When the 51-year old perennial foreign minister, Eduard Beneš, succeeded to the presidency on December 14, 1935, he was bitterly aware that his longtime efforts to build the League of Nations had been virtually nullified.The League's collective security edifice was significantly crippled. The first crack had appeared when the Japanese invaded Manchuria with impunity in 1931. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had then proceeded to unravel the fragile collective security system at the core of the League. These Western European dictatorships soon created a clear and present threat to Czechoslovakia's security, as well as to world peace. As pointed out by Henry Ashby Turner, Adolf Hitler's first speech upon his installation as chancellor reflected among the country's industrialists "mounting dissatisfaction with republican institutions."1 When the dictators demanded justice and lebensraum, they meant a revision of the Versailles system implying territorial gains for themselves.
Czechoslovakia's geographic position, wedged between Germany and the Soviet Union, rendered her especially vulnerable to aggressive revisionism. The internal rightward political drift impeded closer arrangements with the growing Russian giant for counterweight against the Germans. British and French backup became crucial. Beneš was directly challenged to give top priority to his country's security via a military buildup and treaties of alliance.
Beneš forthwith formed the Supreme Council for the Defense of the State, directed to review and overhaul the defense establishment. The army needed modernizing; it required, above all, mobile armored units and a technologically improved weapons system. The air force