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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

of alliances.

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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