Alternate French diplomacy for the Interwar

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Bad@logic, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    Historically, French diplomatic strategy in the Interwar period was based on two pillars:

    a)Attempting to contain Germany
    b)Preserving an alliance or at least entente with the United States and particularly the United Kingdom

    The end result of this was arguably successful, in that despite a setback in 1940, the French managed to maintain the second part of their objective and won the war, secured a place in the post-war world, and Germany's threat was permanently ended. Of course, the cost along the way was significantly greater than the French diplomats and politicians had expected. Part of this was that the two pillars were inherently in contradiction: the United Kingdom and United States displayed little interest in French security and were willing to prioritize German complaints over French fears, which meant that France was often placed into a situation of diplomatic isolation and couldn't carry out their objectives to contain Germany and enforce the Treaty of Versailles as they desired.

    So what might be an alternate French diplomatic strategy for the Interwar, replacing either a), b), or both? I can see basically them attempting one or more of the following 1)A stronger attachment to the Eastern Alliances(Poland, Little Entente), 2)Intensified efforts to secure an alliance with Italy, and 3)Attempts at reconciliation with Germany to satisfy them within an international framework (historically they had a scheme for European integration in the late 1920s that might have succeeded, it partly died due to British influence although it is a lot more complicated than that), 4)More diplomatic energy for collective security through the League of Nations.

    All of these were pursued to varying degrees OTL, and might represent more feasible alternate diplomatic strategies if the French concentrated on them instead of the United Kingdom and the United States. But are any of them enough to replace the original French diplomatic strategy and to better guarantee French security, influence, and autonomy?
     
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  2. lukedalton Well-Known Member

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    Well regarding Italy, IRC there were a project to form a custom union between France, Italy and Belgium...as a premise for a defence alliance; it can be succesfull but it also need a different French approach at Italy during Versailles, something of less antagonist (a more pro Italy, or at least a neutral stance in the dispute between Italy and Jugoslavia, more concilatory regarding colonial compensation [basically what obtained OTL, but during the original negotiation and not during Benny time] and a quick resolution of the situation of the italians in Tunisia
     
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  3. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

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    One option is to be pro-Soviet Union.
     
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  4. steamboy Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that IIRC the French Government changed more times than the Irish weather with ministers coming and going very rapidly, there was no consistency, and vastly varying levels of experience. And the French were TERRIFIED of communism, so anyone who suggests being pro soviet would be out on their arse before you could say 'merde'.
     
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  5. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

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    They were so terrified that the Communist Party joined the Popular Front government :p
     
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  6. fockewulf Well-Known Member

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    A more interventionist policy, based on offensive, instead of the Maginot line. So as soon as the german army enters the Rhineland, the french go in and forces them out, maybe even keep troops there.
     
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  7. jolou Liberté, Égalité, Mbappé

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    And then the british condemn the french action and attack the french economy followed by the US and other countries.
     
  8. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    This has the assumption that all those leftists are actually 'Frenchmen' :openedeyewink:
     
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  9. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    They had to be forced, to sanction Germany. The outright takeover of the Rhineland, Austria, the Studentland, Bohemia... failed to bring Brit or US sanctions. Aggresion against Poland was debated as adequate cause in both the US and Britain. The French might be the recepiants of a strongly worded diplomatic note, but neither Coolidge, Hoover, nor Rossevelt would have supported actual economic sanctions. Neither would the business community & their pet Congressmen. The US had a warship sunk and a diplomat beaten by Japans soldiers, and took only the weakest actions vs Japan, which was mounting a full on invasion of China. Neither did Britain take any really decisive action vs Japan, until 1941.

    In any case there is a fair chance aggressive French action will lead to the removal of the nazi government & then perhaps a eventual renegotiation of the Treaty of Versailles.
     
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  10. stodge Member

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    The French hoped to create a "cordon sanitaire" between Germany and the USSR after 1919. The objective to create an alliance of the post-Habsburg states (primarily Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) which would act as a buffer against both renewed German expansion east and Soviet expansion west.

    The latter was more relevant initially and Poland defeated the first Soviet incursion but with the Treaty of Rappallo suggesting a German-Soviet rapprochement the French saw the need to create their alliance as a priority.

    However, two things went wrong - first, the French ran into the resurgent nationalist conflicts which the Habsburgs had suppressed and which meant the likes of Romania, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia couldn't really co-operate and second, the failure of democracy both in France (to an extent) and in central and eastern Europe to a greater extent which by 1930 meant all the states bar Czechoslovakia were effectively nationalist authoritarian dictatorships, strongly anti-Communist but more amenable to the likes of Italy and of course later Germany.

    Had Stresa lasted longer, it might have been possible for the Anglo-French-Italian to provide a more coherent bulwark to Hitler's expansionism but it would have meant confronting that expansion at some point which Mussolini did to a degree in Austria in 1934 and the western allies failed to do in the Rhineland in 1936.

