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Unit 2: German Foreign Policy 1900-14
Alliances and War plans
German victory in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 was followed up by
the creation of a system of alliances to protect the new empire; the
architect of this alliance system was the chancellor Bismarck.
At its heart was the isolation of France who sought revenge for the loss
of Alsace-Lorraine and the humiliation of 1870. The pillars of this policy
The dreikaiserbund (league of three empires) of 1881 was an
understanding of how the peace could be kept between
Austria-Hungary, Russia and Germany
The triple alliance of 1882 between Austria-Hungary, Italy and
Bismarck's departure from the post of chancellor had a huge impact on
German foreign policy. The new Kaiser Wilhelm II embarked on his new
course by refusing to renew the Reassurance treaty between Germany
and Russia that guaranteed that each country would not attack each
other. Field Marshall Schlieffen began to work on a plan that would mean
that Germany could fight a war on two fronts by knocking out France
before turning on to Russia. At the heart of plan was a "lightning strike"
of German forces through Low Countries and northern France (Blitzkrieg).
The plan relied on slow French and even slower Russian mobilisation.
Germany and Britain
The Kaiser's attitude towards Britain was complex. The following years
saw a fundamental sea change in the relationship between Britain and
Flottenpolitik and a series of navy laws were a direct challenge to
British naval supremacy and were viewed as such in Britain. Their
impact was to spark a naval race between the two countries.
In 1901, the British made overtures towards the Germans for an
alliance, but these were spurned by the German Foreign Office,
which insisted that Britain would have to commit to the Triple
However over the coming years Britain ended its "splendid isolation"
and her alliance with japan and entered agreement with France and
Russia, this left Germany over reliant on Austria-Hungary.
Limits to Weltpolitik
The reality was that, despite considerable pressure from groups such as
Colonial Society, it did not achieve much in terms of new territory.
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