the participating states, and of assigning responsibilities and profits and losses. In the face of these and other material difficulties, it can only be anticipated that such a plan would mean not only economic confusions but also political frictions.
The most efficient exploitation of the area in the interest of European recovery can be achieved by allowing it to retain its organic relationships within the German economy while, of course, demilitarizing the industry and bringing it through economic reform into freer and closer relations with European and world economy.