Successes and Failures of the League of Nations

Gives the successes and failures of each time the League intervened in a dispute.

Vilnius, 1920

Events:

  • Polish troops occupied Vilnius, capital of Lithuania
  • Lithuania appealed to the League, who ordered Poland to withdraw
  • Poland refused to leave and rejected the Hymans Plan
  • Poland occupied Vilnius until 1939

Successes:

  • The League responded to a difficult situation with an innovative solution (Hymans Plan)
  • No war ensued

Failures:

  • The Hymans Plan was rejected and Poland continued to occupy Vilnius
  • Many contemporaries were outraged that the League had not taken stronger action
  • Poland and France had a strong relationship, so a country benefitted from aggression
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Upper Silesia, 1921

Events:

  • Germany and Poland both wanted control because of the rich industrial areas
  • League held a plebiscite
  • Industrial areas voted for Germany and rural areas voted for Poland
  • Region was divided accordingly

Successes:

  • League held a plebiscite and split the land according to how each area voted
  • Railway lines and power and water supplies were safeguarded
  • Both sides accepted the split of land
  • War was prevented

Failures:

  • Neither Germany nor Poland was entirely happy with the arrangement
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Åland Islands, 1921

Events:

  • Sweden and Finland both wanted control of the islands
  • Both sides were prepared to go to war over it
  • League investigated and ruled that Finland should keep control but Swedish customs and language should be preserved

Successes:

  • Autonomy was developed and Swedish customs were preserved
  • Finland's borders remained the same so other countries could not make countless other ethic claims which would destroy the Paris Peace Settlement

Failures:

  • Raised questions about how far Wilson's principle of national self-determination should be applied
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Corfu, 1923

Events:

  • Italian general murdered in Greece whilst sorting the Greece-Albania border 
  • Mussolini invaded Corfu; Greece appealed to the League
  • League condemned Mussolini's actions and ordered reparations
  • Mussolini accepted but made the Conference of Ambassadors overrule the League
  • Greeks had to apologise and pay compensation; Mussolini withdrew from Corfu boasting of his success

Successes:

  • Greece was able to appeal to the League when it felt it was being treated unfairly
  • Italian forces quickly left Greek territory and there was no war

Failures:

  • Italy committed an act of war but this was not punished
  • The Conference of Ambassadors made the final settlement, not the League
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Greco-Bulgarian Confrontation, 1925

Events:

  • Greek troops invaded Bulgaria after Greek soldiers were killed on the border
  • Bulgaria appealed to the League and prepared their army
  • League condemned the invasion; ordered Greece to withdraw and pay compensation
  • Greece accepted but was not happy that they were treated differently to Italy over Corfu

Successes:

  • The Council's demand that military action should end was obeyed
  • The Council proceeded to investigate the reasons for the incident and report them
  • Incidents like this had escalated into wars, but it was prevented here

Context:

  • Neither country was in a financial position to actually start a war
  • Neither country was allied with a Great Power which reduced the risk of a war between them from growing in importance
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Japanese invasion of Manchuria, 1931

Events:

  • Japan claimed China sabotaged the Manchurian railway
  • Japan invaded and conquered Manchuria and Shanghai
  • China appealed to the League; Lord Lytton began an investigation
  • League could not agree on sanctions; no action was taken and Japan remained in Manchuria

Successes:

  • Sent a commission led by Lord Lytton to investigate

Failures:

  • By the time the report was finished, Japan had firmly established itself in Manchuria
  • Japan refused to leave as the League demanded
  • The League did not try to stop Japan as many the powers had  business interests in Japan 
  • The Japanese remained in Manchuria; Japan and China continued to be hostile
  • Japan left the League
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Italian invasion of Abyssinia, 1935

Events:

  • Italy invaded Abyssinia; Abyssinian emperor Haile Selassie appealed to the League
  • League banned arms sales; damaged Abyssinia more than Italy
  • League commission offered Italy part of Abyssinia; Italy still invaded
  • Britain and France made a secret pact to give Abyssinia to Italy

Successes:

  • The League suggested a plan to give part of Abyssinia to Italy to prevent an invasion
  • Once Italy invaded, they gave them sanctions on weapons sales, rubber, and metal

Failures:

  • Despite appeals from the Abyssinian Emperor, the League did nothing more
  • The League did not put any restrictions on coal or oil; kept the Suez Canal open
  • The League was revealed to be weak and its leaders selfish
  • Italy left the League and began rearming
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