Would you consider France a prosperous country?
The German Empire
Dr. Bernd Ulrich
Dr. Bernd Ulrich, born in 1956, is a self-employed historian and works as a publicist, (radio) author and curator. An overview of his work can be found at: www.berndulrich.com.
The survivability of the newly founded nation state with the German Empire did not depend solely on the possibilities and limits of a skillful foreign policy. But its importance is evident from the fact that Bismarck always saw it as a lever to stabilize the class state internally. The "alliance between the manor and the furnace" (Bismarck) also had to be cemented through successes in foreign policy. Especially in view of the existing potential for overthrow in the European monarchies - the uprising of the Paris Commune in the Franco-German war made this clear again - Bismarck's foreign policy, like his successors, was therefore not only determined by the "nightmare of coalitions" (cauchemar des coalitions), but also about the "nightmare of the revolution".
Otto von Bismarck in the "Kissinger Diktat" of June 15, 1877
Coalitions against us can be formed on a Western-powerful basis with the entry of Austria, more dangerously perhaps on a Russian-Austrian-French basis; a great intimacy between two of the last three powers would at any time offer the third among them the means of putting a very sensitive pressure on us. Concerned about these eventualities, not immediately, but over the years, I would regard the oriental crisis as desirable results for us:
- Gravitation (in the sense of: focus / alignment) of Russian and Austrian interests and mutual rivalries to the east,
- the reason for Russia to take a strong defensive position in the East and on its coasts and to need our alliance,
- for England and Russia a satisfactory status quo, which gives them the same interest in the preservation of the existing that we have,
- the detachment of England from France, which remains hostile to us, because of Egypt and the Mediterranean,
- Relations between Russia and Austria, which make it difficult for both of them to jointly establish the anti-German conspiracy against us, to which centralistic or clerical elements in Austria might be inclined.
Hegemonic consolidation under BismarckFor the time being, the most obvious expression was the fear of an anti-German coalition in September 1872, when Tsar Alexander II, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Emperor Wilhelm I met to express their monarchical solidarity for "the maintenance of European peace against all shocks" to insure. The meeting led directly to the so-called three emperor agreement of June and October 1873.
In terms of foreign policy, it primarily served to isolate France. That country that, after the defeat by Prussia-Germany and the subsequent forced cession of Alsace-Lorraine, as well as a reparation payment of 5 billion francs, was looking for revenge. French diplomats began to approach Russia as early as the summer of 1871. Above all, Bismarck was able to put a stop to this development for the time being with the Three Emperor Agreement. In general, the foreign policy isolation of the western neighbor, who is considered a "hereditary enemy", should remain a central cornerstone of foreign policy. As early as the crisis year of 1874, however, it was clear that the German-Russian relationship was beginning to cool down again and France continued to seek solidarity with Germany's eastern neighbor.
Against this background, Bismarck tried to resume the strategy of the threat of war, which was so successful in the context of the wars of unification, in order to discipline France on the one hand in its revenge war lusts and on the other hand to isolate it from the European powers. These attempts culminated in the war-in-sight crisis of 1875 - and failed: after a law had been passed in France in March 1875 that resulted in military reinforcements, the government-affiliated newspaper "Die Post "and, probably with Bismarck's approval, an article under the headline" Is War In Sight? " It is true that Bismarck - unlike many leading military officers - had no intention of waging a preventive war against France. But in his eyes the case was ideally suited to test the reactions of England and Russia in particular, and also to demonstrate Austria-Hungary's military resolve.
But the unmistakable reactions of Russia and England, not to tolerate a war similar to the one brought about in 1870, or to make it possible in the first place by failing to intervene, made one thing clear to the Chancellor: the option of war was out of the question in order to influence the European balance of power and to secure the existence of the German Reich. What followed was a "politics of relative self-restraint" (Jost Dülffer), yes, the discovery of a "law of movement (es), namely to create a balance through the controlled use of power-political rivalries and to bring about peace through the restrained cultivation of international tensions". (Klaus Hildebrand) This may be formulated a little too idealistically, but characterizes the basic character of the hegemonic attempts at security in the 1870s and 1880s quite precisely.
