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war debts

war debts. This article discusses the obligations incurred by foreign governments for loans made to them by the United States during and shortly after World War I. For international obligations arising out of World War II, see lend-lease. As early as 1914 the United States began to extend credits for the purchase of American goods to the European Allies, and in 1915 the first of many long-term war loans was made to the Allied powers. In addition to loans made during the war itself, loans and credits were extended for several years after the armistice, both to allied and former enemy nations. All the debtor nations except Russia (where the USSR had replaced the Russian Empire) recognized their obligations. In 1922 the World War Foreign Debt Commission of the United States negotiated with 15 European countries and set the funded indebtedness, based on capacity to pay, at slightly more than $11.5 billion. A 62-year period of repayment was arranged for, and thus principal and interest charges would have amounted to more than $22 billion. The United States refused to reduce the debt further, but the serious European financial situation caused U.S. agreement on some reductions in 1925–26. Payments were made until 1931, largely out of the reparations that the Allies received from Germany. In 1931, in the face of the worldwide economic depression, President Hoover's proposal for a one-year moratorium on all intergovernmental obligations was adopted. In the Lausanne Pact of 1932 the debtors greatly reduced German reparations in the hope that the United States would release all claims. The United States refused. Six countries made token payments in 1933, but in 1934 all the debtors formally defaulted except Hungary, which paid interest until 1939, and Finland, which continued to pay in full.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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