Historic Accords: 35 Curious Facts About Landmark Treaties & Agreements

1Hague Treaty Loophole

Hague Treaty Loophole

The Hague Treaty which was signed in 1899 outlawed the use of poison gas during war between the signatory powers. During World War 1, however Germany justified its use of chemical gas arguing that the Hague treaty had only banned chemical shells, rather than the use of gas projectors (allowing the gas to drift across enemy lines).

2. All major manufacturers of color laser printers entered a secret agreement with governments around the world to ensure that all printouts are forensically traceable. So every laser printer you buy today prints encoded yellow ink dots through which governments can track date, time and serial number of the printer that prints it.

3. After World War 2, despite the fact that USA signed an agreement to share nuclear information with the UK in exchange for their scientist's help, the USA lost the physical copy of the agreement. They questioned its authenticity when a copy was sent and then denied British scientists access to their own papers.

4. The Island of Faisans in the middle of the Bidasoa River, on the border of Spain and France, switches its ownership between the two countries every six months. This was agreed to as part of the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. This sort of joint sovereignty is called a condominium.

5. The US is obligated by treaty to go to war for 67 different countries (as of 2015) if they were to find themselves in conflict.

6Andorra's Delcation of War on Germany

Andorra's Delcation of War on Germany

Andorra declared war on Germany during World War 1, but didn't send any soldiers because they didn't have an army. At the Treaty of Versailles, Andorra was forgotten and technically remained at war with Germany, until the two countries declared peace in 1958.

7. Spitsbergen Treaty which was signed in 1920 gave the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic the right to be free from Norwegian taxes and duties. Therefore there are no alcohol taxes in Svalbard. In spite of this, alcohol is rationed there, with residents only allowed to get 24 cans of beer or 2 liters of hard liquor per month. Locals must present an alcohol card at purchase, while tourists use their boarding pass.

8. Slaveholders in the US knew that enslaved people were escaping to Mexico, the U.S. tried to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty, but Mexico refused to sign such a treaty, insisting that all enslaved people were free once they set foot on Mexican soil.

9. Benito Mussolini signed Vatican City into existence. The 1929 Lateran Treaty ended the dispute between the Italian government & the Catholic Church, which allowed the Vatican to exist as its own sovereign state and compensated the church $92 million (> $1 billion today) for the Papal states.

10. Environmental Modification Convention is an international treaty signed in 1977 which bans controlling the weather as a weapon of war. During the Vietnam War, the USA carried out Operation Popeye, a "cloud-seeding" mission to stimulate clouds in Vietnam to increase rainfall and lengthen the monsoon season. After the operation was declassified in 1974, the United Nations passed this resolution.

11Cherokee Freedmen Treaty

Cherokee Freedmen Treaty

The Cherokee and other Southeast Native American nations known as the Five Civilized Tribes held African-American slaves as workers and property. In 1866 they signed a treaty that freed them and granted them and their descendants, tribal citizenship after Emancipation. Since 1980s, however, the Cherokee Nation has ostracized them and is trying to strip them of tribal citizenship largely due to their darker complexion.

12. The current global framework of intellectual property protection, the TRIPS Agreement, went into effect in 1995. Before the agreement, national governments had divergent standards of what was patentable. India did not allow drugs to be patented, which is one reason it is a center of generic drug manufacturers.

13. Japan proposed an amendment to the Treaty of Versailles that outlawed all racial discrimination. Despite receiving a majority vote for it to be added to the treaty, Woodrow Wilson personally vetoed the measure and as a comprise let Japan claim several islands in the Pacific.

14. From Nov 1969 to Jun 1971, a Native American group occupied and held Alcatraz Island, claiming that, under the Treaty of Fort Laramie between the U.S. and the Lakota tribe, all retired, abandoned, or out-of-use federal land was to be returned to the Indians who once occupied it.

15. During World War 2, due to the Japan-Soviet neutrality pact, US aid to the Soviet port of Vladivostok (the Pacific Route) was carried by Soviet-Flagged ships only and was mostly left alone by the Japanese military. It thus became the safest path for military aid from the USA to the USSR.

16Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

After Soviet Russia signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, USSR invaded and annexed Poland. Under the “secret protocol” of this pact, Poland was divided into "spheres of influence" between these two powers. USSR claimed they invaded Poland to protect the Ukrainians and Belarusians who lived in the eastern part of Poland.

17. The Article 6 under the ‘Treaty of Canandaigua’ signed between the USA and the Iroquois in 1794 requires the USA to provide $4500 in goods every year to them. It is honored to this day, but Article 2 under this treaty which was laid to protect the land of the Oneida was mostly ignored and their land fell from 6,000,000 acres to just 32 acres in 1920.

18. The ‘Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia’ refers to the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 by the four signatories of Warsaw Pact who were USSR, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. During the invasion, Czech citizens removed or defaced all street signs except for those giving the direction back to Moscow.

19. In 1943, Winston Churchill called upon the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373 to allow the English Navy to lease ports in neutral Portugal. This gave England access to the Azores Islands and helped change the Battle of the Atlantic.

20. America's oldest, unbroken treaty relationship is with Morocco, which was the first nation to recognize the US. The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship was signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Sultan Muhammad III in 1786.

21Baltic Way

Baltic Way

Aug 23, 1989 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Hitler and Stalin, which had paved the way for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States. On this day, 2 million people (25% of the population) formed a chain across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania seeking independence from USSR. Within 6 months, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence.

22. Mahatama Gandhi modeled his Dandi march from the Boston tea party. He always quoted the American struggle for independence in his speeches. He even flavored his tea with salt, while signing Gandhi Irwin Pact to commemorate the influence of the Boston Tea Party in his satyagraha.

23. The Anglo-American Loan Agreement was a post World War 2 loan given to the UK by the United States and Canada to keep the British economy afloat. The loan was for $3.75 billion at a low 2% interest rate and Canada loaned an additional US$1.19 billion. It was only fully paid off on December 29, 2006.

24. In 1440, a land sale treaty between the Pope and Florence accidentally left out a small strip of land around Cospaia. The people of the area promptly declared their independence and remained sovereign for nearly 400 years.

25. The Treaty of Amritsar was executed by the British East India Company and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu in 1846 after the First Anglo-Sikh War. This treaty established the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 10 of the treaty required the Maharaja to send three pairs of Kashmiri shawls to be given to Queen Victoria.