The International Relations Between (1871-1914)!
The period between the ending of the Franco-Prussian War and the beginning of World War I witnessed revolutionary changes in the alignment of the Great Powers in Europe.
There seemed to be comparative calm in 1871, but in 1914, Europe was divided into two armed camps. It is both interesting and instructive to describe the grouping of the European States during this period.
- Three Emperors’ League
- Reinsurance Treaty
- The Austro-German Alliance (1879)
- The Triple Alliance (1882)
- How and why Italy left Triple Alliance
- Franco-Russian Alliance (1893)
- The Entente Cordiale (1904)
- Anglo-French Military and Naval Talks
- The Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907
- The Haldane Mission, 1912
- Encirclement of Germany
- Rivalry between Triple Alliance and Triple Entente
1. Three Emperors’ League:
Between 1871 and 1890, there was the hegemony of Germany in European affairs. Bismarck, the Chancellor of Germany, seemed to be the arbiter of European politics. After 1871, Germany was a saturated country and as such had no desire to add to her territories.
However, as Bismarck had wounded the pride of France and therefore feared an attack from that country, his main concern in foreign affairs was to isolate France so that she might not be able to have revenge against Germany. With that object in view, Bismarck created the Three Emperors’ League or the Dreikaiserbund in 1873.
The rulers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia agreed to co-operate with one another for the preservation of peace and to consult one another “in order to determine a common course of action” in case of a threat of war. This League continued up to 1878 when it was broken on account of the Congress of Berlin. Germany and Austria co-operated and Russia felt that she was betrayed by Germany.
The relations between Germany and Russia were positively hostile between 1879 and 1881. However, Bismarck was able to renew the Three Emperors’ League in 1881. According to the new agreement, the three Powers mutually promised benevolent neutrality in case any of them was involved in a war with a fourth Power.
This arrangement was made for three years and was renewed in 1884 for another period of three years. It is to be observed that the Three Emperors’ League was not a strong union from the very beginning.
Bismarck gave an undertaking to Austria that in the event of any difficulty between Austria and Russia, Germany would back Austria against Russia, and the understanding of 1881 would not stand in her way. Moreover, Germany followed a policy of protection which was partly against the import of Russian grain into Germany.
As the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia began to grow after 1878 in the Balkans, the relations between the two countries became bitter and consequently these two countries could not pull on together. The bitterness between these two countries weakened the Three Emperors’ League.
About the Three Emperors League of 1881 Taylor says that this treaty was a practical agreement about the Near East. Its only general principle was a pact of neutrality if one of the three Emperors was involved in a war with a fourth Power. As there was no immediate likelihood of a war between Germany and France, this was a straight gain for Russia.
It was a promise that Germany and Austria- Hungary would not join England. The only limitation was with regard to Turkey. Neutrality was to apply if there had been agreement beforehand. The view of Taylor is that this was an unnecessary precaution because the Russians had no intention of going to war with Turkey.
Moreover, the three Powers recognised “the European and mutually obligatory character” of the rule of the Straits and would insist that Turkey enforce it. This was the essential security against a British expedition to the Black Sea which the Russians had been seeking all along. As a Russian garrison at the Straits was impossible, this was the next best thing. The Russians gained still more.
The Austrians promised not to oppose the union of the two Bulgarias although the British Government considered the division of Bulgaria as an essential achievement of 1878. In return, the Russians recognised the right of Austria- Hungary to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The League of 1881 was a victory for the Russians and perhaps for Bismarck. Germany was freed from having to choose between Russia and Austria-Hungary in the Balkans. Russia got security in the Black Sea in exchange for a promise of peaceful behaviour which her internal weakness compelled her to keep in any case.
Austria-Hungary committed herself to an eventual breach with England although she owed her Balkan position to the co-operation with England in 1878. She got in exchange merely Russian promises which she regarded as worthless. The League of the Three Emperors which was a pact of friendship with Russia, led in a round-about way to the Triple Alliance.
2. Reinsurance Treaty:
The Three Emperors’ League broke down in 1887. Russia and Austria were in opposite camps on the question of Bulgaria and no wonder they failed to pull on together. Bismarck had already bound Germany with Austria in 1879, but he could not afford to lose the goodwill of Russia.
There was every possibility of Russia joining France if she was left alone. Moreover, there was every likelihood of a war between Austria and Russia if the latter joined another camp. No wonder, Bismarck entered into the Russo-German Reinsurance Treaty in 1887. The Treaty was to last for three years.
According to it, if one Power found itself at war with a fourth Power, the others were to observe benevolent neutrality and try to localise the conflict. Russia, in agreement with Germany, declared her firm resolution to respect the interests of Austria arising from the Treaty of Berlin. Any modification in the territorial status quo of Turkey in Europe was to be accomplished by means of an agreement among the parties.
They recognised the principle of the closing of the Straits. They were to see that Turkey did not make any exception in favour of any Power. If Turkey did so, the three Powers were to regard Turkey as putting herself in a state of war. It is rightly pointed out “that new friendship of Germany and Russia prevented an Austro-Russian War and a Franco-Russian Coalition.”
Seaman says, Signed in June 1887, it reaffirmed Bismarck’s recognition of Russia’s rights in Bulgaria. Before the end of August 1887 Russia was asking Bismarck to support her in ejecting Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg from Bulgaria, and Bismarck was again failing to fulfill his obligations.
So far apart had Russia and Germany become, indeed, that as his career was closing, Bismarck was toying with the idea of bringing in England to help him prop up the Habsburgs. The English were not interested; and an alliance between England and the two German powers would almost certainly have produced the war against Russia that Bismarck so anxiously wished to avoid.
“Arguments as to how far the Reinsurance Treaty was incompatible with the Dual Alliance of 1879 are largely academic. The important fact about it is that it did not appreciably slow down the steady movement of Russia towards France. Indeed, by driving Russian bonds off the Berlin stock market at the end of 1887, Bismarck did as much as anybody to increase those financial links between France and Russia which preceded the closer military and diplomatic links.”
About the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887, Taylor says that the two parties, Russia and Germany, promised neutrality of a meaningless kind. Russia was to remain neutral unless Germany attacked France and Germany was to remain neutral unless Russia attacked Austria-Hungary. Germany renewed the promises of diplomatic support for Russia in Bulgaria and at the Straits which she had made in 1881 at the time of the Three Emperors’ League.
She added new promises against Alexander of Batter-berg and moral support in case Russia seized the Straits herself. In later years, the Reinsurance Treaty acquired an exaggerated importance although in reality it did not amount to much. Perhaps it put Alexander III in a better temper with Germany. The Reinsurance Treaty did not prevent a Franco-Russian alliance.
That alliance was retarded, though not finally prevented, solely by the French reluctance to give Russia a free hand in the Near East. Russia announced her intention of supporting France in 1887 and not in 1891. The Reinsurance Treaty demonstrated the approaching failure of Bismarck’s policy. Bismarck had hoped that the prospect of Constantinople would make the Russians abandon France and by the Reinsurance Treaty, he offered them Constantinople.
He had always refused to support Austria-Hungary in the Balkans and had hoped that this would be enough to preserve Russo-German friendship. The Russians now showed that they would be satisfied with nothing short of German neutrality in an Austro-Russian war. Failing that, they kept themselves free to support France.
