AT THE beginning of 1936 the international policy of Belgium was based on two documents, one complementing the other: the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Locarno Pact. Belgium had no other commitments. Writers sometimes refer to "agreements between General Staffs." But these were limited arrangements made between the Belgian and French General Staffs; they were purely defensive and technical, they did not constitute a diplomatic instrument, and they came into operation only when and if Belgium so decided. However, in order that there should be no misunderstanding on this point, Belgium decided that the arrangements should be revised, and negotiations in that sense were completed early in March 1936.
By an irony of fate, the signatures to the new arrangement were exchanged on March 6, 1936 -- only one day before the Rhineland was occupied by German troops. Thus, at the precise moment when Belgium and France were entering an agreement in conformity with the spirit and letter of Locarno, that Pact was being openly violated by Germany. The German violation had no justification in any action by Belgium. She had been completely loyal to her partners in the Pact, and particularly to Germany; yet it was Belgium for whom the appearance of German troops in the Rhineland entailed the most serious consequences.
The shadow of war seemed suddenly to have fallen across Europe. Representatives of France, Italy, England and Belgium -- all the Locarno signatories who had remained faithful to their obligations -- assembled in conference, first in Paris, then in London. Almost at once a divergence between the English and French points of view became apparent. France seemed disposed to resort to arms, if necessary, to enforce the terms of the treaty. M. Sarraut, it will be remembered, made a strong speech to that effect over the radio. But the British Government, supported almost unanimously by British public opinion, was unwilling to contemplate the use of force to prevent the Germans from installing troops in German territory. In the end,
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