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WHEN in the year 1935 the German Government made the British Government the offer to bring the strength of the German fleet to a fixed proportion of the strength of the naval forces of the British Empire by means of a treaty, it did so on the basis of the firm conviction that for all time the recurrence of a warlike conflict between Germany and Great Britain was excluded. In voluntarily recognising the priority of British interests at sea through the offer of the ratio 100:35 it believed that, by means of this decision, unique in the history of the Great Powers, it was taking a step which would lead to the establishment of a friendly relationship for all time between the two nations. This step on the part of the German Government was naturally conditional on the British Government for their part also being determined to adopt a political attitude which would assure a friendly development of Anglo-German relations.
On this basis and under these conditions was the Anglo-German Naval Agreement on the 18th June, 1935, brought into being. This was expressed in agreement by both parties on the conclusion of the agreement. Moreover, last autumn after the Munich Conference the German Chancellor and the British Prime Minister solemnly confirmed in the declaration, which they signed, that they regarded the agreement as symbolical of the desire of both peoples never again to wage war on one another.
The German Government has always adhered to this wish and is still to-day inspired by it. It is conscious of having acted accordingly in its policy and of having in no case intervened in the sphere of English interests or of having in any way encroached on these interests. On the other hand it must to its regret take note of the fact that the British Government of late is departing more and more from the course of an analogous policy towards Germany. As is clearly shown by the political decisions made known by the British Government in the last weeks as well as by the inspired anti-German attitude of the English press, the British Government is now governed by the opinion that England, in whatever part of Europe Germany might be involved in warlike conflict, must always take up an attitude hostile to Germany, even in a case where English interests are not touched in any way by such a conflict. The British Government thus regards war by England against Germany no longer as an impossibility, but on the contrary as a capital problem of English foreign policy.
By means of this encirclement policy the British Government has unilaterally deprived the Naval Agreement of the 18th June, 1935, of its basis, and has thus put out of force this agreement as well as the complementary declaration of the 17th July, 1937.
The same applies to Part III of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of the 17th July, 1937, in which the obligation is laid down to make a mutual Anglo-German exchange of information. The execution of this obligation rests naturally on the condition that a relationship of open confidence should exist between two partners. Since the German Government to its regret can no longer regard this relationship as existing, it must also regard the provisions of Part III referred to above as having lapsed.
The qualitative provisions of the Anglo-German Agreement of the 17th July, 1937, remain unaffected by these observations which have been forced upon the German Government against its will. The German Government will abide by these provisions also in the future and so make its contribution to the avoidance of a general unlimited race in the naval armaments of the nations.
Moreover, the German Government, should the British Government desire to enter into negotiations with Germany, in regard to the future problems here arising, is gladly ready to do so. It would welcome it if it then proved possible to reach a clear and categorical understanding on a sure basis.
Berlin, April 27, 1939.