Franco-Polish Military Alliance

Franco-Polish Military Alliance

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The Franco-Polish alliance was the military alliance between Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 that was active between 1921 and 1940.

Background



Already during the France-Habsburg rivalry
France-Habsburg rivalry
The term France–Habsburg rivalry describes the rivalry between the House of Habsburg, rulers of the Holy Roman Empire as well as Spain, and the kingdom of France, lasting from 1516 until 1756....

 that started in the 16th century, France had tried to find allies to the east of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, namely hoping to ally with Poland. Poland's King Jan III Sobieski allegedly also had the intention to ally with France against the threat of Austria, but the greater threat posed by the Muslim-led Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 made him fight for the Christian cause in the Battle of Vienna
Battle of Vienna
The Battle of Vienna took place on 11 and 12 September 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months...

. In the 18th century, Poland was forcibly caused to cease to exist as a proper nation through a method called partition
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, performed by Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 along with Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, but Emperor Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 of France recreated the Polish state in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. With the rise of a united German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 in the 19th century, both France and Poland found a new common enemy.

Interwar


During the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

 it was one of the cornerstones of the French foreign policy. Near the end of that period, along with the Franco-British Alliance, it was the basis for the creation of the Allies of World War II
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

. During the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, France was one of the most active supporters of Poland, and sent the French Military Mission to Poland
French Military Mission to Poland
The French Military Mission to Poland was an effort by France to aid the nascent Second Polish Republic after it achieved its independence in November, 1918, at the end of the First World War. The aim was to provide aid during the Polish-Soviet War , and to create a strong Polish military to serve...

 to aid the Polish army.

The pact was discussed by Polish Chief of State
Naczelnik panstwa
Naczelnik Państwa was the title of Poland's head of state in the early years of the Second Polish Republic. This office was held only by Józef Piłsudski, from 1918 to 1922. Until 1919 it was called tymczasowy naczelnik państwa...

 Józef Piłsudski and French President Alexandre Millerand
Alexandre Millerand
Alexandre Millerand was a French socialist politician. He was President of France from 23 September 1920 to 11 June 1924 and Prime Minister of France 20 January to 23 September 1920...

 in early February in Paris and signed there on February 19, 1921 by Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Eustachy Sapieha
Eustachy Sapieha
Eustachy Kajetan Sapieha was a Polish nobleman, prince of the Sapieha family, politician, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, and deputy to the Polish parliament ....

 and his French counterpart Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand
Aristide Briand was a French statesman who served eleven terms as Prime Minister of France during the French Third Republic and received the 1926 Nobel Peace Prize.- Early life :...

, in the background of the negotiations that ended the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

 (Treaty of Riga). The agreement assumed common foreign policies, promotion of bilateral economical contacts, consultation of new pacts concerning Central and Eastern Europe as well as help in case one of the signataries is attacked. As such it was a defensive alliance. The pact was amended February 21, 1921, with a secret military convention, which precised that the alliance is aimed at all possible threats from both Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

.

The alliance was further extended by the Franco-Polish Warrant Agreement signed October 16, 1925 in Locarno
Locarno
Locarno is the capital of the Locarno district, located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore in the Swiss canton of Ticino, close to Ascona at the foot of the Alps. It has a population of about 15,000...

, as part of the Locarno Treaties
Locarno Treaties
The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war...

. The new treaty subscribed all previously-signed Polish-French agreements to the system of mutual pacts of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

.

This alliance was closely tied with the Franco-Czech Alliance. The alliances of France with Poland and Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 were aimed at deterring Germany from the use of force to achieve a revision of the postwar settlement or ensuring that German forces would be confronted with significant combined strength of its neighbours. Although Czechoslovakia had a significant economy and industry, and Poland a strong army, the French-Polish-Czechoslovakian triangle never reached its full potential. The Czechoslovakian foreign policy under Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš
Edvard Beneš was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.- Youth :...

 shied however from signing a formal alliance with Poland that would force Czechoslovakia to take sides in the Polish-German territorial disputes
Oder-Neisse line
The Oder–Neisse line is the border between Germany and Poland which was drawn in the aftermath of World War II. The line is formed primarily by the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers, and meets the Baltic Sea west of the seaport cities of Szczecin and Świnoujście...