As a matter of fact, the treaty set it down in black and white that Germany would one day face war on two fronts unless she abandoned the Habsburg monarchy. The Austro-German alliance had imprisoned Germany and Bismarck would like to escape from it. The Reinsurance Treaty was, at best, an expedient for postponing the catastrophe of war on two fronts which Bismarck’s diplomacy had made inevitable.
It is often said that estrangement with Russia was forced on Bismarck by economic developments. Once the pillars of Russo-German friendship, the land-owners of Prussia now wanted tariffs against the cheap grains from Russia. There was something in this change of sentiment.
The view of Taylor is that friendship would have continued if Bismarck had been able to promise neutrality in an Austro-Russian war. Much has been made of Bismarck’s dishonesty in making the Reinsurance Treaty but Taylor contends that there was certainly no dishonesty towards the Austrians.
He had always insisted that he could not support them in Bulgaria nor at the Straits. He had taken the same line with the British Government. Taylor maintains that the Reinsurance Treaty was a fraud on the Russians, more particularly on Alexander III in which Giers and the Shuvalovs took part with their eyes open.
3. The Austro-German Alliance (1879):
The immediate cause of the dual alliance between Germany and Austria was the Congress of Berlin. The policy of Bismarck since 1871 was one of maintaining friendship with Austria and Russia and thereby keeping France isolated. This he achieved by the Dreikaiserbund which he started in 1873 and which lasted till 1878.
The interests of Austria and Russia conflicted in the Balkans. It was very difficult for Bismarck to keep them together. He managed it till 1878. But on the occasion of the Congress of Berlin, it became evident that they could not pull on together. Russia had established her hold over the Balkans by the Treaty of San Stefano.
But Austria was not prepared to allow Russia to retain all that she had got. Austria had won over England to her side and on the occasion of the Congress these two powers acted together. The result was that Russia found herself alone before a combination of England and Austria.
Bismarck who called himself the “honest broker” had to make a decision as to whether he would side with Austria or Russia. The choice had to be made as Russia and Austria were not prepared to pull on together. Ultimately, he decided to side with Austria. “The outstanding result,” says Dr. Gooch, “of the Congress of Berlin in the realm of high politics was the estrangement of Russia from Germany.”
The Russians felt bitter about the attitude of Germany. They were utterly disappointed at what they had got. It appeared to them that Bessarabia, Batoum, Kars and Ardahan were no compensation for the amount of money that they had spent and the amount of blood they had shed.
Aksakoff remarked. “The Congress is a conspiracy against the Russian people in which the Russian representatives have taken a part. The diplomacy of St. Petersburg is more dangerous than Nihilism. It is a disgraceful treachery to the historic mission of Russia and has lost forever the respect and affection of the Slavs. Russia has been crucified by her own statesmen. A fool’s cap and bells have been set upon her head.”
Katkoff proclaimed that Germany had left Russia in the lurch. Milutin, the War Minister of Russia, worked openly for a French alliance. Schuvaloff who was the chief Russian plenipotentiary at the Congress was recalled from London and disgraced. Gortchakoff, the Foreign Minister of Russia, was hostile towards Bismarck and would like to have nothing to do with him. The Czar also was very bitter. He spoke bitterly of the European coalition under Bismarck’s leadership.
Another factor increased the bitterness of Russia. The German representatives on the international commission appointed to carry out the delimitations supported the Austrians against the Russians. Russia thought that it was being done intentionally. But the fact is that the German agents had got the instructions that they should side with the majority.
Since Austria was supported by England and Russia was all alone, the German agents also supported Austria. It is wrong to say that they had special instructions to go against Russia. However, the fact remains that the siding of the German agents with the Austrians annoyed the Russians.
The bitterness was so great that in 1879, Italy was approached as to whether she could co-operate in a war against Austria. Similarly, the French Government was also approached regarding her attitude. But these soundings brought no result. The Russian troops were mobilized and concentrated on the German and Austrian frontiers.
In June 1879, the Czar cancelled a visit to Berlin for the golden jubilee wedding of his uncle. The Czar was heard to say. “If Germany wished the friendship of a hundred years to continue, she must alter her ways.” He wrote a letter to the Kaiser in which he complained of the German attitude.
He reminded the Kaiser of his services in 1870, “which you said you would never forget” and added that the consequences would be disastrous for both the countries. The Kaiser was pained by the violence of the letter and asked Bismarck to draft a reply. If the Kaiser had replied in a similar tone, there would certainly have been a war. Germany was not prepared to kneel before Russia. The Kaiser merely denied the charge.
But after this incident, Bismarck chalked out a new policy. He flared up at the conduct of Russia. The press campaign in that country annoyed him. He was denounced everywhere. He regarded this as the height of ingratitude on the part of Russia.
In 1888, he wrote thus: “I conceived my role almost as if I were a third Russian delegate. No Russian wish reached me which I did not adopt and fulfill. I behaved in such a manner that at the end of the Congress I thought to myself, ‘If I did not already possess the highest Russian order in brilliance, I ought to receive it now.’ I had the feeling that I had performed a service for a foreign power which a minister is seldom in a position to render. The campaign therefore surprised me.”
Bismarck had to make a choice. He had already sided with Austria on the occasion of the Congress of Berlin. He thought over once again. It is true that from the material point of view, Russia would have been more advantageous. But he preferred Austria because it had a large population of Germans and consequently they would be more favourably inclined towards Germany.
Another event forced him to hurry up. He heard the news that Andrassy, the Foreign Minister of Austria, was going to resign. Andrassy was the man whom he had favoured in the Congress of Berlin. Before he resigned, Bismarck made up his mind to enter into an alliance with Austria. Andrassy was also anxious to insure against Russia. Both the statesmen were anxious for an alliance. There was to be no delay.
The statesmen met at Gastein:
They discussed the problem and the danger of Russia. They parted to meet again and in the meanwhile to consult their masters. Andrassy wrote back saying that Francis Joseph was willing to allow Austria to join with Germany. But the Kaiser protested. He told the Iron Chancellor that he could not agree to it. The Kaiser refused to enter into an alliance with Austria against Russia whose ruler was his cousin.
He had an interview with the Czar in September. The Czar apologized for the letter and told the Kaiser that he would like his country to remain a friend of Germany. The Kaiser was satisfied that the Czar had no ill-will. Next day, he met Giers and Milutin and assured himself that they also were not in any way against Germany. The result was that the Kaiser came back satisfied.
He refused to allow Bismarck to enter into an alliance with Austria against Russia. He refused to change the old traditional policy of Germany towards Russia. “Put yourself in my place for a moment. I am in the presence of a personal friend, a near relative and an ally, in order to come to an understanding to some hasty and indeed misunderstood passages in the letter, and our interview also leads to a satisfactory result. I will not absolutely deny that the danger set forth in your memorandum may arise one day, particularly on a change of rulers; but I am utterly unable to see that there is any imminent danger. It is against my political convictions and my conscience to bind my hands for the sake of a possible eventuality, but I do not authorise you to conclude a convention, to say nothing of a treaty I cannot tell you how painful this episode has been to me, when it seemed, for the first time in 17 years, as if we do not agree.”
