Prior to 1914, the Europe appeared “ripe” for war outburst; therefore, the causes of the World War I can be traced back before 1914. The situation was elusive, as it had fostered conflicts in Europe, so that it only needed a spark to push the whole Europe into war. As the war began, countries resorted to forming alliances with other nations for protection. In other words, alliances were perceived as a mechanism and a measure of protection, which acted as restraining larger states as it made war appear smaller to them. The alliances emerged because of the coalition between nation allies against the enemy nations. For instance, during the World War I, the alliances existed between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy on the one side and Russia, France, and Great Britain on the other side. However, in 1873, Germany also had a coalition with Russia, which was called the Three Emperors’ League and which later collapsed in 1878 when Russia felt that its commitments were undermined (Williams, 2013). The subject of politics, which were guided by treaties, dominated between the two rival alliances. Germany became the commanding party in its alliances with Austria-Hungary and Italy after its unification in 1897 because this disturbed the “balance of power” in Europe. The continuous growing of Germany’s stability after its unification spiked fear into France, Russia, and Great Britain who formed an alliance as well. The division enhanced the bond between Germany and Austria-Hungarian Empire.
German Alliance Behavior before 1914
Before the World War I, Germany entered a series of alliances as a measure of seeking protection and political stability. The German mode of creating the coalitions was based on the political situation in Europe. In this respect, it engaged in three subsequent alliances, namely the Three-Emperors’ League in 1873, the Dual Alliance in 1879, and the Triple Alliance in 1882 (Williams, 2013).
The Three Emperors’ League, also known as the Three Emperors’ Treaty, was an alliance between Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Germany (Williams, 2013). Otto von Bismarck, who was the Prussian Statesman alongside Julius Andrassy and Price Gorchakov, primarily formed the alliance. The primary objective of the alliance was to restore the European balance of power (Williams, 2013). Germany as a member benefited as the alliance consolidated the general peace through the Treaty that created the defensive position for all the member states. This alliance formulated the Treaty that served the concerns and reciprocal interests of the three nations. The Treaty had three articles that urged the Germans to sign it. The Article I stated that in case one of the member states engaged in the war with a fourth party, the two others should maintain a benevolent neutrality, as well as join and offer their support to localize the feud. In the Article II, Germany and Austria-Hungary benefited more as the Treaty obligated Russia to respect the interests stemming from the new position that Germany assured to Austria-Hungary in the Treaty of Berlin. Article III of the Treaty provided a guidance concerning the control of the Balkan Peninsula and the territorial status quo of Turkey in Europe. The alliance was effective but mostly it favored Germany, especially in the issue of the Balkan Peninsula. In the case, disorder erupted where Russia felt that its commitments were undermined. Eventually, the Three Emperors’ League collapsed in 1878 (Williams, 2013).
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Subsequently, after the collapse of the Three Emperors’ League, Germany and Austria-Hungary entered into another alliance in 1879 known as the Dual Alliance (Williams, 2013). Forming the Dual Alliance was inevitable for Germans after they failed to maintain a cordial relationship with Russia. In this respect, Otto von Bismarck decided to collaborate with Austria-Hungary, as it favored weaker cohorts, which they could control easily. Another reason for preferring the coalition with Austria-Hungary was that it would open up the Danube Valley for trading. Additionally, the Germans and the Austrians shared racial ties and it was illogical for them to engage in wars against one another, as they not only perceived one another as allies but as brothers as well. One more reason for the Germans’ decision was to prevent antagonizing with Britain by avoiding an association with Russia, which was Britain’s colonial enemy. Britain was scared of Russia receiving support from a powerful nation. On the other hand, Austria-Hungary agreed on the alliance as the Treaty assured it support in the events of the war (Williams, 2013). The terms of the Dual Alliance provided that the two parties would support each other in the case of the war if Russia or Russia and another third party attacked any of the two countries. Additionally, the terms provided that the two nations would stay impartial if one of the partners was confronted by a nation other than Russia (Williams, 2013).
As a result, Germany benefited more in the Dual Alliance, as it earned the services of a strong Austria-Hungary military, which helped it to maintain control over the Balkan Peninsula. However, Bismarck was not comfortable with the Dual Alliance because he dreaded that Russia could plan an association with France, making Germany face two enemies from two sides. For this reason, Bismarck contemplated reigniting friendship with Russia (Fromkin, 2007). Consequently, there was the restoration of the Three Emperors’ League in 1881, which was realistic after Czar Alexander III ascent to power in Russia, after the assassination of Alexander II, his father. The revitalization of the League reviewed the Balkans territory division, as this was the reason for its collapse. The new League provided three terms concerning the Balkan Peninsula. First, it provided that the Balkan territory would be split into two sections, which were the Eastern Balkan, (Bulgaria) and the Western Balkan (current Bosnia and Herzegovina) which were handed to Russia and Austria-Hungary respectively. Second, all the member states arranged to consult one another upon the occurrence of a crisis similar to the Balkan crisis. Third, the three participants agreed to maintain neutrality in case one of them entered the war with an enemy. Surprisingly, the League collapsed for the second time when Russia and Austria clashed for the control of Peninsula again.