. Czechoslovakia's influence was weakened by the doubts of its allies as to the trustworthiness of its army, Poland's influence was in turn undermined by the infighting between supporters and opponents of Józef Piłsudski. French reluctance to invest in its allies (especially Polish) industry, strengthening trade relations (buying their agricultural products) and sharing military expertise further weakened the alliance.

In the 1930s the Franco-Polish alliance remained mostly inactive and its only effect was the French Military Mission to Poland
French Military Mission to Poland
The French Military Mission to Poland was an effort by France to aid the nascent Second Polish Republic after it achieved its independence in November, 1918, at the end of the First World War. The aim was to provide aid during the Polish-Soviet War , and to create a strong Polish military to serve...

, which continued to work with the Polish General Staff ever since the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

 of 1919-1920. However, with the Nazi
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 threat becoming increasingly visible, in the later part of the decade both countries started to seek a new pact that would not only guarantee the independence of all contracting parties but would also ensure military cooperation in case of a war with Germany.

1939


Finally, a new alliance was signed in 1939. The so-called Kasprzycki-Gamelin Convention signed May 19, 1939 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 (named after the Polish Minister of War Affairs General Tadeusz Kasprzycki
Tadeusz Kasprzycki
Tadeusz Kasprzycki was a member of the Polish Legions in First World War, general of the Polish Army from 1929 and Minister of Military Affairs of Poland from 1935 to 1939....

 and the commander of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 Maurice Gamelin
Maurice Gamelin
Maurice Gustave Gamelin was a French general. Gamelin is best remembered for his unsuccessful command of the French military in 1940 during the Battle of France and his steadfast defense of republican values....

) obliged both countries to provide military help to each other in case of a war with Nazi Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. In May Gamelin promised a "bold relief offensive" within three weeks of German's attack.http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0521522420&id=4iQQrESpA48C&pg=PA294&lpg=PA294&dq=September+1939+British+promise+to+Poland&sig=k3mZoIIY2irY0S4NAbZib6mMIn8 Later staff talks and consultation between both armies' commands were also included in the treaty. Finally, it was enhanced with a political convention, signed in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 on September 4, 1939.

Despite all the obligations of the treaties, France provided only token help to Poland during the Polish Defensive War
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 of 1939, in the form of the Saar Offensive
Saar Offensive
The Saar Offensive was a French operation into Saarland on the German 1st Army defence sector in the early stages of World War II. The purpose of the attack was to assist Poland, which was then under attack...

. This is often considered an example of Western betrayal
Western betrayal
Western betrayal, also called Yalta betrayal, refers to a range of critical views concerning the foreign policies of several Western countries between approximately 1919 and 1968 regarding Eastern Europe and Central Europe...

. However, the political part of it was a basis of the recreation of the Polish Army in France
Polish Army in France
The term Polish Army in France might refer to the following units of the Polish Army:* Polish Legions in Italy of late 18th century/early 19th century fighting for Napoleon I...

 in 1939.

See also

  • British-Polish Military Alliance
  • Foreign alliances of France
    Foreign alliances of France
    The foreign alliances of France have a long and complex history spanning more than a millennium. One traditional characteristic of the French diplomacy of alliances has been the "Alliance de revers" The foreign alliances of France have a long and complex history spanning more than a millennium. One...

  • Phony War
    Phony War
    The Phoney War was a phase early in World War II – in the months following Britain and France's declaration of war on Germany in September 1939 and preceding the Battle of France in May 1940 – that was marked by a lack of major military operations by the Western Allies against the German Reich...

  • Polish Army in France (1940)
  • Western betrayal
    Western betrayal
    Western betrayal, also called Yalta betrayal, refers to a range of critical views concerning the foreign policies of several Western countries between approximately 1919 and 1968 regarding Eastern Europe and Central Europe...