What was the Stresa Front and how did Britain respond to the remilitarisation of the Rhineland?
What were the aims of the Stresa Front and why did it fail to achieve its aims?
The Stresa Front was Alliance between Britain, France and Italy that was agreed on 14th April 1935 when their prime ministers met to discuss their concerns towards Germany.
In Stresa, Italy, they signed an agreement which established the Stresa Front.
Reiterate the terms of the Locarno Treaties
Maintain Austrian independence
Resist future attempts to flout the terms of the Treaty of Versailles
The Terms of the agreement were unclear and did not agree on the actions that would be taken by Britain, France and Italy to support the aims of the Front.
As a matter of fact, preventing Hitler from carrying out his aims would mean a full-scale invasion of Germany, but none of the countries were prepared to take any action of such a scale.
In June 1935, Britain and Germany signed the Anglo-German naval agreement in which Germany was allowed to increase it's navy to a maximum of 1/3 of the British navy. This was done without consulting Italy or France.
While this guaranteed that Britain would have a superior navy, Britain was allowing Germany to break a term of the Treaty of Versailles, which had severely limited the German navy.
Britain’s opposition to German rearmament had been effectively removed. Therefore, Hitler felt free to continue to increase the size of his army. He ordered the construction of new battleships and began to develop a large and efficient air force.
In October 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. He had expected his Stresa Front allies not to oppose him, however, when they supported the sanctions imposed on Italy by the League, he withdrew Italy from the League and the Stresa Front.
France was worried by the remilitarisation of Germany and Britain's acceptance of it and felt increasingly isolated and vulnerable after the Stresa Front collapsed. Despite the fact that they were reluctant and considered the communist country to be untrustworthy, they signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the USSR in 1935. This is because they shared similar concerns with the USSR.
In their Treaty of Mutual Assistance, they agreed to support each other in the event of an attack by another European nation.
Why did Britain and France not take any action when Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles?
Many countries around the world, including Britain and France, were still suffering from effects of the Great Depression. They did not wish to engage in combat or impose economic sanctions as this could damage their own economies.
Hitler was very persuasive and was able to convince other countries that his motives were 'peaceful and logical'.
Hitler justified his actions (e.g. remilitarization of the Rhineland and rearmament) by arguing that he was correcting the harsh terms of the unfair Treaty of Versailles and that Germany was simply defending itself and had the right to do so. This was accepted in Britain as many people there believed the Treaty was too harsh.
Moreover, British politicians believed that a strong Germany would be a good defence against communism
Chamberlain became British Prime Minister in May 1937. He believed and followed the policy of Appeasement as he felt that dealing with Hitler by negotiation, rather than confrontation was the best way to go.