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Bismarckian Alliance Essay, Research Paper
The relations between the Great Powers in Europe changed a lot with the
accession to the throne of Wilhelm the II in 1888, his dismissal of
Chancellor Otto van Bismarck two year later and therefore the breakdown
of the Bismarckian Alliance System.
The unification of Germany, and the political greatness of Prussia and
the empire, are ascribed to the statesmanship of Bismarck. Bismarck
was the father of the German nation, he created it and he also
masterminded a plan to keep Germany safe from the enemy nations around
her. After the humiliation of the loss of Alcase and Lorraine, France
was bound to not pass away an opportunity to take revenge from Germany,
so to prevent this happening Bismarck constructed an elaborate network
One of the most important alliances of the many that were made was, the
Dreikaiserbund or the League of the the Three Emperors singed in 1872
between Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. The most important of the
articles in the treaty was that ^in case on of the High Contracting
Parties should find itself at war with a fourth Great Power, the two
other shall maintain towards it a benevolent neutrality and shall
devote their efforts to the localisation of the conflict^. But Russia
and Austria-Hungary drew suspicious of each other over conflicts in the
Balkans in 1887 and the League fell apart. So to replace that lose
Bismarck drew up the secret Dual Alliance with Austria in 1879, it was
a defensive alliance against Russian in case she attacks Austria. In
1882, Italy joined the Dual Alliance which created the Triple
Alliance. By 1887 Bismarck succeeded to bind Russian in a separate
alliance which was called the Reinsurance Treaty. Also Germany kept
friendly acquaintances with Britain so that such a powerful nation with
not be against Germany. This way, Bismarck^s plan succeeded and now
France was truly friendless, powerless and isolated.
Kaiser Wilhelm the II had a plan called ^Weltpolitik^ for Germany which
meant that he wanted Germany to be a world power with a large colonial
empire, strong and unbeatable in every possible way. Bismarck saw this
as a threat to the country^s peace he has aintained for twenty years
and his idea was that Germany should remain a land-based, peace-loving
European power as she has always been. The clash of ideas and values
between the thirty one year old, young Kaiser and the seventy five year
old chancellor led to Bismarck being forced to resign by Kaiser Wilhelm
II in 1890. Then the Kaiser appointed Count Georg Leo Caprivi
instead. ^Bismarck was able to juggle with three balls
(Austria-Hungary, Italy and Russia)^ said Caprivi. ^I can juggle with
only two^ and so the traditional dislike of Slavs kept Bismarck^s
successor from renewing the understanding with Russia even though his
excuse was that the alliance with Austria-Hungary would be damaged if
word of it leaked out.
France no doubt took advantage of this opportunity to get an ally, and
the Franco-Russian Entente was formed in 1891, which became a formal
alliance in 1894. The first article in the entente says ^If France is
attacked by Germany, or by Italy supported by Germany, Russian shall
employ all her available forces to attack Germany. If Russian is
attacked by Germany, or Austria supported by Germany, France shall
employ all her available forces to attack Germany.^ The 1891 alliance
marked the end of France^s long diplomatic isolation Bismarck had
worked on through all those years.
Historians generally agree that the Kaiser was an expansionist, who
wanted to increase Germany^s power in Europe and in the world at
large. He did not mind challenging the other colonial powers in a
struggle for prestige in various hot sports abroad. Also supporting
him, German industrialists and traders declared that to continue with
the economic growth, Germany had to become a great colonial power.
Some of them dreamt of uniting all the Germans in one Pan-German
state. Unfortunately Germany started her struggle for colonial power
way to late so had to settle down for a mere island called Caroline
Possession of overseas dominions (even though small) provided a good
excuse for the creation of a German navy. After reading ^The Influence
of Sea Power Upon History^ by Alfred Thayer Mahan, who noted that ^the
state which controlled the seas controlled its own fate^, the Kaiser
was sure that the key stone to world power was controlling the seas.
The Kaiser expresses his intentions for expansion early in 1896, and in
the next year he appointed Prince Bernhard von Bulow to handle the
diplomatic aspect of Germany^s new naval policy and Admiral von Tripitz
to direct the construction of the massive new fleet. Even though
Tripitz^s excuse for the expansion of the navy was over seas colonies,
he privately made a memorandum marked ^very secret^ saying that ^For
Germany the most dangerous naval enemy at the present time is England.
It is also enemy against which we most urgently require a certain
measure of naval force as a political power factor^
Both Wilhelm and Tripitz believed that Britain would respect them for
their new found power and Britain and Germany would develop a
friendship and coexist peacefully, this was part of Tripitz^s strategic
program for the navy, the alliance values. Britain, on the other hand,
saw no reason that Germany should want t fleet to challenge its own,
unless Germany intended to seek world domination. Britain knew that
she no longer possessed the vastly overshadowing dominance it once did,
so she became nervous about her policy of ^splendid isolation^ where
Britain was greatly detached from European affairs. But now, she could
not afford not to have an ally so starting from 1902 with the
Anglo-Japanese Alliance with Japan, Britain concluded agreements with
one rival seapower after the other.
Next, Britain became friends with her long time enemy France. The
Entente Cordiale was formed in 1904. With agreements such as France
letting Britain have a free hand in Egypt and Britain letting France
have a free hand in Morocco. Even though not a military alliance, the
entente was the beginning of the improvement of French-British
relations. If not for the Kaiser^s dismissal of Bismarck^s idea of a
peace-loving, land based power, the Entente Cordiale would have never
been singed and now, France had a strong ally and Britain was no longer
the enemy of France.
The Entente Cordiale was considered as an anti-German alliance in
Germany because Britain who was suspicious of the German^s underlying
intentions on the naval expansions and of course France, the arch rival
have got together against them. Now the Kaiser of Germany was
desperate to break up the entente between the British and the French.
With this intention he visited the Moroccan port of Tangier in 1905,
where he declared that Morroco should be independent of France.
Germany though that in the crisis that was bound follow, Britain would
isolate France but the German plan backfired as Britain stood by France
when Germany threatened war over Morocco. So the entente between the
two great nations strengthened and further military discussions were
carried out between France and Britain as a precautionary measure.
Making matters worse for Germany, her actions lead to Britain creating
an understanding with the Russian signing the Anglo-Russian Entente in
1907 settling their differences over Afghanistan, Tibet and Persia. If
Wilhelm the II and Bismarck^s successor Bulow had renewed the
Reassurance Treaty between Russia and Germany, Russia would not have
created an alliance with Britain.
Now that Britain was friends with both France and Russia, they created
the Triple Entente. Finally, the bi-polar structure that slowly
developed between the Triple Entente (France, Russia and Great Britain)
and the Triple Alliance (Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy) divided
Europe into two powerful rival camps. So the reakdown of the
Bismarckian Alliance System led to the formation of new alignments
between the Great Powers of Britain, France and Russia while Germany,
Italy and Austria-Hungary made another alliance against those Great
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