Nederland, Frankrijk en de Ruhrcrisis (1923-1924). De Nederlandse neutraliteitspolitiek aan het begin van het interbellum.
Gerner, L. van
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Up to this day, the politics of ‘active neutrality’ of Dutch foreign minister Van Karnebeek (1918-1927) are object of a lively academic debate which revolves around the question whether the Netherlands remained aloof from international politics or actively tried to influence its environment in order to secure its interests. The case of Dutch-French relations during the Ruhr crisis (1923-1924) clarifies the often contradictory analyses of scholars on Dutch neutrality in the beginning of the 1920s. Although some scholars have pointed out the idealism in Dutch foreign policy, its neutrality was pragmatic in nature, stemming from thorough cost-benefit analyses and thus by no means static. Based on a wide range of secondary literature as well as multi-archival research, this thesis argues that, although Van Karnebeek was convinced that the Netherlands due to its geographic position and its dependence on foreign trade could not afford to sit by passively, his leeway in foreign affairs was to a very large extent limited because he, just as his predecessors, considered a neutral position towards Europe’s dominant powers vital to Dutch interests. In the case of the Ruhr crisis, an event that importantly threatened the interests of the Netherlands, this meant that Van Karnebeek steered clear of any diplomatic steps that would aggravate relations with France, such as protesting against the occupation of the industrial Ruhr area, mediation between France and Germany or joining forces with other neutrals. Here, realist IR-theory thus explains to a large extent the functioning of the politics of neutrality of a small state like the Netherlands towards the power politics of a great nation like France. However, realism downplays the role of international law too easily. Van Karnebeek was able to actively defend Dutch commercial interests, basing his arguments on international treaties. By giving his diplomacy towards France a legal character, he was able to maintain his neutral stance towards the Franco-German conflict. Moreover, the value of international public opinion was too important for France to ignore Dutch legal claims. Nevertheless, despite some concessions made by the occupying powers, the ongoing damage the Ruhr occupation caused to Dutch economic interests shows the vulnerability of the Netherlands in a state system that after the first World War was still dominated by the power politics of France, the United Kingdom and Germany.