In spite of what the Kaiser said, Bismarck was determined to bring about an alliance with Austria. He pointed out that there was no idea of attacking Russia. If Austria were attacked and in danger, Germany would be compelled by self-interest to support her, alliance or no alliance, since Germany’s position, confronted by a victorious Russia, a defeated Austria and a hostile France, would be untenable.
The Czar was only friendly till he could win France or Austria or both. The Chancellor persisted in his attitude. He won over the King of Bavaria to his side. He brought influence from all quarters on the Kaiser and tried to convert him. The Kaiser was virtually besieged. The Prince who was deputed to win over the Kaiser complained that while on the one side Bismarck threatened to resign, on the other the Kaiser threatened to abdicate.
The Kaiser was heard to remark. “Rather abdication than perfidy.” But Bismarck was determined to get it done. The Kaiser hesitated but ultimately had to give way on 5 October 1879. The treaty was signed in Vienna and ratified by both the Governments the same month.
Terms of the Alliance:
By the dual alliance, the two countries were bound together and the following were its important provisions:
1. Should contrary to their hopes and desires, one of the two was attacked by Russia, the other was bound to assist and to conclude peace only in common.
2. Should any of the two be attacked by another Power supported by Russia, the other Power would assist. If any Power attacked either Austria or Germany and was not helped by Russia, the other party was to keep neutral.
3. The treaty was to remain secret.
4. The treaty was to last for five years and was to be prolonged for three years, unless the parties wanted to stop it. It is said that both Andrassy and Bismarck were happy at the completion of the negotiations. The Chancellor was overjoyed. He said. “The fear of war has everywhere given place to confidence in peace.” “It is the completion of my work of 1866,” said Bismarck with pride. Andrassy had secured for Austria exactly what he wanted.
He was proud of his handiwork. Next month, Bismarck remarked to the French ambassador, “Six weeks ago, Russia was dreaming of fire and flame. My deal with Austria has brought her to reason. A week after it was notified in St. Petersburg, the Detente began. The press campaign against Germany and Austria has been wholly stopped, and the heir to the throne is coming to pay his respects to the Kaiser.”
Dr. Rose says that to the end of his days Bismarck maintained that the Austro-German alliance did not imply the lapse of the Three Emperors’ League, but that the new compact by making a Russian attack on Austria highly dangerous, if not impossible, helped to prolong the life of the old alliance.
Obviously, however, the League was a mere “loud-sounding nothing” when two of its members had to unite to guard the weakest of the trio against the most aggressive. Dr. Rose maintains that the old Triple Alliance slowly dissolved under the influence of new atmospheric conditions.
The three Emperors met for friendly intercourse in 1881, 1884 and 1885, and at or after the meeting of 1887, a Russo-German agreement was formed by which the two Powers promised to observe a friendly neutrality in case either was attacked by a third Power.
Probably the Afghan question and Nihilism brought Russia to accept Bismarck’s advances; but when the fear of an Anglo-Russian war passed away, and the revolutionists were curbed, this agreement fell to the ground; and after the fall of Bismarck the compact was not renewed.
It might be contended that the immediate effect of the Austro-German alliance was not the estrangement of Russia: Bismarck was able to repair in 1881 the wire to St. Petersburg and continued friendly relations till 1890, but none can deny that it was this alliance which brought the two countries into the battlefield in 1914. Russia regarded this treaty as a blow if not a menace. “Russia lost Austria after San Stefano, and now she has lost Germany.” But the King of Italy was satisfied and Waddington of France described it as a pledge of peace. Lord Salisbury remarked in October, “The papers say a defensive alliance of Germany and Austria has been concluded. If true, it is good tidings of great joy.”
Whatever might be the reactions of the various powers on the conclusion of this treaty, it started a game which when followed by every country, was the most dangerous. Italy joined the Dual Alliance in 1882. In 1893-94, Russia and France entered into an alliance of a similar nature. No one can deny that the disease started in 1879 and it made almost all the European nations its victims. It was to a large extent responsible for World War I and Bismarck cannot be excused for starting the nightmare of alliances.
According to Prof Fay, “The Austro-German alliance consolidated the Central Empires and became henceforth, until their collapse in November 1918, the very foundation-rock of German policy. It indicated a political course from which neither Bismarck nor his successors ever seriously swerved. In its origin, and as long as Bismarck remained at the helm, it was essentially defensive in purpose and fact. Germany and Austria mutually protected each other against the rising tide of Pan- Slavism; and Germany, if attacked by an outbreak of French revanche, could count upon Austria’s neutrality, just as Austria could count on that of Germany in case of an outbreak of Italian Irredentism. Contemporary opinion regarded Bismarck’s establishment of this Alliance as a masterstroke.”
4. The Triple Alliance (1882):
The Austro-German Alliance of 1879 was transformed into the Triple Alliance in 1882 with the accession of Italy to the Dual Alliance. Even before that year, Italy had tried to come to an understanding with Austria and Germany. Bismarck in 1877 had told Crispi: “If Italy is attacked by France, we should join and we will make a treaty for this purpose. But I do not expect such an attack unless France returns to monarchy, i.e., to clericalism. I could not, however, consider the possibility of Austrian hostility. I am your friend, but I will not break with Austria. If she takes Bosmia, you can take Albania.”
In 1879, Bismarck was prepared to welcome Italy as a third partner in the Austro-German alliance but the Italian Government did not accept the offer. However, the establishment of a French protectorate over Tunis by the Treaty of Bardo in 1881 brought about a change in Italian attitude.
Italy had an eye on Tunis as it was near that country and was also considered to be a good place for Italian colonization. The establishment of French control over Tunis created a lot of indignation in Italy. The pride of the Italian patriots was wounded and they decided to do something against France. It was feared that Tunis might be a prelude to Tripoli. France might “encircle her with a ring of iron.”
There was some trouble at Marseilles. Many Italians were killed and many others left the city. There were anti-French demonstrations in Italy. It was felt that isolation was tantamount to annihilation. Italy would have loved to enter into a treaty with Great Britain as she was the strongest naval power in the Mediterranean, but Great Britain declined.
It was in these circumstances that the King of Italy accompanied by his Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, visited Vienna. The alliance was not proposed by the hosts and the guests avoided the risk of a rebuff. However, a friendly welcome and a general discussion of the situation prepared the way. Bismarck informed the Austrian Foreign Minister that any agreement with Italy would be one-sided and Italy was not a trustworthy ally.
He referred to the jackal policy of Italy and hinted that the inclusion of Italy might not be of much value. However, the Italians were very anxious to have an alliance and were determined to have it at any cost. It is true that the negotiations were not easy but ultimately they came out successful and the Triple Alliance was made in 1882.
Prof. Fay points out that the view that Bismarck was responsible for the Triple Alliance is not a correct one. It is true that Bismarck encouraged France to pluck the ripe Tunisian fruit and also helped her in colonial adventures, but this does not mean that he felt that France would forget her humiliation of 1870-71 and keep peace with Germany. The fact is that the Triple Alliance originated with Italy.
The Triple Alliance treaty was signed on 20 May 1882 between Italy, Germany and Austria- Hungary. It was to last for five years and its contents and existences were to be kept secret. By this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary bound themselves to assist Italy with their whole military strength if she was attacked by France without provocation. Italy bound herself to render reciprocal aid to Germany under similar circumstances.
