Even in this epoch, France guards its preeminence in Europe. However, in regards to its political weight and the different pressures that it can exercise on other countries, it has known all the same vicissitudes since 1918. The system of France’s European alliances does not always function smoothly. Groups of powers form outside of it, that more or less impose narrow limits on its freedom of action. The climate and solidity of relations, the accentuation of feelings in its relations with England, America, Japan, and Russia constantly change. Sometimes, they interfered with France’s position of force, sometimes they were favorable to it.
In a certain sense, time worked visibly against France. It persisted in the maintenance of the conventions of Versailles. For it, the treaty was “sacred” because it was the privileged beneficiary. Finally, all moderation or attenuation, all “revision” would depend on France. The more the treaty crumbled, the more it was dismantled, the more the power of France dwindled. Revision would have forced the loss of what France had won from Germany. For this reason, France opposed it with the same vigor as Germany demanded it.
The more it became evident that the maintenance of the Treaty of Versailles concerned the interests of France above all, more occasions accumulated for the different powers to favor Germany’s demands for revision. That was at least as much a pro-German politics as it was anti-French. The number of countries that insisted on the maintenance of the treaty diminished before its eyes. Only France and its allies defended all its articles with tenacity, knowing that each modification would inevitably lead to loss.
Above all Fascist Italy was a partisan of revision; that was the best arm that Mussolini had against France. The Franco-Italian rivalry was not extinguished during the war. Following it, it was inflamed with a new ardor. Italy and France contested the Mediterranean heritage of the ancient Roman Empire. The position of Italy had suffered with France having carved out the lion’s share. The domination that it exercised on the Mediterranean disturbed and irritated Italy. To reinforce its power, it was necessary to weaken that of France. Never had it seized it in the measure of the latter, but it could immobilize its forces and put innumerable obstacles in the way of French policies. In Balkans, at the Geneva Conferences, it has since been the most bothersome antagonist of France. Finally, it has fanned the desire of revision for Germany and misses no opportunity to broach this subject and make it believed that it would be the most faithful ally of Germany. The Franco-Italian antagonism, that already imposes limits on the power of France, arose from great difficulties with the gradual rapprochement between Germany and Italy. Certainly, even the two countries reunited could not go head to head with France. However, the force of internal resistance of this bloc was sufficient for France to pose itself the question of whether it was the worth the pain of risking a war. By integrating into this bloc, Germany became less accessible to French interventions. It alliance with Italy had diminished the pressure that France would exercise on it.
Although Germany had not yet shaken the yoke of Versailles, it could all the same lighten the burden and thus nourish the hope of a return to national liberty. This hope gave back the courage that it had lacked for so long. A new sentiment of national value was born. The bearers of this new assurance were these social classes of the Weimar state, having been dispossessed, unemployed, and downgraded, but, above all, this youth for whom Weimar removed all confidence from the future. We more easily relied on the Italian friend so that, ultimately, we should have a new national rising. The decline of the Weimar state showed that French influence had been lost on the terrain of Germany. The struggle against the Weimar regime was at the same time a battle that we rendered to France. The increasing Fascism of Germany is this process that ends the alienation of the country by France.