The empire is saturatedTo test the newly gained knowledge, the open oriental question - which means nothing else than the gradual decline of the Ottoman Empire and the resulting territorial claims of the European powers - and one of the many Balkan crises offered a first opportunity. From the summer of 1875 uprisings against Turkish rule in the Balkans had increased. The interests of Russia and Austria-Hungary were also directly affected, and - after the Tsar began a war against Turkey on April 24, 1877 and ended it with a dictated peace on March 3, 1878 - English ambitions were to be taken into account. Since the Crimean War (1853-1856), which had also started as a Russian-Turkish war and in which the religiously instrumentalized will to conquer Russia had finally met the determined resistance of England and France, every conflict in this region threatened to turn into a European war.
Otto von Bismarck in a speech to the Reichstag on February 19, 1878 with a view to the Berlin Congress in June and July 1878
I have many years of experience in these things and have often convinced myself: when there are two of you, the thread falls more often, and out of false shame you don't take it up again. The moment when one could pick up the thread again passes, and one separates into silence and is out of tune. But if a third person is there, he can easily pick up the thread again, yes, if separated, he brings them together again. This is the role I am thinking of.
From: Otto von Bismarck, Gesammelte Werke (old Friedrichsruher edition), 19 vols., 1924-1933, vol. 11, pp. 526/27.
Bismarck's foreign policy ambitions focused on maintaining European peace because war would destroy the empire. "We have", he explained in a speech in the Reichstag on January 11, 1887, "no warlike needs, we belong to - what old Prince Metternich called: saturated states, we have no needs that we could fight for by the sword . " However, that did not mean that the sword should not be kept sharp for the coming war and for defense against internal 'enemies'. While still under Bismarck and supported by him, two military drafts were passed in 1887 and 1890, which together with that of 1893 almost doubled the strength of the army.
The new foreign policy
Immediately after Bismarck's resignation as Reich Chancellor, on March 25, 1890, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Maximilian Graf von Berchem, reflected in a note on the reasons that had led to the non-renewal of the reinsurance treaty with Russia
From: Institute for Foreign Policy in Hamburg (ed.), The Foreign Policy of the German Reich 1871-1914, the only abridged edition of the official large file publication of the German Reich government authorized by the Foreign Office. Direction: Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Friedrich Thimme, Berlin 1928, vol. I, p. 461/62.
Wilhelminism and world politics
Alfred von Tirpitz, who was appointed State Secretary in the Reichsmarineamt a year later, explains the motives for armament to the former head of the Admiralty, Albrecht von Stosch, on 13.23.1896
But if we want to go out into the world and gain economic strength through the sea, then we will erect a completely hollow building if we do not at the same time acquire a certain degree of naval strength. In going out, we encounter existing or future interests everywhere. This means that there are conflicts of interest.Now, after the prestige of 1870 has faded, how can the most skilful politics achieve anything without real power corresponding to the diversity of interests? In terms of world politics, however, only sea power is versatile. That is why, without the need for war, we will always draw the short straw politically. It must be taken into account that England has lost the belief that we are sending our army into the fire against Russia in her favor. Conversely, England can make very substantial concessions to Russia in East Asia if Germany pays the bill. In the latter circumstance there is a risk if we z. At the moment become involved in a conflict which affects Russia, France and England. Even if we wanted to say that we are not waging a war because of transatlantic interests, we do not say the same to other three states and so we continue to work at a political disadvantage. (...)
From: Ritter, Das Deutsche Kaiserreich, pp. 301f.
The writer Theodor Fontane writes about the emperor in a letter to his friend, the district judge Georg Friedländer, on April 5, 1897
He is very insignificant, brisk, and has a full understanding of the fact that a German Kaiser is something different from a Margrave of Brandenburg. He has a million soldiers and wants a hundred ironclad ships; he dreams (and I will give him credit for this dream) of a humiliation of England. Germany should be on top, in everyone and everything. All of this - whether it is wise and feasible, I'll leave it open - touches me sympathetically and I wanted to willingly follow him on his rope route if I saw that he had the right chalk under his feet and the right balancing poles in his hands. But he didn't. He wants, if not the impossible, at least the most dangerous, with the wrong equipment, with insufficient resources. (...)
Prussia - and indirectly all of Germany - suffers from our East Elbe. Our nobility must be passed over; one can visit him like the Egyptian museum and bow to Ramses and Amenophis, but rule the country for his love, in the delusion: this nobility is the country - that is our misfortune and as long as this condition persists, there is a further development Outwardly unthinkable of German power and German reputation.
