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Collective security during the interwar period sample essay

The term ‘collective security’ can be defined as a security agreement in which all states cooperate directly, collectively, and and every state accepts that the security of one is in the concern of all. In other words, when one of the states part of this agreement violates the rights to freedom of other nations, all other member states will have to join forces to restore peace, penalizing the aggressor state. This model is based on participation and compulsoriness. An agressor state is about to meet a united opposition of the entire world community. The concept of collective security is based on the consent of all or the majority of states to act against any state that unlawfully violates peace. The main idea of collective security is the assumption that no state will want to change the power and order of world community, and if so, all other states will act together against the aggressor state in order to reestablish the global equilibrium. An ideal collective security organization assumes a very high degree of congruent interest among its members.

1 Interstate rivalry and power politics and effectively elliminated.2 As a legal form of states’ cooperation, a collective security system differs from any traditional alliance. The alliance is the way in which a state gets benefits in the event of a conflict after an agreement with another state or several states involved to a predetermined level to maintain their common interest. Alliances form because weak states band together against great powers in order to survive in an anarchic international system.3 The alliance pattern involves the decision to change or maintain the balance of power at local, regional or global level. In general, an alliance has on the other side another alliance with opposite purposes. It is, therefore, a structure of bloc against bloc. Arising from the need to find a way to avoid the outbreak of a new world war, collective security represented, in the interwar period, at least for some countries in Europe, almost the only option of foreign policy that seemed viable to defend the national interests. The term ‘League of Nations’ (Society of Nations) existed since 1908, when Léon Bourgeois4 proposed a new system of organizing international relations.

The idea was taken up and supported by groups and associations in France, Great Britain and United States of America, where presidents Roosevelt and Taft supported the formula of a security system in which aggressors automatically received economic and military sanctions from the international community. In June 1915, a League for strengthening peace, supported by Taft, was in favour for a Society of Nations based on collective security and strengthening international law. President Woodrow Wilson is the one who, on 27th of May 1916 marked for the first time, in concrete, institutional terms, the project of such an organization. In 1920, the League of Nations formally established, with the entry into force of the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 states in 1919. The organization was meant to include all countries and to resist aggression in all parts of the globe.5 While all members participated in the General Assembly, the League Council was established to guide the operation of the organization.

6 The authority of the League was never seriously questioned, until the early 1930s, when a series of events proved its ineffectiveness. The League of Nations was concieved as a tool for maintaining international peace and security and for promoting interstate cooperation. The main mean by which the League was to ensure peacekeeping was a collective security system, at least in Europe, based on the principle ‘all for one’. According to this principle, all states should have been engaged in mutual guarantee of international peace and security. This concept was included in both League of Nations Covenant and peace treaties. The problem of creating a collective security system specifically concerned the small and medium states. With no ability of defending themselves in the face of possible aggression coming from great powers, the system of collective security was the only defending solution. Hence, the small and medium states were the most active in terms of supporting the Society of Nations’ efforts of peacekkeping. Their position towards this problem proved to be crucial both on the prospects of the forum in Geneva , as in peace prospects.

The League of Nations represented a start in the process of democratization and evolution of international life, in the direction of establishing a new system in which all states can find a place and role, a tribune for expressing their positions, under the aegis of general principles of international law. There were obtained achievements in different fields, of interstate cooperation, there were tested some mechanisms of peacekeeping, there were made efforts for promoting economic development in the spirit of interdependence, which was more and more obvious at an international level. Contrary to all these positive elements, the League of Nations was ultimately a failure and couldn’t fulfill its key objectives: prevent another war by creating a security system based on collective guarantees, resolving conflicts by peaceful means and eliminating economic crises by promoting openness in international trade relations, according to the requirements of globalization.

