Bismarck’s Foreign Policy 1871-1890
1873 Formation of the Dreikaiserbund
1878 The Congress of Berlin
1879 The Dual Alliance
1881 The renewal of the Dreikaiserbund
1887 The Reinsurance Treaty.
Diplomatic genius guided by the principles of keeping France isolated and remaining on good terms with both Austria and Russia. Introduction:
Bismarck had defeated each of his enemies – Denmark, Austria, and France – in isolation. He realised that a powerful united Germany could not expect to fight another carefully insulated war. After 1871 Bismarck was committed to preserving the peace of Europe. There were five powers in Europe: Germany, Britain, France, Austria and Russia. France was bitter at her loss in the recent war and Britain did not wish to get involved in European affairs. A resurgent France, powerful and allied to another European power haunted Bismarck. The main aims of Bismarck’s foreign policy were based around the need to keep France isolated and prevent this from happening. To achieve this aim he needed to keep on good terms with both Austria and Russia. This would prevent a two-front war in the future. The key in Bismarck’s view to German interests lay in good relations with Russia and Austria. As he said “you forget the importance of being a party of three on the European chessboard.” This would deprive France of a potential ally. This was a difficult task as Austria and Russia were rivals in the Balkans. The friendship with both, Bismarck hoped, would reduce tensions between both over the Balkans. The Dreikaiserbund
In 1873 the formation of the Dreikaiserbund (the League of the Three Emperors) between Germany, Austria and Russia was an example of Bismarck’s policy of isolating France. This was an alliance of three conservative monarchies designed to stop the spread of revolution in Europe and preserve the status quo in Europe. However the alliance had little substance. There were no military features to it as Austria refused to agree to any. It did however ensure co-operation among the three Eastern powers rather than rivalry which was Bismarck’s primary objective. The War in Sight Crisis
France had recovered quickly after the Franco–Prussian war. In 1875 the “War-in-sight” crisis resulted from an attempt to bully France into abandoning her rearmament programme. The export of horses to France was forbidden (usually a sign of preparation for war). Then an article appeared in the influential Berliner Post entitled “Is war in sight?” It was almost certainly inspired by Bismarck. There was talk from leading German officials about the possibility of a preventative war. The episode resulted in a German diplomatic defeat as Russia backed a British protest to Berlin. The Dreikaiserbund had been weakened. The affair brought home the dangers of a two front war to Bismarck. After this episode he proceeded with the utmost caution. Crisis in the Balkans
The Dreikaiserbund was destroyed as a result of events in the Balkans. The Balkans was of no interest to Bismarck. (He remarked that the area was not “the healthy bones of single Pomeranian musketeer.”) However he was worried about Austrian-Russian rivalry in the region. In the Balkans there was a series of revolts against the Ottoman Empire among the Sultan’s Christian subjects between 1875 and 1876. In 1877 after attempts to impose reforms on the Turkish Empire failed, the Russo-Turkish war broke out. Russia was acting in her role as the traditional protector of the Sultan’s Orthodox and Slav subjects. Before the war, Russia had promised Austria that she would not create a big Bulgaria if she won. After fierce resistance the Turks surrendered and signed the Treaty of San Stefano in March. The treaty proposed the creation of a big Bulgaria. This would be dominated by Russia. This development was totally unacceptable to Britain who always opposed Russian ambitions in the Mediterranean as it...
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