You are on page 1of 19


Alliance System
was a tribute
to his ingenuity
but lacked both
utility and cohesion

Anna Fantini, Coco Koban, Clmentine Lucas, Simon Lewerenz, Edoardo Tamburelli
The Iron Chancellor (1815-1898)

1862-1890 Prussia, Germany, European affairs

Macht get for Recht - diplomacy of Realpolitik,
powerful domestic rule
In politics there are no certainties - master
strategist, use of balance of power diplomacy
But in doing so he laid the groundwork for both
World Wars
Realpolitik for Bismarck
depended on flexibility
and on the ability to
exploit every available
option without the
constraint of ideology.

- Kissinger, Diplomacy
Europe in 1871

Germany great threat to the peace of Europe

but for Bismarck satiated power
From engineering wars to engineering peace
Objectives: good relations, protection,
dominance, avoid war
Strategy: befriend Britain and Russia,
subordinate Austria-Hungary, isolate France,
avoid alliance France-Russia
Europe in the 1870s (5 powers)
The 5 powers of Europe
They had difficult choices to make as to whether they let
their foreign policies be determined by domestic concerns
or heed the rules of the international systemit was
hardly possible to do both. As a result they performed a
balancing act on a tight rope: a wrong step could cause
their fall, either because they would be overthrown by their
own people, or they would risk war with other Great

- A Balancing Act: Domestic Pressures and International

Systemic Constraints in the Foreign Policies of the Great
Powers, 18481851, Matthias Schulz

Neighbor to Germany, a power of the first rank

Serious threat: defeated (Franco-Prussian War)
and seeking revanche on Germany
Bismarcks strategy:
stir up hostility from any of Frances potential allies
encouarge the creation of a republican France
encourage Frances colonial policy
Delighted to see France scattering energies in
new areas while picking up new enemies along
the way
Great Britain

In order to secure further French isolation,

Bismarck did also pursue cooperation with
Great Britain
Worlds most powerful navy but small army
Encouraged British imperialism to drive an
important wedge between Great Britain and
Austria-Hungary and Russia

Reduce tensions between the two, due to their

ambitions in the Balkans
Dreikaiserbund (1873) The League of the 3
Emperors: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia
Territorial disputes in the Balkans and break-up
of the alliance (1875)
Congress of Berlin (1875-78) with Bismarck
playing the role of the honest broker

Dual Alliance (1879) Austria-Hungary

Triple Alliance (1882) Italy
Three Emperors League (1873 + 1881)
Reinsurance Treaty (1887) secret agreement

Bismarck believed that he had positioned Germany

between these main powers and this would
maintain the balance of Europe
Lack of utility and cohesion - why?

Failure to keep Austria-Hungary and Russia in

good terms and to reconcile France
System of stop-gaps: alliances seen as a
temporary solution, many were secret and didnt
withstand the long term
Disregard of the wishes of small nations seen as
pawns in a great game
Whitfield: successors were unable to manage the
alliance system he left behind partly because it was
unsustainable, partly because they lacked Bismarcks
Because [the] nuances [of power]
eluded Bismarcks successors and
imitators, the application of his
supposed lessons led to an armament
race and World War I.
- Kissinger

Bismarcks Realpolitik Otto Pflanze

Between Saviour and Villain: 100 years of

Bismarck Biographies Karina Urbach
Diplomacy Henry Kissinger

Bismarck: A life Jonathan Steinberg

Germany, 1848-1914 - Bob Whitfield (2000)