In the case of an unprovoked attack by Russia alone upon Germany or Austria, Italy was bound only to benevolent neutrality. If the attack was made by two or more Great Powers, her assistance was to be active. Italy was not informed of the contents of the secret alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary by which Germany was pledged to help Austria against Russia.
Italy wanted to bring Great Britain into the Triple Alliance. Austria was also in favour of it but Bismarck negative the suggestion. However, declarations were made that the Triple Alliance was not “in any case to be regarded as directed against England.”
Dr. Gooch rightly points out that “though Italy was the petitioner, she obtained greater advantages than Austria.” Although Austria was bound to help Italy against a French attack, Italy was not pledged to help Austria against a Russian attack. Moreover, on account of the treaty, Italy was protected against an Austrian attack. Although Italy had played a minor part in the Congress of Berlin of 1878, she came to be recognised as a Great Power after 1882.
Though she failed to secure the guarantee of her capital, her hold over it was strengthened. The treaty also brought solid advantages to the Central Powers. Bismarck was not only freed from the remote fear that Italy might join France in an attack, but secured an ally in resisting such an attack.
Austria was no longer to fear a stab in the back if she was engaged in a life-and-death struggle against Russia. She could also count upon Italian assistance in repelling a Franco-Russian attack. Italy gained much, but she lost in one respect. The treaty closed the doors on her ambitions in the Adriatic and the Balkans.
The Triple Alliance fitted Bismarck’s purposes. He was able to kill two birds with one stone.
(1) The pact with Italy further isolated France, since, in case of war, the French would have to fight not only the Germans and Austrians but the Italians as well.
(2) It strengthened Germany’s alliance system, since the pact diminished the ill-will between his two allies, making it impossible for Italy (or so it seemed) to clamour for the “unredeemed” Italian-inhabited Austrian districts of Southern Tyrol and Trieste, while at the same time impending the Austrian Government’s interest in restoring the secular power of the Pope. Thus, the mutually resented ambitions of both Italy and Austria-Hungary were checked, and a double danger to the peace of Europe was neutralized.”
According to Prof Fay, “The Triple Alliance in its wording and in its origin was essentially defensive in character and designed primarily to preserve the peace of Europe. This is now clear from the detailed negotiations concerning its formation, which have been revealed by Pribram from the Austrian archives, and by the extensive German documents in Die Crosse Politik. Its defensive character is now admitted even by French historians who are by no means friendly to Bismarck.
Bismarck himself, in a private despatch which he never expected would be made public, referred to it as ‘our League of Peace.’ Its peaceful and defensive intent was especially marked in the case of Germany. But it became less so in the case of Italy and Austria, who later wished to use it to support their aggressive intentions. It was in fact not long before Italy sought to make use of her new alliance to promote her ambitions in North Africa and elsewhere.”
According to Prof. Taylor, “The Triple Alliance looked formidable and elaborate; its real aims were modest. Ostensibly it welded Central Europe together and recreated the Holy Roman Empire at its most grandiose so far as foreign affairs were concerned. In practice it merely propped up the Italian monarchy and secured Italian neutrality in an Austro-Hungarian war against Russia.
The Austrians paid little in return. Kalnoky would not allow the Italians any say in the Balkans and therefore did not ask their aid against Russia. The sole price for Austria-Hungary was a vague approval of the Italian monarchy and therewith an indirect repudiation of that support for the papacy which had been traditional to the house of Habsburg.
The price was paid by Germany; she promised to defend Italy against France, since Italian assistance was worthless and it got nothing in return. In plain terms, Bismarck undertook to defend Italy in order to meet the Austro-Hungarian complaints against the League of the Three Emperors even this was better in his eyes than pledging support to Austria- Hungary in the Balkans.
Besides, he knew that the French were not intending to attack Italy, and therefore he did not regard the obligation as onerous. The Italians knew this also; recognition as a Great Power, not protection from France, was their real need. The Triple Alliance gave them this; it bolstered up the myth of Italian greatness, and therefore staved off internal discontent for almost a generation. There was one striking omission in the original Alliance.
Though humiliation over Tunis played only a secondary part in driving Italy over to the Central Powers, the Italian politicians certainly wanted backing for their imperialist designs in the Mediterranean. In 1882 they did not get it. But just as the Austrians thought that the Austro-German alliance would gradually draw Germany into supporting their Balkan plans, so the Italian counted that the Triple Alliance would gradually involve Germany in their Mediterranean schemes. As long as Russia was peaceful and Italian neutrality therefore of academic interest, their hopes were thwarted; once the peace of the Balkans was disturbed, Italy had something of value to sell and then Germany had to pay a real price.”
The Triple Alliance was renewed in 1887 and certain changes were made in favour of Italy. In 1882, Italy was the suiter, but in 1887, Austria was in fear of a Russian and Germany of a French attack, and consequently Italy could demand her own price. Austria was compelled to recognise Italy’s interests in the Balkans and her claim to compensation if Turkey was partitioned. Italy refused to promise support if Austria was attacked. Germany undertook to take part in an offensive war if Italy’s ambitions in North Africa demanded it. Austria was to allow Italian troops to cross her territory on their way to the western front.
5. How and why Italy left Triple Alliance:
It is true that the Triple Alliance brought the three Powers together but there was not much of intimacy with Italy as it was between Austria and Germany. That was due to a feeling that Italy was following a crooked policy and consequently could not be trusted. To quote Bismarck, “Insatiable Italy with furtive glances, roves restlessly hither and thither, instinctively drawn on by odour of corruption and calamity and always ready to attack any one from the rear and make off with a bit of plunder………. ”
There was another difficulty and that was due to the presence of certain Austrian territories in the north of Italy which were inhabited by the Italians. The Irredentist movement aimed at conquering those territories from Austria and consequently there was always bad blood between Austria and Italy. In spite of friendship and co-operation, there was rivalry and hostility.
While Italy outwardly maintained friendly relations with the Central Powers, she went on improving her relations with the other countries. After the fall of Bismarck, her relations with France improved. The Italians started feeling that they had more in common with democratic France than with autocratic Germany.
In 1896, Italy recognised the French protectorate over Tunis. In 1898 ended the tariff war between the two countries. In December 1901 an agreement was made with France defining the interests of both the countries in the Mediterranean. France recognised the right of Italy to extend her influence in Tripoli.
In June 1902, a few days before the renewal of the Triple Alliance, Italy assured France that it did not bind her to take part in a war of aggression against France. In November of the same year, France and Italy agreed that if one were attacked the other should remain neutral. A cordial welcome was extended to King Victor Emmanuel and his Queen in Paris (1903), and to President Loubet in Rome (1904).
The rupture between France and the Vatican which followed the visit of the French President to Rome tended to increase the cordiality between France and Italy. The Entente Cordiale of 1904 between England and France helped to bring Italy and France together in the same way as it improved the relations between Great Britain and Russia.
The Algeciras Conference of 1906 demonstrated the growing solidarity of England and France and the cooling of warmth between Italy and her partners in the Triple Alliance.
