On the 27th August 1928, Germany, France and the United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy – otherwise known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact. A total of 62 nations eventually went on to join them in signing the agreement, which promised to never use war as a way to settle conflicts.

Jointly created by the United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand, the Pact stemmed from France’s desire to protect itself against possible future German aggression. Unwilling to join what could be interpreted as a military alliance, Kellogg suggested that they invite all countries to sign a condemnation of war unless in self-defence. The United States’ involvement meant that the Pact was signed outside the League of Nations, of which America was not a member, and therefore means that it is still in force today.

At the time it was hoped that the signing of the Pact would stop any future wars, but the impact of the worldwide depression in the 1930s led nations such as Japan and Italy to launch invasions of Manchuria and Abyssinia respectively. Such invasions began without the aggressor ever declaring war but, despite this, the Pact was ineffective since it provided no way to enforce its terms anyway. However, it did act as the legal basis for the notion of a crime against peace, and in turn became the basis for many of the key prosecution arguments in the Nuremberg Trials and the Tokyo Trials that followed the Second World War.

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