The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement that was signed to end the belligerence of World War I (WWI) during the summer of 1919, when the world was seeing many changes, including the revolution in Russia. As Europe was left in ruins by the war, many people wanted to see those nations who were responsible to be subjected to punishment dramatically. After months of negotiations, the treaty was signed. Now, here are the pros and cons generated by such action afterwards:
List of Pros of the Treaty of Versailles
1. It officially brought about peace in the region.
Although the war seemed to have ended in 1918 after armistices were signed, there was still the threat of war cleaving the region. Consequently, the treaty created a lasting peace that allowed everyone to start rebuilding.
2. Its territorial provisions were mild compared to what Germany could have imposed on Europe if the country came out victorious.
The program drawn up by German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg in September 1914 and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which concluded with the defeat of Russia in 1918, had graphically demonstrated what Germany could have done in the event of their victory in WWI. It is believed that the country would have made huge reparations bill being served on the defeated Allies, which can be many times larger than what Bismarck had sent to France after the War of 1870-1871. As for the Treaty of Versailles, the reparations bills that the country did actually have to pay were not beyond its resources to meet and are not unreasonable, considering the motiveless destruction of France and Belgium by the occupying German forces.
3. It provided certain guarantees to Germany.
The treaty did place occupation agreements along the Rhineland to help monitor compliance. As long as Germany would follow its stipulations and refrain from making any aggressive actions, the occupation would start to be taken out over a 15-year period, giving the country sole control once again.
4. It enforced disarmament.
The treaty’s objective was to prevent future wars by enforcing Germany to observe an almost complete disarmament, leaving the country with a fighting force of only less than 100,000 soldiers and reducing the ability for paramilitary forces to be placed on its streets. Moreover, trading military hardware was also prohibited.
5. It compensated the war debts of the Allies.
The treaty helped pay the war debts that the Allies had accumulated in the war. However, it did help start World War II by humiliating Germany, which kick-started Adolf Hitler to gain power and start a war that significantly changed the world.
List of Cons of the Treaty of Versailles
1. It wrongfully enforced Germany to accept responsibility for the war.
According to Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau, who represented Germany at Versailles, “We know the full brunt of hate that confronts us here. You demand from us to confess we were the only guilty party of war; such a confession in my mouth would be a lie.” This statement clearly implies this con. Also, the Article 231 of the War Guilt Clause reads, “The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” But as history shows, Austro-Hungary was actually the agent that started the war, drawing first blood, and Germany was just trying to uphold its treaty obligations, as were Britain, Russia and France. This means that the Germans were not guiltier for the war than any of the other powers mentioned, yet they were saddled with all the blame for the war.
2. It was too harsh to be effective.
To compensate for the vast destruction that occurred during the war, Germany was enforced to pay 132 billion Marks, which is equivalent to nearly half a trillion dollars today. This financial obligation is seen by many people as more of a harsh punishment than really a solution to contribute to peace. As a result, the country’s economy fell into ruins and radical parties were allowed to take charge.
3. It imposed the Carthaginian peace.
The idea of the Carthaginian Peace or “very brutal peace” involves completely crushing the enemy and utterly decimating it to a point where it could never pose a threat again. One significant issue that illustrates that the treaty went too far is that Germany’s actions did not came from some kind of inherent aggressive desire, but instead from a system of complex treaty obligations that also dragged in Britain, Russia and France. Most probably, these other countries would not have gone to war had not Austro-Hungary and Serbia gotten into a spat, so it was unjust to view Germany as the sole villain.
4. It did not involve anyone else.
The other major players in the war were dealt with under other peace treaties, but it was Germany alone who was targeted by the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed under pressure. As you can see, the Allies threatened to continue war with the Germans if they refused to sign the agreement. Though they did not like the terms, they were given a little choice but to sign.
5. It was not fully enforced.
Under the treaty’s reparations, Germany was supposed to pay under a constant state of negotiation for over 10 years after the agreement was signed. However, the Lausanne Conference in 1932 allowed an indefinite postponement of reparations, which effectively ended the punishment stage of the treaty faced by the country.
Now, it is believed that if the treaty was completely enforced, it is likely that the Second World War could have been averted. Such an observation could also be true if the treaty was not so harsh in the first place. There are certainly some pros and cons to this historic agreement, and by assessing them, we can all learn from its mistakes and avoid them in the years to come.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.