The Versailles treaty was a compromise that was reached after some negotiations held by the United States President Woodrow Wilson and the Allied forces. It was a peace-seeking document that was signed immediately after the First World War was over. It was signed in Paris at a place called Versailles palace, a place that was not very far from the capital city. Its main goal was to address the issue of Germany and how the world would have been saved from another world war but it proved to be a theoretical thing as practically it was not effective. What were the main provisions? Why was it not effective? Would the peace settlement based exclusively on Woodrow’s 14 points have proven to be more enduring? Why or why not? My focus in this essay will be to provide answers to these problems.
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Basically, the treaty was geared towards incapacitating Germany so that it would never again cause a World war. It was held in the period between 1919 and 1920 and was attended by 32 state representatives. The five major powers that won in the First World War were the key participants in this treaty. These were nations such as Japan, France, Italy, the United States of America, and France. There were about 13 main points of the treaty.
According to this treaty, all the colonies that Germany had illegally acquired were to be returned. These territories were then to be manned or to be under the control of the allied forces. The treaty also required that there should be formed the League of Nations whose work would be to protect and promote World peace. The treaty comprised of four hundred and forty clauses and twenty-six of them were about the establishment of the League of Nations while the remaining clauses were all about how Germany would be punished and prevented from breaking the peace in the World.
Some of these clauses that addressed German issues were for example this one that said Germany was solely responsible for World War One. As a result, it was responsible for all the damages that occurred and was required to pay the reparations to the Allied powers. Its army was not supposed to exceed 100,000 men and was not allowed to possess tanks while ships were limited to six but not to have any submarine. Additionally, Germany’s air force was not to have fighter planes (Mc Millan M, 2007)
On the issue of the territories, the Rhine land was supposed to be a no man’s land and be demilitarized immediately. All zones that Germany took from other nations such as Lorraine and Alsace were to be repossessed by France, Malmedy, and Europe to Belgium. Some parts of German territory were cut and given to Poland and Czechoslovakia. This part that was given to Poland was later to be the cause of the Second World War and was known as the Polish Corridor. Turkey and Bulgaria were also affected by the treaty as they lost some land to Greece while Bulgaria was to pay 90m US dollars as reparations. The territories that were taken away from Turkey were to be controlled by the United States (Demarco N 1987; 55-58).
Though the German’s were present at the treaty of Versailles, they were not allowed to contribute army were there only to hear the accusations that were leveled against them. When it came to the signing of the document, all other nations that were party to the treaty signed but Germany declined to ratify. It had to be threatened with war for it to sign. They were bitter especially because of the clause that said they were solely responsible for the war and as such, they had to pay the reparations to the Allied forces for the damages that were caused.
The treaty was good in theory but in practice was below the mark. Many of the provisions proved to be futile and never performed the work they were designed for. A good example was the League of Nations. Its work was to solve the World crisis, to prevent war, and to promote peace but it was unable to prevent the Second World War. Also, the Allied powers did not follow the treaty provisions strictly as Britain and France embarked on an appeasement policy when they realized Germany was determined to cause another World War, and yet they were not prepared for it. They allowed Germany to repossess all those territories that had been taken and was allowed to re-arm. It is due to the lack of strict observance of the terms of the treaty that the World experienced another war. It was nothing but a toothless bulldog (Demarco N. 2007)
The US 14 points were basically on self-determinism or the spread of democracy. I think if the policy of carrot and stick had not been used Germany would not have reacted to the treaty but now it was forced to solely take the blame. The US was particularly not interested in the reparations, something that led the allied powers almost to disagree with the US. The US wanted all World Powers to be allowed to shape and decide their destiny and this was what was referred to as the policy of Self-determinism. The 14 points were good but the US Congress refused to ratify since that was Woodrow Wilson’s unilateral decision.
The Versailles treaty was designed to ensure that the world was safe from aggressors like Germany. The terms were purely targeted at Germany so that it would be incapacitated such that would not be capable of causing war. It was unable to do the work it was designated to do because the League of Nations that was created also failed to solve the crisis that culminated into another World War. The harshness of the treaty was the root cause of the Second World War. Even though Woodrow’s 14 points were much friendlier, the allied forces were opposed to them.
Mc Millan M. peacemakers: The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and its attempt to end war. London: John Murray Publishers. 2007; 29-33.
Andelman D. A shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the price we pay today. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 2007; (101-108).
Demarco N. The World This Century: Working with Evidence. Collins Educational. 1987; 55-58.