After the failure of strengthening the Dual Alliance with the revival of the Three Emperors’ League, Germany considered another coalition to remain powerful. As predicted, Russia and France formed an alliance, typically known as the Franco-Russian Alliance, to counter the strengthening of the alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Driven by anti-Russian and anti-French sentiments, Bismarck proposed the Triple Alliance that would involve Italy as the third party (Williams, 2013). The three members signed the Treaty, promising to provide military support to one another in times of war with their common enemies that included the French and Russian powers. The Franco-Russian coalition was growing stronger as it started thwarting German operations both economically and politically, which angered Berlin. Relatedly, the Franco-Russian coalition boosted the Russian economy as Russia could access French loans and it encouraged French capitalists to invest in the Russian mining industry and raw materials. In response, Germany, under the leadership of Bismarck, attempted to distract the attention of France from receiving territories that Germany had previously seized, namely Alsace-Lorraine (Fromkin, 2007). The decision of France decision to seize Tunis in the Northern Africa, which was an Italian colony in Africa, angered the Italians, which made them join the Bismarck’s camp.
The Triple Alliance came into full operation in 1882 when the three parties signed the Treaty that had four articles. First, the article provided that in the event whereby France attacked either Germany or Italy, each party was obligated to offer military support to each other. Second, it stated that if Russia attacked Austria-Hungary, Italy would maintain neutrality but Austria-Hungary will defend Italy when attacked by France (Williams, 2013). Third, in case one of the three member states was attacked by two or more enemies, other signatories were bound to offer their military support. Lastly, Italy requested that the Treaty should not operate against Britain under any circumstances (Williams, 2013).
Consequently, Central Europe had split into two blocs. At that time, Germany had an assured support of Italy against France and Austria-Hungary against Russia. Notably, Bismarck managed to maintain a secretive friendship with Russia during their League relationship, Italy, and Austria-Hungary, as well as managed to detach France from the alliance. Bismarck’s diplomatic intelligence was effective in handling the European major powers, which highly benefited Germany.
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In spite of the fact that the Triple Alliance looked stable, it appeared to collapse, as Italy’s commitment to the coalition was uncertain because Austria-Hungary was their colonial enemy. France was an ally of the Italian unit, therefore, in case the Italian anger at France over the Tunis issue subsided, Italy would prefer a coalition with France to that of Austria-Hungary. Above all, German benefited more than any other party in the alliances did since it had positioned many allies around. Moreover, Bismarck’s move improved Germany’s stability by establishing informal, friendly ties with British to prevent colonial conflict with Britain.
Germany Decision to Support Austria-Hungary
In the early months of 1914, the World War appeared imminent. There was a tension between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The situation became tenser after a Serbian nationalist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914 (Fromkin, 2007). According to the Triple Alliance Treaty, Germany provided Austria-Hungary an unconditional military support in its looming conflict with Serbia. Within days after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Austro-Hungarian foreign ministry sent an ambassador to Berlin, asking for an immediate action against Serbia following the Serbian invasion of the Balkan Peninsula. Eventually, Russia supported Serbia, which stressed the need for an immediate war. Serbia appeared to be ready for war when Russia also pledged to support (Fromkin, 2007). Germany had enmity with Russia, which meant that the war with its ally and a treaty member would be the war for all two blocks in Central Europe. On July 5, 1914, the war was impending and the Germans headed by Kaiser Wilhelm consulted German chancellors regarding the Austro-Hungarian request for support (Williams, 2013).
Support from Germany was fueled by the fact that Wilhelm had also been angry at the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as he had met Archduke barely 2 weeks before over the issue of Balkan before his death (Fromkin, 2007). Additionally, the Serbians had shown interest in the control of Balkan, a territory that was in control of both Germany and Austria-Hungry. Serbian interest in the Balkan is believed to be the reason a Serbian citizen assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Therefore, after consultation, Kaiser Wilhelm pledged a full support to Austria-Hungary, an assurance that was referred to as the blank check (Fromkin, 2007).
The Origin of World War I
The German issuance of the blank check assurance to Austria-Hungry marked a critical flash in the series of actions, leading to the outburst of the World War I in Europe during the summer of 1914 (Fromkin, 2007). Historians argued that if Germany had not interfered with the Balkan feuds, it would have remained a localized conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Therefore, the German assurance to support Austria-Hungry alerted Russia that was the Serbian ally. Russia also had powerful allies such as France and the Great Britain that were ready to participate in the war (Fromkin, 2007). When the Balkan situation worsened, Austria issued an ultimatum to Serbia to vacate the Balkan territory, which did not have any effect. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungry declared the war on Serbia. Russia came in defense of the Serbians as they had weaker soldiers. Subsequently, Germany declared war on Russia in defense of the ally (Fromkin, 2007). In August, other nations, including France and Italy, entered the war. Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungry were fighting Russia, France, Serbia, and the Great Britain (Williams, 2013). This marked the infamous World War I, which was characterized by massive killings of soldiers from both camps.
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German alliance behavior before 1914 was tactical as all the treaties signed were in its favor. The Three Emperors’ League, including Germany, Austria-Hungry, and Russia placed Germany in a more stable position for both political and economic reasons. For instance, Germany’s coalition with Austria-Hungry not only provided security protection but also opened up Danube Valley, which provided Germany with suitable trading routes, thus boosting its economy. However, the alliances are to be blamed for the outburst of the World War I since they divided the Central Europe into two blocks, and party members had to honor the treaties. Particularly, the origin of the World War I is connected to the conflict that erupted between Austria-Hungry and Serbia over the Balkan territory issue, which led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The conflict escalated, leading to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, which was later joined by their allies. Eventually, the whole world found itself in the war that led to the killings of thousands of soldiers, as well as innocent civilians.