The general crisis in 1929 – 1923 which had devastating effects on the economic, political and moral field and the rise of the totalitarian regimes opened the door for the World War II, which ended, at the same time, the attempt of a League of Nations in building a world of peace, security and prosperity. The League of Nations ceased to function with the beginning of World War II, although the formal decision to dissolve the League was adopted after the entry into force of the UN Charter on April 18, 1946. The United Nations, like the League, emerged in the wake of a devastating war.7

Romania in the League of Nations

In order to better understand how the system of collective security works, I chose to talk about what meant to Romania the membership in the League of Nations and the benefits it enjoyed through this status. Romania, one of the 32 founding members of the League of Nations, contributed, under the aegis of this organization, at creating a general security system throughout Europe and especially in South Eastern Europe. Romania’s main purpose was keeping the territorial status-quo, which implicitly meant the integration of Greater Romania. Regarding the benefits of being part of the League, an advantage would be the prestige of being a member, as Nicolae Titulescu said: “Allow me to express my deep gratitude for the great honor you have done to my country and to me, personally, by handing, through your votes, the great dignity of being President of the 11th Assembly of League of Nations”.8 The benefits arose from correlating the membership with the fact that Romania had emerged victorious from the Great War, won enough territories to unite Romanians under one state and needed protection because these territories were an inportant target for the neighbours also.

Aditionally, the League united the world’s most influential states and declared a forum for discussion in the spirit of arbitration, consensus and justice. Therefore, the member states were seen from the outside as being driven by the same values. Accepting Romania in the League of Nations meant the acknowledgement that it agreed with the principles of the organization. The League of Nation’s main goal was ensuring peace. From my point of view, all nations that were members of the League, believed in democracy and freedom, but the political leadership had not always reflected these ideals. When the political leadership tended to war, the only barriers were those related to methods and not to ideals. The benefit that Romania had being a member of League of Nations was one of prestige, because joining the organization meant a statement of principles that corresponded to those of the civilized world. Therefore, being a member of the League indicated that the state was integrated in the world’s civilized nations and that’s what Romania wanted.

Joining the League of Nations meant for the Romanian people the end of the period in which was threatened by the Great Powers and could not develop because of that. Once it joined the Society of Nations, Romania acceeded all the international organisms related to the League. Among these, the one that brought the most benefits to Romania was International Labour Organization. A very good study of that time’s ideas regarding the International Labour Organization was made by Grigore Trancu-Iaşi9, in a conference form, shown in ‘Romania’s foreign policy, 19 public lectures organized by the Romanian Social Institute’. The author identified the principles of this organization as needed to be urgently implemented by its members. The principles could be regarded as ‘left’, but were more like ideas that approached the society to social justice. The League recognized the idea that its supreme ideal was that peace cannot happen where there is no social justice. The International Labour Organization ensured bringing social justice through the prospect of working conditions.

Romania, as a member of the Organization, registerd benefits in the social justice and had the right of decision over these measures. This paper aims to analyze what collective security meant for the society in the inter-war period and, particularly, what meant to Romania and the effects of being in a collective security organization. Romania had multiple benefits generated by its membership in the League of Nations, even though this organization failed on its supreme mission. Romania’s benefits from being a member of the League related to international prestige, good relations with the neighbours, social justice and the most important, international power increase.


MORGENTHAU, Hans J., International Affairs: The Ressurection of Neutrality in Europe”, The American Political Science Review, vol. 33, nr. 3; Politica Externă a României – 19 prelegeri publice organizate de Institutul Social Român, Institutul Social Român, Bucureşti, 1926; SCUTARU, Ioan, România şi Marile Puteri, editura Fundaţiei „România de Mâine”, Bucuresti, 1999; KUPCHAN, Charles A. and KUPCHAN Clifford A., Concerts, Collective Security and the Future of Europe, International Security, Vol. 16, No.1, Summer 1991; RISSE-KAPPEN, Thomas, Collective Identity in a Democratic Community: The case of NATO, 1996. MIROIU, Andrei, Balanţă şi Hegemonie: România în politica mondială, 1913 – 1989, Editura Tritonic, Bucureşti, 2005.

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