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Treaties of Rapallo and Washington


Did the agreements of the 1920s make the world a safer place?

Discussions in Washington 1921-2

The USA had refused to support the League of Nations. America ignored the League and organized conferences of its own in Washington in 1921 and 1922. The conferences concentrated on trying to limit tension in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and the USA. This was precisely the sort of dispute that the League was intended to sort out.


The Washington Conferences showed the world the limits of the authority of the League. The Washington Treaty was signed in February 1922. The USA and Britain agreed to have navies of equal size. The Japanese navy was limited to three fifths of the size of each of the American and the British navies. The proportions of the navies were, therefore, set at 5:5:3.


The outcasts club together: Rapallo 1922

The British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, organized an international conference in Genoa in 1922. He wanted to find a solution to the argument between Germany and France over the payment of reparations and the level of German disarmament. The conference was a disastrous failure: the Americans refused to attend and the French and the Germans continued to disagree about reparations and disarmament.


Germany and Soviet Russia had not been invited to join the League of Nations. While the main conference was taking place at Genoa, the German delegation had discussions with the Soviets at the nearby town of Rapallo. A treaty was signed on 16 April between Germany and the Soviets. It became known as the Treaty of Rapallo.


The two governments agreed to establish friendly relations, and secretly agreed to co-operate on military planning. News of the treaty and rumors of the secret military deal shocked the French government. The deal between Germany and the Soviet Union enabled Germany to get hold of most of the weapons banned under the Treaty of Versailles. As a result, the Treaty of Rapallo was a blow to the authority of the League of Nations.


Locarno: 1925

After the failure of the occupation of the Ruhr, France looked for compromise with Germany. This search for compromise continued in 1925 when a major conference took place at Locarno, Switzerland. The key players at Locarno were the Foreign Ministers of France, Britain and Germany: Aristide Briand, Austen Chamberlain and Gustav Stresemann.


The talks produced treaties that were greeted with wild enthusiasm. Many people saw Locarno as an end to the bitterness of the war and the start of a new period of peace in Europe. The three leaders won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work at Locarno.