[eli5] How do Peace Treaties really work?


If you had 2 countries that signed a peace treaty/agreement between each other, and one of those countries chose to declara war on a third different country… is the other country in the peace treaty forced to back them as allies or are their hands washed since the other broke peace even against a different country?

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The basic answer with any of this is “it depends on how the agreement is written and how each side determines to implement the agreement.”

A significant principle in international affairs is that it is a “chaotic environment” meaning that there is really nobody in charge, and no country can force another country to do anything. There are a whole bunch of agreements which countries sign up for, and whether or not they follow those agreement are entirely up to them. Other countries may opt to treat a country a particular way for following or not following a given agreement.

Countries make treaties, they sometimes keep them, they sometimes break them, they sometimes formally withdraw from them.

In your specific instance, countries A and B make a peace treaty to not fight, then country A attacks country C. Country B has to make a choice. It can cite the peace treaty and say they are not involved in any way. It can also cite the treaty and come to the side of A and help them. While it may have a “treaty obligation” to do so, that doesn’t mean it will. It may also decide to say that country A is in the wrong and the peace treaty was not made with this situation in mind, and come to the aide of country C and fight against A.

Every situation is different, handled differently, justified differently, spun differently.

Also, there is a difference between a peace treaty, and an alliance treaty. Two treaties can agree to not go to war, but that doesn’t mean they agree to help one another if one is attacked.

I hope this makes sense. It’s kinda the wild west out there. Note that there are intergovernmental organizations which try to work together to bring about objectives. They may also do things like put sanctions on a country to enforce a declaration or an agreement, they may even detain citizens, or block trade or other things. Military force is even an option. That still doesn’t mean that anyone in particular is “in charge” of other countries.


Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s different kinds of peace treaties. There’s _ceasefires_, which just means we’ll stop firing at each other currently. Then there’s _armstices_, which formally means where gonna stop pitting military forces against each others. Then there’s stuff like _non aggression pacts_ that just mean hey whatever happens we’re not gonna fight each other. That’s how the fighting is regulated.

The actual treaty document can include other provisions such as promises of cooperation and mutual efforts to foster growth and trade etc etc.

One signer of a treaty is not obligated to go to war neither with or against another signer if that second signer declares war on a third party. The third party wasn’t part of the document, unless they were an ally who you already probably have an existing treaty with for _mutual defense_ that would take precedence and probably thus be included in the new peace treaty you are hoping to sign (in any case, if you did have a mutual defense pact with that third party, they’d already be at war with your enemy anyway).

Neutral third parties who had nothing to with the peace treaty are fair game. I don’t have to help you unless I agreed in the treaty that I would. It’s also not a violation against me, so I’m not obligated to take up arms in defense either.

To sum up:

Ceasefires literally ceasefire.

Armstices cease warfare.

Non aggression pacts means we won’t be aggressive to each other.

Defense pacts means we’ll come to each other’s aid.

The actual “peace treaty” may include any number of these types of provisions, it’s up to the signers to choose how deep they want the relationship to be.

Anonymous 0 Comments

So A signed a peace treaty with B and then declared war on C. Assuming the treaty is just declaring that the war between A and B is over, it has no bearing on A attacking C. However, countries are sovereign entities; they can do what they want. Maybe B wants something from C; they could take advantage of A’s attack to also attack C (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in WWII), or extort some concessions from C in exchange for helping C defend against A. Or maybe B wasn’t happy about the peace with A, so while A is busy, B attacks A again.

There are no rules for this, because countries are sovereign; they can do what they want. The only thing that matters is the consequences. If B attacks A, other countries might think B is untrustworthy and refuse to do business with them, or maybe ally against B to protect themselves. A will certainly think B has betrayed their trust, while C might appreciate B’s interference and become friendlier to B. It’s up to B to decide whether the benefits are worth the consequences.