Assess the effectiveness of the League of Nations to the maintenance of peace in Europe to 1939.
The League of Nations, which was created in 1918, was supposed to provide collective security for all members, seek peaceful solutions between conflicting nations, prevent any conflict and ultimately prevent another world war. It failed to do this. The League, which did not have a standing army, could not enforce collective security for its members or any aggressive country against its policies and its economic sanctions proved useless, while League members also valued its own national interest over the Leagues interest. As seen in war between Russia and Poland in 1920-1921, the invasion of the Ruhr in 1923 and the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. The League was ineffective in preventing conflict and hostilities between these countries and its efforts to stop them were futile.
The League of Nations failed on many accounts to maintain peace in Europe, the League seemed only to back up countries within the League and would not intervene in conflicts its members were not apart of, as seen in the war between Russia and Poland from 1920 to 1921. In 1920, Poland invaded Russian land. The Polish army quickly overwhelmed the Russian army and made a swift advanced into Russia. The Russians had to sign the Treaty of Riga, which handed over nearly 80,000 square kilometers of Russian land over to Poland. The League did nothing, as Russia was seen as a ‘plague from the East’ and was feared by the Western powers such as Britain and France, some of the Leagues senior members. The war between Russia and Poland showed that the League was looking out for its own member’s interest not the good of all nations and was one of its first failures.
The League of Nations would fail to prevent hostilities in 1923 demonstrating that its rules could be broken yet again without consequence but this time by one of its senior members, France, with the aid of another member Belgium. In 1923, contrary to League rules, the French and Belgium invaded the Ruhr, Germanys most important industrial zone after the Germans failed to pay an installment of its reparations. With the anti-German feeling felt throughout Europe, the French and Belgium troops quickly occupied the Ruhr with little resistance. The League essentially did nothing even though two of its members were breaking the rules. The League did nothing because in order to enforce its will, it needed the support of its major backers, Britain and France, but with France as one of the invaders and Britain supporting her, the League choose not to do anything. The was a failure as it showed the world the Leagues rules could be broken, which would inevitability lead to more conflicts and failures in the near future.
The League of Nations in 1935 failed to provide collective security when the Italians invaded one of its members, Abyssinia. This failure to protect Abyssinia once again highlighted the weakness of the League of Nations. In 1935 the Italian army invaded Abyssinia, the Abyssinians appealed for the league of nations for help and this time they provided it, although it the Leagues intervention did little. The League condemned the invasion and all League members were ordered to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it took six weeks for sanctions to be organized and the sanction did not include vital materials such as oil.
Three League members did not carry out sanctions and Italian trade routes through British controlled territory like the Suez Canal remained open from fear of the Italian navy. The League tried to negotiate with Italy and Abyssinia with the Hoare-Laval Plan, which gave the Italians most of Abyssinia. The plan was discarded after the huge national outcry against it. The plan had indicated was that the two major European League members were prepared to negotiate with a nation that had used aggression to enforce its will on a weaker nation. Coupled with this, the sanctions also failed. The League’s involvement in this event was a failure.