The Bosnian crisis of 1908-9 showed that the continuance of the Triple Alliance was a diplomatic mockery. Italy was perturbed by the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria. “The only State,” declared a deputy in the Italian Chamber, “which really threatens us with war is in alliance with us.” There were Italian politicians who demanded that Italy should break with the Central Powers and join the Triple Entente.
But Tittoni, her Foreign Minister, emphatically refused to choose between alliance and friendship or to give up either the one or the other. “Our alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, to which we remain true, must not to my mind be an obstacle to our traditional friendship with England, to our renewed friendship with France, and to the recent understanding with Russia.” For some months after the annexations were announced, Tittoni earnestly strove to bring about an agreement between Italy, Austria-Hungary and Russia, but in vain.
The growing estrangement between Italy and the Central Empires was further emphasized by the visit paid by the Czar Nicholas II to King Victor Emmanuel at Racconigi (1909). The two sovereigns agreed to do everything in their power to maintain the status quo in the Balkans. If that was found impossible, they were to encourage the development of the national States to the exclusion of both Austria and Italy.
Russia agreed to maintain a benevolent attitude with regard to Italy’s designs on Tripoli and Cyrenaica. Italy promised to reciprocate this attitude towards Russian ambitions with regard to the Dardanelles and the Bosphoms. France and England agreed to adhere to the Racconigi Agreement. The Agreement marked the further progress of Italy from the Triple Alliance towards the Triple Entente. In spite of that, the Triple Alliance remained formally intact.
In 1887, Great Britain and Italy entered into an agreement by which both the parties agreed to maintain, if possible, the status quo in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean and Black Sea. They agreed to support each other in the Mediterranean if either of them went to war with another power.
Italy agreed to support the policy of Great Britain in Egypt and Great Britain agreed to support Italy in Northern Africa and particularly in Tripoli. The relations between the two countries became more and more cordial with the passage of time, and in 1906, Italy voted with England against Germany on the occasion of the Algeciras Conference.
In addition to the Irredentist movement, there were other factors which strained the relations between Italy and Austria. Austria resented the desire of Italy to secure Albania and Italy was opposed to Austria having control over Albania and Valona.
Although both the countries agreed to maintain the status quo in Albania, each tried to strengthen her influence by more or less underhand means. Anti-Austrian riots broke out in Italy. The Austrian attempt to construct a railway through the Sanjak of Novi-Bazar added to the ill-feelings between the two countries.
Germany found great difficulty in maintaining friendly relations with Italy. German policy was to win over Turkey and she was doing her best to achieve that objective. However, Italy declared war against Turkey in 1911 and occupied Tripoli. During the period of the war, Germany found her position very awkward as she could not avert a war between the two allies.
From 1902 to 1914, Italy had a foot in two camps and she was finding it difficult to reconcile her obligations under the Triple Alliance with her inclination and promises towards the Triple Entente. It was in these circumstances that the World War I broke out in 1914. In spite of the Triple Alliance, she did not join the war. She asked for compensation and hinted at Trentino. The suggestion was dismissed by Austria. The policy of Italy was to get whatever she could possibly get. “What is needed is a freedom from all pre-conceptions and prejudices, from every sentiment except that of sacred egotism.” Italy was not in a hurry to join the war as she had not recovered from her exhaustion in the Tripolian War.
Germany put pressure on Austria to give something to Italy, but Austria refused. The Austrian policy was not changed even after the dismissal of Berchtold. Instead of accepting the demands of Italy at once and winning her over, the Austrian Government slowly and slowly went on raising the offer.
Italy also went on raising its demands. Ultimately, the Italian Government demanded in April 1915 the whole of south Tyrol, Gorizia, Gradisca and Trieste, several islands off the Dalmatian coast, Italian sovereignty over Valona and Austrian disinterestedness in Albania.
It was natural that Italy’s price of intervention should be higher than that for neutrality. It was equally natural that the Entente Powers should be more generous in their promises to Italy than Austria herself France and Great Britain were willing to pay a higher price and consequently negotiations started in London. Italy’s demands were considered exorbitant by Russia and France.
Russia opposed Italian designs on the eastern coast of the Adriatic to which Serbia had a better claim. However, the military situation was in favour of Italy and the Allies badly needed the help of Italy. It was in these circumstances that the Treaty of London was signed in 1915.
By the Treaty of London, Italy was to get Trentino, the Southern Tyrol up to Brenner Pass, the city and district of Trieste, the country of Grandisca, North Dalmatia, Istria, etc. She was also to get the twelve islands.
In Libya, she was to enjoy all rights and privileges. Italy was to be allowed to expand in Somaliland, Eritrea and Libya. Great Britain was to help her to raise a loan and she was also to have a share in war-indemnity.
The Treaty was to be kept secret and the new ally was to begin hostilities within a month. It cannot be denied that the Treaty of London increased the material strength of the Allied Powers, but it undoubtedly took away from their moral prestige. The Serbs were furious at the prospect of the Adriatic Sea becoming an Italian lake.
Even after the signing of the Treaty of London, Italy continued negotiations with Austria with a view to finding out an excuse to attack the country. On 21 April 1916, Italy declared that the differences between the two countries were so wide that it was impossible to bridge them. On 3 May, Italy denounced the Triple Alliance.
The Austrian Government tried to make concessions to win over Italy, but it was too late. Italy declared war against Austria on 23 May 1916. Curiously enough, war against Germany was not declared till 27 May 1916. It is clear from this as to how Italy joined the Triple Alliance in 1882 and left It In 1915. On both these occasions, Italy was actuated by her personal interests.
6. Franco-Russian Alliance (1893):
It is to be observed that while the Austro-German Alliance was concluded within a very short period, the Franco-Russian Alliance was discussed in public and private for many years before official negotiations started, and even then it took many years before it was finally concluded. The delay was due to many causes. Between 1871 and 1890, Bismarck consistently followed a policy of isolating France and consequently he would not allow Russia to be aligned with France.
He brought into existence the Three Emperors’ League which continued from 1873 to 1878. Although the relations between Germany and Russia were strained from 1879 to 1881 and there was a possibility of an alliance between France and Russia during that period, Bismarck was able to avoid the eventuality by following a pro-French policy during that period.
On the occasion of the Bulgarian crisis, Bismarck supported Russia against Austria. In 1881, he renewed the Three Emperors’ League which continued up to 1887. He was able to keep Russia with Germany up to 1890 by entering into the Reinsurance Treaty with her in 1887.
Another cause was that the French ministries changed very often and the negotiations started by one ministry could not be successfully concluded by another. The Czar wanted to enter into a secret alliance and he felt that the secrecy of the alliance could not be maintained on account of the frequency of changes in French ministries.
Russia was an autocratic country and France had a democratic government and it was felt that an alliance between democracy and autocracy was not a happy one. The Czar was hesitant to enter into an alliance with a democratic country which was the refuge of the revolutionaries. Giers, the Foreign Minister of Russia, had very bad health and consequently the negotiations had to be delayed to suit his convenience.
Even the Czar himself changed his mind very often, and on certain occasions, refused to carry on negotiations for an alliance with France. However, in spite of these difficulties the alliance between the two countries was concluded in the long run on account of the community of interests.
