Benes's Foreign Policy
Eduard Benes, Czechoslovak foreign minister from 1918 to
1935, created the system of alliances that determined the
republic's international stance in 1938. A democratic statesman
of Western orientation, Benes relied heavily on the League of
Nations as guarantor of the postwar status quo and the security
of newly formed states. He negotiated the Little Entente (an
alliance with Yugoslavia and Romania) in 1921 to counter
Hungarian revanchism and Hapsburg restoration. He attempted
further to negotiate treaties with Britain and France, seeking
their promises of assistance in the event of aggression against
the small, democratic Czechoslovak Republic. Britain remained
intransigent in its isolationist policy, and in 1924 Benes
concluded a separate alliance with France.
Benes's Western policy received a serious blow as early as
1925. The Locarno Pact, which paved the way for Germany's
admission to the League of Nations, guaranteed Germany's western
border. French troops were thus left immobilized on the Rhine,
making French assistance to Czechoslovakia difficult. In
addition, the treaty stipulated that Germany's eastern frontier
would remain subject to negotiation.
When Hitler secured power in 1933, fear of German aggression
became generalized in eastern Central Europe. Benes ignored the
possibility of a stronger Central European alliance system,
remaining faithful to his Western policy. He did, however, seek
the participation of the Soviet Union in an alliance to include
France. (Benes's earlier attitude toward the Soviet regime had
been one of caution.) In 1935 the Soviet Union signed treaties
with France and Czechoslovakia. In essence, the treaties provided
that the Soviet Union would come to Czechoslovakia's aid only if
French assistance came first.
In 1935 Benes succeeded Masaryk as president, and Prime
Minister Milan Hodza took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hodza's efforts to strengthen alliances in Central Europe came
too late. In February 1936 the foreign ministry came under the
direction of Kamil Krofta, an adherent of Benes's line.
Data as of August 1987