France, Russia and the Pact of Mutual Assistance

Courtesy Reuters

FOR almost a year French diplomacy has been striving to work out a pact of mutual assistance based on the military force of all those countries which feel themselves threatened by Hitler's Pan-Germanism and which wish to save the peace of Europe.

The enterprise has involved rather tortuous negotiations in view of the concessions of form which the French Foreign Office has thought it advisable to make in order to forestall possible unfavorable reactions -- a reaction, for example, by French public opinion, which already is uneasy about the pledges given by France in Eastern Europe and which looks upon any understanding with bolshevism as a bitter pill; a reaction in England, where many people still are obsessed with the baseless notions which have prevailed in that country for fifteen years past; and a reaction in Italy, where the alarm is sounded every time there are any signs of an assertion of French influence in Central and Eastern Europe. The French scheme has therefore been laden over with verbal glosses and decorations designed to distract people from its actual purport. But the attentive observer cannot have the slightest doubt as to the objective of the French Foreign Office. Its idea is to organize a defensive league that will be able to deal with Germany, or better yet, a preponderant force that will overawe Germany and so compel her to observe the treaties she has made. Not only that. The agreements signed during the postwar period, the Covenant of the League included, have not contained provisions for execution that amounted to anything. The treaty towards which France is now working would lay downright obligations upon the signatory powers, something comparable to the pledges exchanged in the old alliances.

To grasp the sequence of events we must go back to October 14, 1933, when Germany bolted the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. That was a grievous blow to the policy which M. Paul-Boncour had been following in the footsteps of Aristide Briand --

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