Disarmament Conference

Disarmament Conference, 1932–37, meeting for the discussion of general disarmament. The first systematic efforts to limit armaments on an international scale, in either a quantitative or a qualitative sense, occurred at the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907. Although those efforts were unsuccessful, the Allied Powers (with the exception of the United States) after World War I committed themselves to disarmament in the Treaty of Versailles and in the Covenant of the League of Nations. The United States participated in the limitation of naval armaments by the Washington Conference (1921–22) and the London Naval Conference (1930; see naval conferences). In 1925 the League of Nations set up a preparatory commission to determine what arms should be limited and how this could be accomplished. By 1931 several points of agreement had been reached and a draft for discussion at the Disarmament Conference drawn up. The conference opened in Geneva in Feb., 1932, and was attended by League of Nations members, as well as by the United States and the Soviet Union. Disagreements over the definition of categories of war materials, which had obstructed the progress of the preparatory commission, continued to hinder the conference. Intent on maintaining its security against Germany, France was particularly reluctant to agree to any type of military limitation. Germany, whose military power had been severely limited by the Treaty of Versailles, responded by claiming that if world disarmament to the German level was not accomplished, Germany had the right to rearm and achieve military equality. Deadlock ensued. The conference was in adjournment from June to Oct., 1933. When it reassembled, Germany, now under the control of Adolf Hitler and already preparing to rearm, withdrew (Oct. 14) from the conference and from the League of Nations. The conference again adjourned, and reconvened only sporadically thereafter. It ceased to meet after May 1, 1937. By this time the general expansion of armaments that preceded World War II was already under way, and any hope for disarmament was unrealistic.

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