Bismarckian Alliance


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 Islands.
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 Powers.


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