In 1873, the French Government enquired from the Russian Government whether the latter would help her if she was attacked. The Russian Government did not make any promise but stated that she desired to see France a Great Power.
On the occasion of the war scare of 1875, Russia gave a proof of her practical sympathy for France. Germany wanted to attack France and crush her before she became sufficiently strong to challenge her. On that occasion, the Czar and Gortchakoff, the Russian Foreign Minister, went to Berlin and pacified the Germans.
Russia told Germany frankly that she should not count upon her neutrality in the event of a German attack on France. To the French the Russian action appeared as a harbinger of more intimate relations with that country in the future.
In 1877, Waddington came to power in France. He was in favour of maintaining good relations with Germany. Although during the tension that followed the Congress of Berlin the Russian Government offered to enter into an alliance with France, the French Government refused Waddington remarked thus. “I think Russia is inclined to a rapprochement, but Bismarck has his eyes on us. If a treaty were on the anvil, he might reply with war.”
Even Gambetta, who was otherwise an enemy of Germany, was in favour of maintaining good relations with Bismarck. To quote him, “France must play a secondary role in Europe and be very reserved till we have got a very strong army and then I shall like you to be a partisan of a Russian alliance.” Bismarck remarked in 1881 that he would like to go “hand in hand” with France. Such was the cordiality of the relations between Germany and France and the French indifference towards Russia that in 1880, Freycinet refused the extradition of Hartmanns who was charged with planning a bomb attack on the Czar.
The Czar was so angry that he recalled the Russian Ambassador from France. In 1885, the French Government annoyed the Russian Government by the release of Kropotkin from a French prison before the expiry of his sentence and the recall of the French ambassador to whom the Czar was greatly attached. In anger the Czar refused to welcome the new French ambassador.
The possibility of a Franco-Russian Alliance existed during the Bulgarian crisis, and a campaign was started in the two countries for that purpose. Katkoff wrote thus. “If Germany stands so big, is it not because she has climbed on Russia’s shoulders? If Russia was to resume her liberty of action, the phantom of German omnipotence would vanish. We are not asking for a Franco-Russian alliance. We wish that Russia should remain in free and friendly relations with Germany, but also that similar relations should be established with the other nations, and above all with France who occupies in an increasing degree a situation in Europe worthy of her power. What have we to quarrel about, and what are her domestic concerns to us?”
Again, “I hate France, for she has been and is a school of revolutionary propaganda. But now when Russia is threatened by Austria and Germany, an alliance is imposed upon her by an ineluctable necessity.” However, when a formal offer for an alliance was made to France in 1886, the latter refused.
In 1887, a new Government came to power in France. The new Foreign Minister was friendly towards Russia and he advised the Bulgarians to come to a settlement with Russia and not to quarrel. According to Dr. Gooch, “At a time when every European statesman except Bismarck was a critic of Russia’s high-handed conduct in Bulgaria, the support of the French Government caused pleasure and gratitude in Petrograd.”
In the same year, the Boulanger crisis took place. The Russian Government intervened to pacify the Germans. As the tension was still persisting, there was every likelihood of a conflict between France and Germany. Bismarck enquired from the Russian Government what her attitude would be in the event, of a war.
The reply of the Czar was in these words “Russia was neutral in the three wars though it would have been her plain interest to abandon neutrality. Today Russia must consult her own interests in a greater degree and cannot constantly aid Prussia, who is besides the ally of the Emperor Francis Joseph.” The Czar refused to promise neutrality as the annihilation of France was bound to upset the balance of power in Europe. He wanted to keep his hands free. He also assured France that she could count upon her moral support.
In 1883, the Grand Duke of Russia visited Paris and he expressed a wish to inspect the new French rifles. The request was granted after some hesitation. In 1889, Russia asked France to manufacture 500,000 rifles.
The French Government agreed to do so in case “they will not fire at Frenchmen.” The manufacture of rifles started in 1890, but in the meanwhile the Russian officers studied the system of mobilisation, transport and supply from the French. A French engineer was sent to Russia to organise the manufacture of munitions.
In 1888, the Russian Government tried to raise a loan in France and it was over-subscribed. Russia was obliged to France. A similar loan was raised next year. These loans brought the two countries together.
The French ministry of Freycinet was inclined towards Russia. The fall of Bismarck in 1890 and the lapse of the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia removed a great obstacle from the way of Franco-Russian collaboration. In 1890 the Grand Duke visited Paris again and remarked thus: “If I have any voice in the matter, the two will be one in time of war. And that, if it were known, would prevent war, for no one would care to challenge France and Russia”. His parting words were: “In me, France has a friend.”
In 1890, the French Chief of the Staff, General Boisdeffre, went to Russia to expedite an alliance with that country. However, nothing came out of it as the Czar was not convinced of the utility of an alliance. But the French were clamouring for an alliance. According to the Belgian minister, “The dream obsesses everyone at Paris. It comes from the very natural desire to lean on a great nation in resisting attack from the Central Powers but it has become also a matter of sentiment. The infatuation for Russia has gained upon all classes. This Power is as popular today as Poland under the Second Empire. Many are convinced of the existence of a sort of Entente—secret engagements, if not a treaty. Thus the arrival of any official personage acquires the proportions of an event, and the Grand Dukes can no longer travel in France without political significance being attached to the visits of courtesy which they pay to the authorities. A new journal, L’ Union Franco-Russe, has just appeared, and reproduces the dithyrambs of the Paris press in honour of the Russian alliance. The contrast between the institutions of the two countries is not felt in Paris.”
In 1891, Empress Frederick, mother of William II, visited France. When she went to Versailles and St. Cloud, there were hostile demonstrations. William II made it clear that if his mother was insulted in any way he would declare war on France. However, the danger was averted by the departure of the train an hour before the specified time.
The Russians stood by the side of France on this occasion also. The Grand Cross of St. Andrew was presented to Carnot, the President of France. In spite of all this, Russia was still reluctant to enter into an alliance with republican France. There was a French exhibition at Moscow. The Czar openly opposed it and also ordered his brother who was the Governor of Moscow, not to appear and take part in the banquet. The exhibition was a complete failure.
However, the momentary tension between Russia and France was ended by the renewal of the Triple Alliance. Great Britain appeared to be sympathetic towards the Triple Alliance. Russia found herself alone and no wonder she felt the necessity of an ally. It was this fact which forced the Russian Government to invite the French Fleet to Russia.
The Cronstadt visit took place in 1891 and the French were given a rousing welcome in Russia. The Czar ordered the naval band to play the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. According to Freycinet, “When the fleet weighed anchor, the rapprochement was made. It merely remained to translate it into official language. The Czar had committed himself” The visit of the French fleet created a profound impression in Europe. It was felt that an alliance between Russia and France was in the offing.
Giers informed the French Government that the Russian Government would be willing to discuss matters common to both the countries. In 1891, a political agreement was made between the two countries. It was declared by the two governments that they would confer with each other on every question which threatened peace and take consolidated action to meet the danger, whether actual or potential.
In 1891, the Russian Government raised in France another loan at 3% for a million bonds of 500 francs each and it was over-subscribed eight times. The Russian Government moved slowly in the matter and when Giers visited Paris the same year, he refused to commit himself for a military alliance. In spite of that, Russia had been completely won over. In 1891, Russia and France co-operated with each other in Turkey and the Sultan was informed that both the countries would act together with regard to the Mediterranean.
