Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance
Type of treaty Military alliance
March 27, 1936
Moscow, Soviet Union
Signatories Flag of France France

Flag of the Soviet Union (1923-1955) Soviet Union

Languages French, Russian

The Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance was a bilateral treaty between the two countries with the aim of encircling Germany in 1935 in order to reduce threat from central Europe. It was pursued by Louis Barthou, who was the French Foreign Minister but he was assassinated before negotiations were finished. His successor, Pierre Laval, was skeptical of both the desirability and the value of an alliance with the Soviet Union. However, after the declaration of German armament expansion in March 1935 the French government forced the reluctant foreign minister to complete the arrangements with Moscow that Barthou had begun. The pact was concluded in Paris on May 2, 1935 and ratified by the French government in February 1936. Ratifications were exchanged in Moscow on March 27, 1936, and the pact went into effect on the same day.

On May 2, 1935, France and the USSR concluded the pact of mutual assistance. Laval had taken the precaution of ensuring that the bilateral treaty agreement was strictly compatible with the multilateral provisions of the Locarno Treaties. What this meant in practice was that military assistance could be rendered by one signatory to the other only after an allegation of unprovoked aggression only after prior approval of the other signatories of the Locarno pact (the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium) had been attained. The effectiveness of this pact was undermined even further by the French government's insistent refusal to accept a military convention stipulating the way in which the two armies would coordinate actions in the event of war with Germany.

The pact was no longer what Louis Barthou had originally planned, but it remained to serve the purpose of acting as a hollow diplomatic threat of war on two fronts for Germany, should Germany pursue an aggressive foreign policy. Most of the Locarno powers felt that it would only act as a means of dragging them into a suicidal war with Germany for Russia's benefit. It marked a large scale shift in Soviet policy in the Seventh Congress of the Comintern from a pro-revisionist stance against the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to a more western-oriented foreign policy as championed by Maxim Litvinov. Although it was scrupulously worded so as not to violate the letter of the Locarno Treaty, the Treaty was regarded by Germany as a violation of its spirit. Insofar as the French had long known that Germany would view the Treaty in that light, the French decision to proceed can be regarded as a conscious decision to participate in a second encirclement of Germany.

In response to the threat to Germany clearly presented by the Franco-Soviet alliance, Germany began fashioning anti-Communist alliances with neighbouring states. Most serious commentators regarded the German move, which had long been anticipated by British and French foreign policy experts and military leaders, as a necessary one. Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George stated in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom that Hitler's actions in the wake of this pact were fully justified, and he would have been a traitor to Germany if he had not protected his country.

Treaty contents

Article 1
In the event that France or the U.S.S.R. are subjected to the threat or the danger of aggression on the part of a European state, the U.S.S.R. and France engage themselves reciprocally to proceed to an immediate mutual consultation on measures to take in order to observe the provisions of Article 10 of the League of Nations Pact.
Article 2
In the event that, in the circumstances described in Article 15, paragraph 7, of the League of Nations Pact, France or the U.S.S.R. may be, in spite of the genuinely pacific intentions of the two countries, and subject of unprovoked aggression on the part of a European state, the U.S.S.R. and France will immediately lend each other reciprocal aid and assistance.
Article 3
Taking into consideration the fact that, according to Article 16 of the League of Nations Pact, every member of the League that resorts to war contrary to the engagements assumed in Articles 12, 13 or 15 of the Pact is ipso facto considered as having committed an act of war against all the other members of the League, France and the U.S.S.R. engage themselves reciprocally, [should either of them be the object of unprovoked aggression], to lend immediate aid and assistance in activating the application of Article 16 of the Pact.
The same obligation is assumed in the event that either France or the U.S.S.R. is the object of aggression on the part of a European state in the circumstances described in Article 17, paragraphs 1 and 3, of the League of Nations Pact.

Protocole de Signature

Article 1
It is understood that the effect of Article 3 is to oblige each Contracting Party to lend immediate assistance to the other in conforming immediately to the recommendations of the Council of the League of Nations as soon as they are announced under Article 16 of the Pact. It equally understood that the two Contracting Parties will act in concert to elicit the recommendations of the Council with all the celerity that circumstances require and that, if nevertheless, the Council, for any reason whatever, does not make any recommendation or does not arrive at a unanimous decision, the obligation of assistance will nonetheless be implemented....

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