The Kellogg–Briand Pact (also called the Pact of Paris, formal name: General Treaty for the Renunciation of War) was signed on August 27, 1928 by the USA, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and a number of other states. The pact renounced aggressive war, prohibiting the use of war as “an instrument of national policy” except in matters of self-defence. It made no provisions for sanctions. The pact was the result of a determined American effort to avoid involvement in the European alliance system. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on September 4, 1929.
In its original form, the Kellog-Briand was a renunciation of war between only France and the United States of America. However, Frank B. Kellogg, then U.S. Secretary of State, wanted to retain American freedom of action; he thus responded with a proposal for a multilateral pact against war open for all nations to become signatories.
The Kellogg–Briand Pact is named after its authors: Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand.
After negotiations, the pact was signed in Paris at the French Foreign Ministry by the representatives from: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, India, the Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was proclaimed to go into effect on July 24, 1929. By that date, the following nations had deposited instruments of definitive adherence to the pact: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, the Soviet Union, Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, Siam, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. Eight further nations joined after this date: Persia, Greece, Honduras, Chile, Luxembourg, Danzig, Costa Rica and Venezuela.
In the United States, the Senate approved the treaty overwhelmingly, 85-1, with only Wisconsin Republican John J. Blaine voting against. However, it did add a reservation that the treaty must not infringe upon America’s right of self defense and that the United States was not obliged to enforce the treaty by taking action against those who violated it.
The 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact was concluded outside the League of Nations, and remains a binding treaty under international law. In the United States, it remains in force as federal law (see U.S. Const. art. VI). One month following its conclusion, a similar agreement was concluded, General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, was concluded in Geneva, which obliged its signatory parties to establish conciliation commissions in any case of dispute.
As a practical matter, the Kellogg–Briand Pact did not live up to its aim of ending war, and in this sense it made no immediate contribution to international peace and proved to be ineffective in the years to come. It did not prevent the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, and the German / Soviet Union invasion of Poland. Nevertheless, the pact is an important multilateral treaty because, in addition to binding the particular nations that signed it, it has also served as one of the legal bases establishing the international norms that the threat or use of military force in contravention of international law, as well as the territorial acquisitions resulting from it, are unlawful.
Notably, the pact served as the legal basis for the creation of the notion of crime against peace — it was for committing this crime that the Nuremberg Tribunal sentenced a number of persons responsible for starting World War II.
The interdiction of aggressive war was confirmed and broadened by the United Nations Charter, which states in article 2 paragraph 4 that
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
The consequence of this is that after World War II, nations have been forced to invoke the right of self-defense or the right of collective defense when using military action and have also been prohibited from annexing territory by force.