How Successful Was the Paris Peace Settlement in Satisfying the Demands of France

The historian Zara Steiner??™s view of the Treaty is that France was given a considerable amount of protection through the drastic cuts in Germany??™s military power and its territorial, financial, and commercial losses . She believes that the Treaty was in fact successful in fulfilling French security but much ???would depend on the manner of its enforcement??? ; It was not the terms of the Treaty that were flawed, it was how it was enforced. She also argues that France deliberately set high demands whilst ???not actually believing that the Germans could raise the sums being discussed in Paris??? . In the knowledge that the Reparations committee would make the necessary adjustments , by setting high demands France would guarantee a more favorable figure was realized. Germany had cost France vast amounts of both money and loss of life through World War One and so naturally France was ???firmly in favor of making Germany pay??? . Clemenceau, ???obsessed with guaranteeing French security??? , pushed for punitive reparations in an attempt to economically cripple Germany. Their bid to place an indemnity upon Germany however was disregarded by President Wilson. Even with the indemnity dropped, further concessions were made for Germany as they complained they were not able to fully pay the reparations and so the final amount was reduced to ?6,600 million. France had not been successful in crippling Germany economically as Germany were more than capable of paying the reparations without destroying their economy; they were still a threat to France. In terms of Germany??™s military strength, the number of soldiers was halved from the initial proposal. Germany was not allowed an air force or navy and was restricted on most other aspects of warfare. In terms of militarily weakening Germany, France had been successful as Germany??™s military strength, at least theoretically, had been reduced to a minute proportion of its initial size; an army limited to 100,000 soldiers did not pose a threat to France. Though France was able to successfully regain control of Alsace Lorraine from Germany, they were unsuccessful in annexing the Rhineland, Belgium and the Duchy of Luxembourg. France was very much still concerned about their eastern borders shared with Germany. Protection had been offered by both Britain and America to France but a last minute alteration by Lloyd George however meant that the British guarantee would only become operative upon the ratification of the American counterpart . France looked to use the Rhineland as a ???buffer zone??™ against Germany. Once again however this was blocked by President Wilson who did not favor any annexations taking place; France was not even permitted complete control of the Saar coal-fields as compensation. France had not been successful in making the necessary territorial gains to feel secure from Germany. They had neither the borders nor the military guarantees to feel safe from the threat of a German attack; the construction of the Maginot Line along France??™s eastern border with Germany clearly shows that France did not feel their territorial gains had effectively weakened Germany. It is clear to see that France did not emerge from the peace conference having achieved everything they set out to. The main success for France would be the reduction in the German military; if Germany were to maintain the proposed levels of military strength then she would not be a threat to France ??“ unfortunately this was not the case. The main problem facing France was security as, unlike Britain and the United States, they share direct borders with Germany. President Wilson in particular did not seem to appreciate this as he blocked not only the proposed indemnity on Germany but also any annexations other than Alsace Lorraine. It can be said that overall, the Paris Peace Conference had failed to provide France with a level of security they felt safe with; though Germany were made to accept full responsibility for the war, they did not have to pay the full amount of reparations nor indefinitely give up the Rhineland area. In retrospect however, I would agree with the historian Zara Steiner that France purposely set high demands with the knowledge that Britain, the United States and Germany would each attempt to reduce their demands whatever they demanded. The main goals of France, to weaken Germany militarily, economically and strategically had all been achieved, however due to the poor enforcement of the Treaty, it was not to the extent France initially set out to achieve.

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