From: Theodor Fontane, letters, edited by Walter Keitel and Helmuth Nürnberger, 4 vol., Vol. 4 (1890-1898), 642/43.
Nevertheless, there was another chance to come to an understanding with England in 1898. The British Colonial Minister Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) submitted the "wish" for a treaty with the Triple Alliance to the German Ambassador in London, Paul Graf von Hatzfeld (1831-1901). Convinced that England was threatening to become overblown in world politics and therefore had to look for allies, the offer was meant seriously. But it was not even seriously examined by the German government. In Wilhelmstrasse they were firmly convinced that they could maintain the freedom of action guaranteed by the allegedly irreconcilable antagonism between England and Russia and by the colonial conflicts between England and France.
From the first Reichstag speech by the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bernhard von Bülow, in the Reichstag on December 6, 1897
We consider it one of our most important tasks to promote and look after the interests of our shipping, our trade and our industry, especially in East Asia. (...) We must demand that the German missionary and the German entrepreneur, the German wares, the German flag and the German ship are just as respected in China as those of other powers. We are finally ready to take the interests of other great powers into account in East Asia, with the sure foresight that our own interests will also be given due consideration. In a word: we don't want to overshadow anyone, but we also demand our place in the sun.
From: Prince Bülow's speeches along with documentary contributions to his politics. Edited by Johannes Penzler, Vol. 1, Berlin 1907, p. 71.
At the end of Bülow's term in office, the one-way street of self-inflicted foreign policy isolation had made great strides. The horror picture of a war on two fronts, which was still a burden to Bismarck like an alp, could become a reality. And beyond the "hereditary enemy" France and the tsarist empire, which had congealed into an absolute enemy image, Great Britain, provoked by the construction of the German battle fleet, was now one of the possible opponents in a great European war. The new Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856 - 1921) managed to localize the Balkan Wars of 1912/13 in joint crisis management with England. But the idea of breaking the "encirclement" by fleeing forward into an alleged preventive war won more and more supporters in Germany
After the offer of peace and alliance by the British Colonial Minister Joseph Chamberlain to Germany in January 1901, the lecturing council in the Foreign Office noted Friedrich von Holstein, who - since the journalist Maximilian Harden called him that - epitome of the "gray eminence"
We can wait, time is running out for us. A sensible agreement with England, i.e. one in which the almost certain danger of war to which we are thereby exposing is properly taken into account, can, in my opinion, only be achieved when the feeling of the predicament in England has become more general than it is today.
From: Johannes Hohlfeld (ed.), Documents of German Politics and History from 1848 to the Present. 2 vol., Vol. II, p.122
Selected literature:Konrad Canis, Bismarck's Foreign Policy 1870-1890. Rise and Endangerment, Paderborn 2003
Ders., Von Bismarck on world politics. German Foreign Policy 1890-1902, Berlin 1997
Ders., The way into the abyss. German foreign policy 1902-1914, Paderborn 2011
Christopher Clark, Wilhelm II. - The rule of the last German emperor, Munich 2008 (2000)
Jost Dülffer, Hans Huebner (eds.), Otto von Bismarck. Person - Politics - Myth, Berlin 1993
Ders., Karl Holl (ed.), Ready for War. War mentality in Wilhelmine Germany 1890-1914, Göttingen 1986
Klaus Hildebrandt, German Foreign Policy 1871-1918, Munich 1994 (1989)
Ders., The Past Kingdom. German Foreign Policy from Bismarck to Hitler 1871-1945, Stuttgart 1995
Andreas Hillgruber, Bismarck's Foreign Policy, Freiburg 1972
Rainer Lahme, German Foreign Policy 1890 - 1894. From Bismarck's Equilibrium Policy to Caprivi's Alliance Strategy, Göttingen 1990
Wolfgang J. Mommsen, The Age of Imperialism, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg 1987 (1969)
Ders .: Great power position and world politics 1870-1914. The foreign policy of the German Reich, Berlin 1993
Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Bismarck and Imperialism, Cologne 1973 (1969)
Gilbert Ziebura (ed.), Basic Issues in German Foreign Policy since 1871, Darmstadt 1975 (Paths of Research, Vol. CCCXV)
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