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The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5–16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 1 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and return normalizing relations with defeated Germany (which was, by this time, the Weimar Republic). Ratifications for the Locarno treaties were exchanged in Geneva on 14 September 1926, and on the same day they became effective. The treaties were also registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on the same day.
Locarno divided borders in Europe into two categories: western, which were guaranteed by Locarno treaties, and eastern borders of Germany with Poland, which were open for revision, thus leading to Germany's renewed claims to the German-populated Free City of Danzig and mixed ethnic Polish territories approved by the League of Nations including the Polish Corridor, and Upper Silesia.
The Locarno discussion arose from exchanges of notes between the British Empire, France and Germany over the summer of 1925 following German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann's 9 February proposal for a reciprocal of his country's western frontiers as established under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, as a means of facilitating Germany's diplomatic rehabilitation among the Western Powers.
At least one of the main reasons Britain promoted the Locarno Pact of 1925, besides to promote Franco-German reconciliation, was because of the understanding that if Franco-German relations improved, France would gradually abandon the Cordon sanitaire, as the French alliance system in Eastern Europe was known between the wars. If France were to abandon its allies in Eastern Europe, the Poles and Czechoslovaks, having no Great Power to protect them from Germany, would be forced to adjust to German demands; in the British viewpoint, they would be expected to peacefully hand over the territories claimed by Germany such as the Sudetenland, the Polish Corridor, and the Free City of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland). In this way, promoting territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe in Germany’s favor was one of the principal British objects of Locarno.
Parties and agreement
The principal treaty concluded at Locarno was the "Rhineland Pact" between Germany, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Germany formally recognised its new western borders acted by the treaty of Versailles. Furthermore the first three signatories undertook not to attack each other, with the latter two acting as guarantors. In the event of aggression by any of the first three states against another, all other parties were to assist the country under attack.
Germany also agreed to sign arbitration conventions with France and Belgium and arbitration treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, undertaking to refer disputes to an arbitration tribunal or to the Permanent Court of International Justice.
France signed further treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia, pledging mutual assistance in the event of conflict with Germany. These essentially reaffirmed existing treaties of alliance concluded by France with Poland on 19 February 1921 and with Czechoslovakia on 25 January 1924.
The Locarno Treaties were regarded as the keystone of the improved western European diplomatic climate of 1924–1930, introducing a hope for international peace, typically called the "spirit of Locarno". This spirit was seen in Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926, the international organization established under the Versailles treaty to promote world peace and co-operation, and in the subsequent withdrawal (completed in June 1930) of Allied troops from Germany's western Rhineland.
In contrast, in Poland, the public humiliation received by Polish diplomats was one of the contributing factors to the fall of the Grabski cabinet. Locarno contributed to the worsening of the atmosphere between Poland and France (despite the French-Polish alliance), and introduced distrust between Poland and Western countries. Locarno divided borders in Europe in two categories: those guaranteed by Locarno, and others, which were free for revision.
In the words of Józef Beck, "Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west." The failure at Locarno may be also one of the contributory factors in the decision of Józef Piłsudski to return to power in Poland. With regard to Locarno, Piłsudski would say that "every honest Pole spits when he hears this word [Locarno]". Later, when a French ambassador assured him that France would always back Poland and stand up to Germany, Piłsudski, foreseeing the appeasement, would say: "No, no, believe me, you will back down, really, you will."
One notable exception from the Locarno arrangements was, however, the Soviet Union, which foresaw western détente as potentially deepening its own political isolation in Europe, in particular by detaching Germany from its own understanding with Moscow under the April 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Political tensions also continued throughout the period in eastern Europe.
In both 1925 and 1926, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the lead negotiators of the treaty, going to Sir Austen Chamberlain (with Charles Dawes) in 1925 and jointly to Aristide Briand and Gustav Stresemann in 1926. In 1930, after the death of Stresemann the year before, German politics became less cooperative again. In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power; his practice was to conduct bilateral, not multilateral, negotiations. Proposals in 1934 for an "eastern Locarno" pact securing Germany's eastern frontiers foundered on German opposition and on Poland's insistence that its eastern borders should be covered by a western guarantee of her borders. The Locarno treaty was heavily undermined by the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance on May 2, 1935, which the German government claimed was a violation of its "spirit." Germany formally repudiated its Locarno undertakings by sending troops into the demilitarized Rhineland on 7 March 1936.
The treaty was, in some ways, a bluff by Austen Chamberlain. He announced publicly that Britain's defensive frontier was no longer the English Channel but on the Rhine. However, British Chiefs of Staff privately informed him that Britain did not have sufficient military power to back up the treaty.
- League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 54, pp. 290–301.
- Gustav Stresemann during the Locarno negotiations. Locarno Treaties. Chronology. See: Google Books preview of The Weimar Republic By Eberhard Kolb: "By the Locarno treaty Germany...reserved her claim for a revision of the eastern frontier" (page 64). Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-415-34442-5.
- Stephen A. Schuker, "The End of Versailles". Page 38–49. In Gordon Martel, The origins of the Second World War reconsidered by Routledge, 1999. Google Books preview: "Stresemann sought to recover Danzig, the Polish Corridor, and Upper Silesia" (page 48), "the treaties were meant to open the way for territorial revision" (page 49). ISBN 0-415-16324-2.
- "For me, Locarno means opening the possibility of taking back from Poland of German provinces in the east" Gustav Stresemann
- Henryk Samsonowicz, Historia Polski, Tom 2, page 45 "Chciano rzucić Polskę na kolana, wymusić na niej ustępstwa terytorialne." Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN 2007
- Wojna celna (The custom's war with Poland), PWN Biznes (Polish)
- Schuker, Stephen “The End of Versailles” pages 38–56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered edited by Gordon Martel Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999 pages 48–49.
- Schuker, Stephen “The End of Versailles” pages 38–56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered edited by Gordon Martel Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999pages 48–49.
- Stanisław Sierpowski, "Polityka zagraniczna Polski międzywojennej", Warszawa 1994
- Józef Beck, "Dernier rapport. Politique polonaise 1926 – 1939", 1951
- Marian Eckert, "Historia polityczna Polski, lata 1918–1939". Warszawa 1989
- Johnson, Paul. "Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties" page 147
- Cohrs, Patrick O. "The First 'Real' Peace Settlements after the First World War: Britain, the United States and the Accords of London and Locarno, 1923-1925," Contemporary European History, (Feb 2003) 12#1 pp 1–31
- Johnson, Gaynor. Locarno Revisited: European Diplomacy 1920-1929 (2004) excerpt and text search
- Magee, Frank. "Limited Liability"? Britain and the Treaty of Locarno," Twentieth Century British History, (Jan 1995) 6#1 pp 1-22
- Schuker, Stephen. "The End of Versailles" pages 38–56 from The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered A.J.P. Taylor And The Historians edited by Gordon Martel, Routledge: London, United Kingdom, 1999, ISBN 0-415-16325-0
- Wright, Jonathan. "Locarno: a democratic peace?" Review of International Studies, (April 2010) 36#2 pp 391–411
- Text of the Treaties
- Locarno Treaties
- Final Protocol of the Locarno Conference of the same Date and Collective Note to Germany dated London, December 1, 1925, regarding Article 16 of the Covenant of the League of Nations
- Map of Europe at time of Locarno Treaties at omniatlas.com