What is the Kellogg-Briand Pact?

Introduction

The Kellogg–Briand Pact is a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them”.

It is also known as the Pact of Paris, and officially known as the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy.

How is it Enforced?

There were no mechanisms for enforcement.

Parties failing to abide by this promise “should be denied of the benefits furnished by [the] treaty”.

Dates of Signature and Effect

It was signed by Germany, France, and the United States on 27 August 1928, and by most other states soon after.

With the signing of the Litvinov Protocol in Moscow on 09 February 1929, the Soviet Union and its western neighbours, including Romania, agreed to put the Kellogg-Briand Pact in effect without waiting for other western signatories to ratify. The Bessarabian Question had made agreement between Romania and the Soviet Union challenging and dispute between the nations over Bessarabia continued.

It became effective on 24 July 1929.

In the United States, the Senate approved the treaty 85-1, with only Wisconsin Republican John J. Blaine voting against over concerns with British imperialism. While the US Senate did not add any reservations to the treaty, it did pass a measure which interpreted the treaty as not infringing upon the United States’ right of self-defence and not obliging the nation to enforce it by taking action against those who violated it.

UN Charter & Other Treaties

Sponsored by France and the US, the Pact renounced the use of war and calls for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Similar provisions were incorporated into the Charter of the United Nations and other treaties, and it became a stepping-stone to a more activist American policy.

It is named after its authors, United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand.

The pact was concluded outside the League of Nations (a non-effectual organisation) and remains in effect.

Criticism

A common criticism is that the Kellogg–Briand Pact did not live up to all of its aims, but has arguably had some success.

It neither ended war, nor stopped the rise of militarism, and was unable to prevent the Second World War.

The pact has been ridiculed for its moralism and legalism and lack of influence on foreign policy. Moreover, it effectively erased the legal distinction between war and peace because the signatories began to wage wars without declaring them.

Many historians and political scientists see the pact as mostly irrelevant and ineffective.

The Pact’s Provisions

The pact’s central provisions renouncing the use of war, and promoting peaceful settlement of disputes and the use of collective force to prevent aggression, were incorporated into the United Nations Charter and other treaties.

Although civil wars continued, wars between established states have been rare since 1945, with a few exceptions in the Middle East, Africa, and the Global War on Terrorism.

One legal consequence is to discourage annexation of territory by force, although other forms of annexation have not been prevented. More broadly, some authors claim there is now a strong presumption against the legality of using, or threatening, military force against another country. The pact also served as the legal basis for the concept of a crime against peace, for which the Nuremberg Tribunal and Tokyo Tribunal tried and executed the top leaders responsible for starting World War II.

What Does the Text State?

The main text is very short:

  • Article I:
    • The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
  • Article II:
    • The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.

Who Signed up to the Pact?

After negotiations, the pact was signed in Paris at the French Foreign Ministry by the representatives from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, the Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, and the United States.

Between the date of signing (27 August 1928) and the date it became effective (24 July 1929) the following nations had deposited instruments of ratification of the pact:

  1. Afghanistan.
  2. Albania.
  3. Austria.
  4. Bulgaria.
  5. China.
  6. Cuba.
  7. Denmark.
  8. Dominican Republic.
  9. Egypt.
  10. Estonia.
  11. Ethiopia.
  12. Finland.
  13. Guatemala.
  14. Hungary.
  15. Iceland.
  16. Latvia.
  17. Liberia.
  18. Lithuania.
  19. Netherlands.
  20. Nicaragua.
  21. Norway.
  22. Panama.
  23. Peru.
  24. Portugal.
  25. Romania.
  26. Soviet Union.
  27. Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.
  28. Siam.
  29. Spain.
  30. Sweden.
  31. Switzerland.
  32. Turkey.

Eight further states joined after that date (Persia, Greece, Honduras, Chile, Luxembourg, Danzig, Costa Rica and Venezuela) for a total of 62 nations.

In 1971, Barbados declared its accession to the treaty.

What is the Effect and Legacy of the Pact?

The 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact was concluded outside the League of Nations and remains in effect.

One month following its conclusion, a similar agreement, General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, was concluded in Geneva, which obliged its signatory parties to establish conciliation commissions in any case of dispute.

As a practical matter, the Kellogg–Briand Pact did not live up to its primary aims, but has arguably had some success. It did not end war or stop the rise of militarism, and was unable to keep the international peace in succeeding years. Its legacy remains as a statement of the idealism expressed by advocates for peace in the interwar period. Moreover, it erased the legal distinction between war and peace because the signatories – having renounced the use of war – began to wage wars without declaring them as in the

  • Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931;
  • Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935;
  • Spanish Civil War in 1936;
  • Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939′ and
  • German and Soviet invasions of Poland.

While the Pact has been ridiculed for its moralism and legalism and lack of influence on foreign policy, it instead led to a more activist American foreign policy. The popular perception of the Kellogg-Briand Pact was best summarised by Eric Sevareid who, in a nationally televised series on American diplomacy between the two world wars, referred to the pact as a “worthless piece of paper”.Scott J. Shapiro and Oona A. Hathaway have argued that the Pact inaugurated “a new era of human history” characterised by the decline of inter-state war as a structuring dynamic of the international system. According to Shapiro and Hathaway one reason for the historical insignificance of the pact was the absence of an enforcement mechanism to compel compliance from signatories. They also said that the Pact appealed to the West because it promised to secure and protect previous conquests, thus securing their place at the head of the international legal order indefinitely.

The pact, in addition to binding the particular nations that signed it, has also served as one of the legal bases establishing the international norms that the threat or use of military force in contravention of international law, as well as the territorial acquisitions resulting from it, are unlawful.

Notably, the pact served as the legal basis for the concept of a crime against peace. It was for committing this crime that the Nuremberg Tribunal and Tokyo Tribunal tried and executed the top Axis leaders responsible for starting World War II. The interdiction of aggressive war was confirmed and broadened by the United Nations Charter, which provides in article 2, paragraph 4, that:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

One legal consequence is that it is unlawful to annex territory by force, although other forms of annexation have not been prevented. More broadly, there is now a strong presumption against the legality of using, or threatening, military force against another country. Nations that have resorted to the use of force since the Charter came into effect have typically invoked self-defence or the right of collective defence.

Political scientists Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro wrote in 2017:

“As its effects reverberated across the globe, it reshaped the world map, catalyzed the human rights revolution, enabled the use of economic sanctions as a tool of law enforcement, and ignited the explosion in the number of international organizations that regulate so many aspects of our daily lives.”

Hathaway and Shapiro show that between 1816 and 1928 there was on average one military conquest every ten months. After 1945, in very sharp contrast, the number of such conflicts declined to one in every four years.

Political scientists Julie Bunck and Michael Fowler in 2018 argued that the Pact was:

“…an important early venture in multilateralism. It formed a significant part of the legal basis for the post-World War II prosecutions of German and Japanese leaders for having waged aggressive war It helped to bring about new attitudes toward intervention by third parties in others’ disputes. Most importantly…international law evolved to circumscribe the use of armed force with legal restrictions. The forcible acquisition of territory by conquest became illegitimate and individual criminal liability might attach to those who pursued it. In criminalizing war Kellogg-Briand played a role in the development of a new norm of behavior in international relations, a norm that continues to play a role in our current international order.”

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