Although a military convention was being discussed, the French were impatient of delay. The sickness of Giers was delaying matters. The Czar was worried about the secrecy of the terms of the alliance. It was not till October 1893 that a Russian squadron visited Toulon and thereby returned the visit of the French fleet in 1891.
Both men and women in Paris ran with the carriages carrying the Russians and kissed or touched their hands as a token of their affection. They were compelled very often to appear on their balconies. Sometimes they cut their gloves into pieces for distribution among the crowds. A similar reception was given to the Russian officers at Marseilles and Lyons.
We do not know what brought Alexander III to his final conclusion to enter into a military convention with France. He had kept the French waiting for long and perhaps it was his conviction that they would not drag him into a war of revenge. On 16 December 1893, Alexander III is stated to have told Montebello, the French ambassador, “You would not be good patriots, you would not be Frenchmen if you did not hold to the thought that the day will come when you can recover possession of your lost provinces; but there is a great distance between this natural feeling and the idea of provocation to realise it, of revenge in a word; and you have often shown that you want peace above everything and that you know how to wait with dignity.”
On 27 December 1893, Giers informed Montebello that Alexander III had approved the military convention and the same was signed between Russia and France on 31 December 1893. On 4 January 1894, the French Government gave their approval and thus the alliance formally came into existence. The convention was of a defensive nature. If France was attacked by Germany or by Italy supported by Germany, Russia was to employ all her resources to attack Germany.
If Russia was attacked by Germany or by Austria supported by Germany, France was to employ all her forces to fight Germany. Both France and Russia were to employ a certain number of troops against the enemy. The Staffs of the Armies of the two countries were to co-operate at all times in preparing and facilitating the execution of the measures above-mentioned.
They were to communicate to each other all information regarding the armies of the Triple Alliance. The two countries were not to conclude separate treaties. The clauses of the treaty were to be kept secret and the treaty was to last as long as the Triple Alliance lasted.
The existence of the Dual Alliance between Russia and France was revealed to the world in January 1895, when Premier Ribot declared “France has associated her interests with those of another nation in the interest of peace and European equilibrium. This alliance which was ratified by the universal sentiment of the country constitutes today our dignity and our strength.”
Regarding the alliance, William II wrote thus to Czar Nicholas II in September 1895 “I perfectly know that you do not dream of attacking us, but you cannot be astonished that the Powers get alarmed seeing how the presence of your officers and high officials in an official way in France fans inflammable Frenchmen into a white-heat passion and strengthens the cause of chauvinism and revanche. If you are allied for better or worse with the French, well then, keep those damned rascals in order and make them sit still.”
Again, “It is not the friendship of France and Russia that makes me uneasy, but the danger to our principle of monarchism through the lifting up of the Republic on a pedestal. The constant appearance of princes Grand Dukes, etc. at Reviews, Burials, Dinners, Races, with the head of the Republic makes Republicans believes that they are quite honest, excellent people, with whom princes can consort and feel at home.”
According to Dr. Gooch, “The conclusion of the Dual Alliance was an event of capital importance not only for France and Russia, but for Europe. That a first-class Power should desire an alliance with France was an emphatic recognition that she had recovered from her catastrophic defeat.
The glaring differences of political institutions and ideas were forgotten in the satisfaction of procuring a powerful France and the secrecy of its terms enabled eager patriots to hope that it might perhaps contain same assurance with regard to the recovery of the Rhine provinces. On the side of Russia, who had less cause to fret about prestige, the alliance was hailed as good business.
Her plans of Far Eastern expansion, among them the Siberian Railway, required unlimited capital, which thrifty France was ready and indeed eager to supply at a moderate rate. From the standpoint of European politics, the conclusion of the alliance was a sign that the reign of Bismarck was over.”
According to Prof Fay, the Franco-Russian alliance was defensive in its origin but in the time of Delcasse, Izvolsky and Poincare, it was transformed into an offensive alliance. The defeat of Germany was the first and principal objective of the alliance in case of German aggression.
To begin with Germany was not alarmed because she felt that the Triple Alliance was equal in strength to the Dual Alliance. She also believed that England would not join the Dual Alliance and consequently the balance of power would be maintained.
However, it cannot be denied that the existence of the Dual Alliance forced Germany to show due respect to both Russia and France. In a way, the Dual Alliance tended at first to secure the peace of Europe in the same way as “one sword holds another in its sheath.” The isolation of France was ended and France could afford to take a stiff attitude towards Great Britain and Germany.
On many occasions, William II proposed to merge the Triple Alliance and the Dual Alliance into a grand “Continental League.” His view was that such a combination would maintain peace and put an end to the domination of England in colonial affairs. To quote Fay, “Thus the first years of the Franco-Russian Alliance tended to strengthen rather than endanger the peace of Europe.
It established a healthy counterpoise to the Triple Alliance. Neither group was so greatly superior as to be able safely to attack the other, or even to seek to dominate it by threats of force. But during the decade from 1894 to 1904, two changes occurred which tended ultimately to destroy this equilibrium. They are of the greatest importance in the development of the system of secret alliance—England’s exchange of splendid isolation for an Entente Cordiale with France, and Italy’s dubious loyalty towards her Allies.”
7. The Entente Cordiale (1904):
The year 1898 is a great landmark in the history of Anglo- French relations. In that year, Anglo-French rivalry reached its high water-mark and there was every possibility of a clash between the two countries. Great Britain and France had been rivals for a long time. During the latter half of the 19th century, the scramble for Africa had made them keen rivals.
The Anglo-French African settlement of 1890 had solved some of the thorny problems and France was allowed to establish a protectorate over the Island of Madagascar, French influence was recognised as supreme in the Sahara.
In spite of that, the rivalry between the two countries continued. That was due to the fact that the French wanted to penetrate from the west of Africa to the east of Africa and dominate the Sudan.The British Government was equally determined not to allow France to do so as she was determined to link up her possession in North and South Africa. The British Government regarded Anglo-Egyptian Sudan as their own preserve although it had not been conquered.
In 1897, Captain Marchand, a French soldier and explorer who was a passionate opponent of English colonialism, started his march across dark Africa, taking with him in pieces the Steamer Faidherbe which he could reassemble when he reached the Nile. Its boiler was rolled on logs for hundreds of miles through the tropical forest.
After more than a year, Marchand reached Fashoda on July 16, 1898. He restored the fort, made a treaty with the local chief who put his territory under the French rule and hoisted the French flag on the fort.
After a fortnight, Kitchener arrived on the scene with a much stronger force than that of Marchand. There was every likelihood of trouble. When Marchand undertook the expedition, he had been assured of his Government’s help by the then French Foreign Minister in these words “You are going to fire a pistol shot on the Nile; we accept all its consequences.”
However, both Kitchener and Marchand behaved with dignity and gallantry and the situation was saved. There was the following conversation between the two. Kitchener said; “I must hoist the Egyptian flag here.” The reply of Marchand was “Why, I myself will help you to hoist it—over the village.” Kitchener added “Over the fort.” Marchand replied “No, that I shall resist.” Kitchener said “Do you know. Major, that this affair may set France and England at war?” Marchand records that to that question he bowed without replying. Ultimately they agreed that Kitchener should hoist the Egyptian flag over an outlying part of the fort and the French flag should remain over the fort itself. They also agreed to refer the dispute to their respective home governments.