    Once it became clear to the states in the east they stood little hope of active military support from France, their leaders had to survive the best they could. Most threw in with Hitler but Poland would be divided once again by Germany and Russia and the rest would eventually come under Russian dominance in 1945 (except Yugoslavia).

    The failure of French will (and that meant the will to fight outside France's borders) left the post-Habsburg states caught between the Nazi rock and the Communist hard place. Even the guarantees given by Britain and France to Poland were worthless in the end.
     
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  11. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    That's quite fascinating, do you happen to remember where the source is from? French Foreign and Defense Policy 1918-1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power had sections about both Franco-Italian relations, and Frenco-Belgian relations, and while there was very extensive effort for building a customs union with Belgium, the Belgian requirement for participation seemed to be a British counterweight; Italy was never brought up. So if that is otherwise it would be interesting. And of course, yes, the French would have to take a more conciliatory and concessionist view to Italy.

    I'm doubtful of the utility, given that the Soviet Union didn't border Germany so can't apply pressure directly, and unlike say, Italy, can't influence border states like Poland as Italy did to Austria due to ideological differences. Plus of course, the ideological differences between the French and the Soviets. Plus, if France is charting a course which is independent of the Anglo-Saxon powers, she will already have harmed her relations with them: does she really want to utterly destroy them by cavorting with their perceived greatest enemy and threat?

    That's overrated to a large degree. Yes, French ministers changed, but like any government the bureaucrats don't, and the Quai d'Orsay (French foreign office) remained stable and effective throughout the period. The same leaders could remain there for an extensive period of time, decades at the least, because it is their professional job. Furthermore, often when a French government "fell", it was essentially just a ministerial reorganization and little actually changed in regards to the actual nature of government. Policy remained essentially the same between the governments: every French Interwar government subscribed to basically the same two objectives of containing Germany in a framework which maximized French security and pursuing good relations with the Anglo-Saxon countries, and often pursued various projects with single-minded determination, such as the objective of a Franco-Belgian customs union. Of course policy changed with governments, but it wasn't a drastic, radical change.
     
  12. raharris1973 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting, so *this* was the optimal time for a Gaullist spirit of independence from the Anglo-Saxons to make a positive difference?
     
  13. fasquardon Cosmonaut

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    I'd really love to hear more detail about everything you touch on here.

    A customs union between Italy, France and Belgium? A Franco-Italian defensive alliance? And what were the colonial compensations Italy gained in OTL?

    When were these being negotiated and why did they fail?

    Certainly, you've gotten me thinking about how interesting a strong interwar Franco-Italian alliance would be as an ATL...

    A Franco-Soviet alliance does have some utility. In OTL, one of the weaknesses of the French alliances in Eastern Europe is that they did not address the Soviet threat. A Franco-Soviet alliance could mean that the Soviets improve relations with Romania and Poland, which could in turn help foster closer relations between Poland and Czechoslovakia. Of course, a Franco-Soviet alliance could mean that the Franco-Polish alliance is abandoned, perhaps leading Poland to enter the German orbit...

    I see the weakness of French politics in large part dictating the way France defaulted to depending on the British. For them to choose something else... I reckon they need strong political constellations pushing those alternate choices.

    One of the WIs I find interesting is what if France had a serious Christian Democratic party. There's alot of interesting threads on what you might call the "constructive" French right (as opposed to the reactionary French right) that could grow into interesting things if they had a strong party organization to synthesize all the ideas together and to champion them...

    A France that gets a better grip on her internal situation during the interwar period would be much better able to direct her diplomacy and take up the various opportunities that were open.

    fasquardon
     
  14. Oldbill Well-Known Member

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    The possibilities this opens up are a bit breathtaking. A stronger Little Entente, a bulwark against aggression of both the Nazi's and the Communists, Italian industry being aided by France and Belgium, these are just the first thoughts off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more possibilities. The first question that comes to my mind is what could be done 'Post Versailles" to make this happen?
     
  15. lukedalton Well-Known Member

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    I searched where the information was (as also badlogic asked for), but i don't found it anymore, still going from memory it was all to contain Germany (and increase French influence in the mediterrean as a secondary objective) and with Versailles going as OTL for Italy plus the biennio rosso going on, things quickly failed, (plus there were the question of the status of italian in Tunisia).
    OTL Italy gained from French some piece of Algeria near Gat and Gadir that were important for the caravan route and the strip of Aozou, plus a minor adjunt at the Eritrean-Djibouti border (the last two was part of a treaty not ratified in the end due the second Italian-Abyssian war), the problem was that half of it was fought with nail and tooth during versailles as the French delegation had no intention to give up so much for strategic reason, ironically them and the British in the end to appease Mussolini give up to him what requested by the italian delegation without success.
     
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