Czechoslovakia: Anvil of the Cold War

By John O. Crane; Sylvia E. Crane | Go to book overview

nent demilitarization of the Rhineland. Both frontier guarantees were underwritten by Great Britain and eventually also by Italy. As for Eastern European security, only treaties of compulsory arbitration were granted by Germany. These were formally underwritten by France, which further extended the provision of her Czechoslovak alliance by inserting a military clause to respond automatically in case of unprovoked aggression by Germany. Despite the high hopes evoked by the overpublicized spirit of Locarno, as symbolizing a definitive peace settlement, in the end the lack of Eastern frontier guarantees proved a fatal flaw.

On the whole, Czeshoslovakia, a multiracial nation of robust farmers, skilled workers, and thrifty shopkeepers, benefited from the fruits and protection of the French-dominated Versailles system. In its exposed geographical position, Czeshoslovakia could not hope to attain full independence in its foreign policy. To the east, even as Czechoslovak units were still embattled in Siberia in 1919, Masaryk and Benesš at once established working relations with the Moscow regime and sought to reaffirm their traditional policy of neutrality in internal Russian affairs and cooperation with the established Soviet government.

In pursuing his bilateral negotiations, Benesš had already opened trade talks with Warsaw and then with Moscow. His early efforts at Warsaw met with success. His announcement on May 1, 1925, of resuming talks with the Soviets was strengthened by the approval of his Little Entente partners. Clamor against these accommodations again erupted in Prague, the loudest protest emanating from the new Fascist Party. Seven months later, Masaryk reiterated his explicit instructions to his foreign minister to renew efforts also to secure full diplomatic relations with the USSR. Benesš, meantime, with an eye to rallying public support for his Eastern policy, organized business and trade delegations, including German and Magyar representatives, to visit the new Russia.


NOTES
1.
The best short account of drawing Czeshoslovakia's frontiers at Paris in 1919- 20 can be found in Isaiah The New World Bowman ( New York: World, 1928), pp. 329-44. For the negotiation of the treaties of peace concerning Czeshoslovakia, see H. W. V. Temperly, Ed., History of the Peace Conference of Paris, Institute of International Affairs, Vol. 4 ( London: Hodder & Frowdie & Stoughton, 1921).

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