American Neutrality Policy and the Balance of Power

April 1, 1939

Report Outline
Revival of Disputed Neutrality Problem
Revision of American Neutrality Policy
Balance-Of-Power Theory in European History
American Influence for World Peace

Revival of Disputed Neutrality Problem

Opening of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, on pending proposals for revision of existing neutrality legislation will bring once more before the public the question of what is to be the policy of the United States in event of general war abroad. The dominant problem, as in the case of previous discussions of the subject in the last few years, will be how best to protect this country against involvement in war. The question comes up now at a time of greater political tension in Europe than that prevailing when the present statute and its predecessors were enacted, and at a time, moreover, when American opinion has been outraged by successive acts of aggression on the part of Nazi Germany. Despite continuing strong isolationist sentiment, there is more disposition than formerly to consider what “methods short of war” the United States might adopt in the hope of curbing aggression, and to consider what might be done, as President Roosevelt advised in his last annual message to Congress, to “avoid any action, or any lack of action, which will encourage, assist, or build up an aggressor.”

Expiration on May 1 of the cash-and-carry provisions of the present law has afforded the occasion for a review of American neutrality policy at this time. The pending proposals call for a more or less thorouhgoing revision of the whole law. They range from a plan to permit arms shipments to belligerent nations on a cash-and-carry basis to a plan to prohibit all arms exports in time of peace as well as war.

Effect of Neutrality Action on the European Balance

The decision to be reached by Congress will be anticipated with the greatest interest by European nations. The question of whether or not the great industrial resources of this country are to be available to the European democracies during a conflict with the totalitarian powers is a matter of vital moment both to the democracies themselves and to their potential opponents. It has been made clear in recent months how urgently Great Britain and France desire assurance that they can obtain American supplies in case of need. And there has likewise been some indication that the giving of such assurance would cause sober second thoughts in Germany and Italy.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
World WarII Catalysts
Oct. 17, 1939  Coalition Government and National Unity
Oct. 03, 1939  Present and Proposed Neutrality Legislation
May 10, 1939  Demands of the European Dictators
Apr. 01, 1939  American Neutrality Policy and the Balance of Power
Jan. 10, 1939  Nazi Objectives in Eastern Europe
Oct. 18, 1938  Changing European Political Alignments
Jan. 27, 1938  The Spread of Dictatorship
Oct. 21, 1937  Neutrality vs. Sanctions
Feb. 05, 1937  Germany's Demand for Colonies
Dec. 04, 1935  Revision of American Neutrality Policy
May 06, 1935  The Great Powers and the Danubian Problem
Jan. 16, 1935  Neutrality Policy of the United States
Jun. 04, 1928  The International Cartel Movement
International Law and Agreements
War and Conflict
World War II