The League of Nations: Its achievements and its failures

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  The League of Nations: Its Achievements and its failures

1. The League of Nation’s Achievements in the 1920s:

The treaties that were signed at the Paris Peace Conference involved a lot creating new states and altering borders of other existing states. But drawing a line on a map was easier than working out where the borders were on the actual ground. Communities were being split, and the League was to deal with these border disputes. Though there was the Conference of Ambassadors to help out when there was too much work for the League, which there was from the start. It had been set up to deal with problems that would arise from the post-war treaties, and consisted of the leading politicians of Britain, France and Italy, who were also main members of the League. The first major border dispute was Vilna, in 1920: Poland and Lithuania were two of the new states that the Paris Peace Conference treaties created. Vilna was the capital of Lithuania, but most of its population was Polish. So a private Polish army simply took it over. Lithuania then appealed for help. This was the first major dispute the League had faced. Both countries were members of the League. Poland was clearly the aggressor in all of this, though many people could understand the reasons behind the aggression itself. The League told Poland off, but Poland ignored it and did not withdraw. The League was stuck. If it had followed the Covenant, then it would have sent French and British troops and force the Poles out of Vilna. But it did not: France did not want to upset Poland, seeing it as a potential ally against Germany in the future, and Britain refused to act alone and send troops to the other side of Europe. So in the end the League did nothing and the Poles got to keep Vilna.

The next major dispute was the Aaland Islands dispute, in between Finland and Sweden in 1921. Both countries threatened to fight for the islands, and they appealed to the League before fighting would break out. The League studied the matter closely, and in the end granted the islands to Finland, and Sweden accepted the verdict. War had been avoided.Then there was the Corfu incident: a dispute in between Greece and Italy. The Conference of Ambassadors had been in charge of sorting out borders, and one of the borders was the Greek and Albanian one. It appointed an Italian general named Tellini to supervise this border. On the 27th of

August while he was surveying the Greek side of the border, his team was ambushed and killed. Benito

Mussolini, the Italian leader, was furious. He blamed the Greeks, seeing as Tellini was on the Greek side when this happened for the murder and demanded that the government of Greece pay compensation and execute the murderers. But the Greeks had no clue who the murderers were, so they couldn’t execute them. Italy got impatient and bombed the Greek island of Corfu then occupied it. Fifteen people were killed, and so Greece appealed to the League for help.

The situation was serious, and it looked scarily similar to the events that led to World War One. Fortunately, the League of Nations Council had already been in session, so it acted swiftly. By the 7th of September, it had passed its judgment: It condemned Mussolini’s actions, and also suggested Greece pay compensation but that the money should be paid to League which would hold it until Tellini’s murderers were found. In the eventuality where they were found, the League would pass it on to Italy.Officially, Mussolini accepted the verdict. Yet he secretely negotiated with the Conference of Ambassadors and persuaded it to change the League’s ruling. The Greeks were to apologize and pay compensations straight to Italy. Mussolini withdrew from Corfu finally on the 27th of Semptember.

The Corfu incident showed how easily the League could be undermined by its own members. So Britain and France produced the Geneva Protocol in 1924, which in general said that if two member states had a dispute, they were to bring it up with the League, and they were to accept the verdict given to them. But before the plan could be put into effect, a general election in Britain brought to power a new Conservative government who was not so keen on the plan, and so refused to sign it, because they did not want to be forced to agree to something that was not in Britain’s interests. And so, the Protocol, instead of strengthening the League, weakened it.Following this event was the League’s prevention of war in between Greece and Bulgaria in October 1925. Greek troops had invaded Bulgaria after an incident on the border in which some Greek soldiers had been killed. Bulgaria then appealed for help, but also sent orders to its army. The League condemned the Greek action. It told Greece to pull its troops out and to pay compensation to Bulgaria. Greece only agreed because it feared the disapproval of the major powers in the League. Though they did complain that there seemed to be different rules for the larger states like Italy and for the smaller states like itself.

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The League though did pursue its plans on disarmament, but failed for the most part in bringing it about. At the Washington Conference, the USA, Japan, Britain and France agreed to limit the size of their navies, and that was as far as disarmament ever got. A disarmament treaty was made in 1923 by the League and was accepted by France and other nations, but Britain refused because it would tie it to defending other countries.

Plans were made for a disarmament conference were made but it only got together in 1933. But even so, in the late 1920s, the ...

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