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  • T

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>HE FIRST WORLD WAR

     

    ALLIANCES, IMPERIALISM, AND THE ROAD TO WAR

    After the dismissal of Bismarck by Kaiser William, a diplomatic revolution

    occurred resulting from the Kaisers decision to steer a new course in world

    affairs. The young emperor repudiated Bismarcks policy toward Russia by not

    renewing in 1890 the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887, after which Russia turned

    to France for an ally. The Kaiser also proceeded to alienate England by building

    a large naval fleet and pursuing an imperialist foreign policy. The building

    of a deterrent fleet, which was to be two-thirds of the size of Englands, was

    a matter of prestige for him and his advisers, especially Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz

    (18491930). Although England and Germany could have been natural

    allies had Germany not pursued its naval and colonial policies, these placed

    Germany and England on a collision course. A naval arms race ensued in addition

    to the military arms race already taking place.

    In the imperialist race to divide the world among the European nations,

    William II demanded a place in the sun for a German colonial empire. German

    navalism and imperialism went hand in hand with theories of Social Darwinism,

    which linked the struggle among nations and individuals to policies

    that would make Germany the strongest nation and the most fit in the struggle

    among nations to survive. German imperialism did not have any great success:

    Between 1897 and 1899 only Tsingsau, the Caroline-Marianne-Palau

    islands, and parts of the Samoan islands were colonized. The Kaisers aggressive

    speeches and the brutality shown by colonial troops in suppressing colonial

    uprisings damaged Germanys reputation in the world.

    Furthermore, the Kaiser interfered in the imperialist interests of Britain in

    South Africa, dispatching the famous Krüger Telegram congratulating the Boer

    Free State in repulsing the Jameson raid and also warning that Germany would

    not allow any attack on that Transvaal state.

    Moreover, the Reich did not take advantage of the opportunity for a rapprochement

    with Great Britain when Anglo-French rivalry reached a peak over

    the Sudan in the Fashoda conflict in 1898. In addition to the building of a battle

    fleet, the Berlin to Baghdad railway project challenged British interests in

    the Middle East and India. In 1904 Britain and France finally settled their differences

    over colonial policy and signed the Entente Cordiale. German attempts

    to take control of Morocco failed over the joint opposition of Britain and

    France. The defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (190405) encouraged

    Russia to join with Britain and France in 1907 to form the Triple Entente, with

    the result that Germany began to feel encircled.

    102

    The competition between Austria and Russia in the Balkans created further

    crises, especially when Russia and its ally Serbia backed down in 1908 over the

    annexation by Austria-Hungary of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The attempt made by

    The First World War 103

    A World War I

    recruiting poster

    featuring a German

    soldier, which says

    Everything for the

    Fatherland,

    everything for

    freedom (Library of

    Congress)

    the Balkan people to become united into nation-states during the Balkan Wars

    of 191213 by dividing up the European territories of Turkey further heated up

    the powder barrel of Europe in the Balkans. On June 28, 1914, the Austrian

    heir to the throne, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his wife were assassinated

    in Sarajevo by a young Serbian, Gavrilo Princip, working for the secret nationalist

    society the Black Hand. The Austrians decided to solve the problem of Serbian

    nationalism by resisting the Serbian governments practically complete

    acceptance of its ultimatum. The Austrian government was emboldened by the

    secret support it received from the German military. While German diplomacy

    was geared toward avoiding war, the army was not. Great Britain wanted to

    negotiate. On the other hand, France was bound to support the Russians in any

    Balkan conflict resulting from the agreement made in 1912 and thereby rejecting

    all Austrian annexation plans. When the Russians ordered a general mobilization

    on July 31, 1914, after negotiations between the Kaiser and the Russian

    czar failed to halt the march to war, Berlin decided in favor of a military solution,

    ordering mobilization. The organization of the European powers into two

    opposing alliance systems and the mobilization plans of their armies destroyed

    any hope of solving the conflict through negotiation. Although reluctant, Great

    Britain finally decided for war with Germany when the Germans violated Belgian

    neutrality.

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