Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, April 13, 2020

The 19th Century Roots of the Great War,
Part II

See Yesterday's Entry for Part I

Bismarck Visiting With Emperor Franz Joseph

5. Austria-Hungary and Germany Form Their Alliance, 5 October 1879

Facts: As a bulwark against Russia and to restrain Austria-Hungary from Balkan
misadventure, Bismarck negotiated a "Dual Alliance" with Franz Josef, who gained German military support in return.

Importance: Bismarck had tied the fate of Germany to a once-great, but disintegrating, power. In 1882 Italy makes it a Triple Alliance but will  not fight with them in 1914.

6. Wilhelm II Crowned Kaiser / Bismarck's Days as Chancellor Are Numbered,  15 June 1888

Facts: Incompatible in temperament, aspirations, and over methods for conducting diplomacy, Bismarck and the Kaiser worked together for two years before the Iron Chancellor was sent packing.  

Importance: Wilhelm subsequently played a more personal and often destructive role in shaping policy, with the Russian-German relationship quickly withering.

7. French and Russian Rapprochement Follows the Fall of Bismarck, 1892–1894

Facts: As Karl Marx once predicted, France and Russia—without Bismarck's skilled hand to prevent it—fell into each other's arms. A military agreement was followed by a full alliance and economic links.

Importance: Germany and Austria now had to plan for the possibility of a two-front war, although Russia was preoccupied with expanding in Asia at the time.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, Admiral Tirpitz, and General Moltke the Younger

8. German Strategic Planning Becomes Incoherent, 1890s–20th Century

Facts: A split developed in German strategic thinking as the Army—responding to the French-Russian Entente—began planning for a two-front ground war, while the Navy—responding to the Kaiser's Weltpolitik imperial policy—prepared to challenge the primacy of the Royal Navy and the Foreign Office advocated economic penetration into the Middle East with such ventures as the Berlin-Baghdad Railway that threatened Russian interests and the British Raj. Meanwhile, the Kaiser's public utterances succeeded in alarming all the other powers.

Importance: These measures collectively succeeded in driving the opposing
coalition of 1914 into one another's arms. 

Sources: Over the Top Magazine,  May 2008 and January 2014

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