At this time, a new ministry was formed and Delcasse became the Foreign Minister of France. The latter brought a new approach to the whole problem. His view was that France could not afford to fight against England. That was due to the fact that if France was to get back Alsace and Lorraine from Germany, the only way to do so was by getting help from England.
Under the circumstances a fight with England was suicidal, and no wonder Delcasse decided to retire from Fashoda and sent orders accordingly. Negotiations started between the two countries with regard to the territory claimed by France but on account of the stiff attitude of England, Delcasse had to give way. An Anglo-French convention of March 1899 fixed a line beyond which Great Britain was not to seek territory or influence westwards and France eastwards.
Although Delcasse asked the British Government to settle the other outstanding disputes between the two countries and thereby bring them together, the British Government declined the offer. That was partly due to the fact that England was more favourably inclined towards Germany than towards France. Moreover, the British Government had no faith in the stability of the French ministries. The matter had to be dropped for the time being.
The settlement of 1899 between France and England was not popular in France. It was maintained by the French patriots that Delcasse had surrendered before Great Britain. In spite of the best efforts made by Delcasse to make Frenchmen understand his point of view, the feeling remained.
When the Boer War started the relations between England and France became bitter once again. The French supported the Boers in their fight against the British Government. On the other hand, Germany supported the British stand. No wonder, there was too much of anti-French feeling in England.
The visit of William II to London on the occasion of the death of Queen Victoria and his attitude there brought England and Germany together and nobody thought of France. However, events took a different turn when William II was approached to enter into an alliance with England and he tried to put off by saying that the road to Berlin lay through Vienna.
It was then that statesmen like Chabmerlain who stood for an Anglo-German collaboration, felt disgusted with the German attitude and decided to seek friends elsewhere. It was in that spirit that Great Britain decided to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with Japan in 1902.’
Negotiations were started with France in 1902 when Chamberlain made a formal proposal to Cambon, the French Ambassador in London. The scope of those proposals was colonial and their object was to solve the Anglo-French disputes in the colonial field.
The Anglo-French differences fell into two classes. In the first category fell a long string of local colonial disputes? The French claims rested on treaties and were more detrimental to Britain than of advantage to her. Their main value was a bargaining counter. France could be persuaded to surrender them only by giving her compensation elsewhere.
Although it was a tedious job, yet it was not so hopeless. To the second category belonged two questions of high policy and those were Morocco and Egypt. France had not forgotten how in 1882 she was deprived of her interests in Egypt as a result of the unilateral action of Great Britain.
The bitterness against Great Britain on that score was very great and it was difficult to reconcile her, French interest in Egypt had been long and intimate, dating back to the time of Napoleon I. At the same time, the Sultanate of Morocco was falling to pieces and could link the North and West African possessions of France.
Moreover, the control of Morocco by any other rival power would have endangered French position, if this was the French view; the British Admiralty was not inclined to allow the falling of the southern shore of the straits of Gibraltar into the hands of France. Most of Morocco’s small trade was done by British merchants and they were not prepared to lose it so easily.
However, a bargain was struck between the two countries. Great Britain was to have a free hand in Egypt and France was to have a free hand in Morocco and both of them were to support each other. The problem of the straits was solved by a non-fortification clause and by reserving a northern strip to satisfy the historic claim of Spain. It was also provided that equal liberty of commerce was to be given to England for thirty years.
The ratification of the treaty needed a feeling of friendship in France towards Great Britain. However, that feeling was lacking for some time. The French newspapers were most bitter against England. However, President Loubet and Foreign Minister Delcasse sent friendly messages to Edward VII on his accession to the throne.
The King was greatly impressed by them. Moreover, Edward VII had an inborn hatred for the Germans and their king who had insulted him many a time. He was extremely popular with the people of Paris whom he visited often.
In 1903 when Edward VII visited France he was given a hearty welcome everywhere. The people ran after his carriage and cheered him. The visit was a grand success. In the same year, President Loubet and Delcasse went to London on a return visit and were warmly received.
The result was that an Anglo-French Arbitration Treaty was signed in October 1903. However, the main treaty was signed in April 1904 and it dealt with Egypt, Morocco, Newfoundland, West Africa, Madagascar, Siam and New Hebrides. The Treaty was ratified both by Great Britain and France.
The question of Newfoundland fisheries was amicably settled. France gave up her claim to the shores of Newfoundland where she had the right of fishing and drying her nets, but she was guaranteed the right of fishing as before.
She got concessions in West Africa. She got 14,000 square miles of territory and uninterrupted access from her territories on the Niger to those in Lake Chad. The difficulties with regard to Siam, Madagascar and New Hebrides were also solved.
Both Lord Lansdowne and Delcasse were satisfied at the friendly settlement of the outstanding disputes between England and France. Answering the critics, Delcasse maintained that in Newfoundland France had only abandoned privileges which were difficult to maintain and in no way necessary, while the essential right of fishing in territorial waters was preserved.
In West Africa the British concessions were of considerable importance. The Niger-Chad frontier was improved. To quote him, “Under our influence, Morocco would be a source of strength for our North African empire. If subject to a foreign Power, our North African possessions would be permanently menaced and paralysed.” The sacrifice in Egypt was small. No change was made in the political status and all necessary guarantees for French financial interests were obtained. Great Britain also agreed to abide by the terms of the Suez Canal Convention of 1888.
It is wrong to think that the Entente Cordiale of 1904 was in any way a military alliance between Great Britain and France. It was nothing of the kind. It was merely a settlement of the outstanding disputes between the two countries. However, the settlement of the disputes created an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship between the two countries. There was every possibility of strengthening the Entente in the future.
Although the Entente of 1904 did not commit the two countries to help each other, certain circumstances brought them together. There was the alarming growth of the German navy and it was feared in England that if Great Britain was to maintain her naval supremacy in the world, she must build more ships than the Germans did.
The British Government also decided to withdraw her navy from the Pacific and concentrate the entire British navy in the North Sea. That could be done only if Great Britain withdrew her navy from the Mediterranean also. That could be done only if a friendly power took over the control of the Mediterranean.
It was the question of the withdrawal of the British navy from the Mediterranean that forced England to depend more and more on France whose navy could be entrusted with the command of the Mediterranean.
The Entente was tested in 1905-6, 1908 and 1911 on three occasions of the Morocco crises. On all these three occasions, Great Britain backed France. The testing of the Entente made it grow stronger. As a matter of fact, it was the community of interests between England and France that solidified the Entente and brought them nearer each other. Anglo-French collaboration had reached such a stage that on the occasion of Haldane’s mission to Berlin in 1912 Grey declared that England would not sacrifice France for the sake of friendship with Germany.
It is desirable to refer to the views of Bulow and Dr. Gooch on the Entente Cordiale. According to Bulow, “I can only say that we have no reason to suppose that this agreement is directed against any power whatever. It seems to be an attempt to eliminate the points of difference between France and Great Britain by means of an amicable understanding. From the point of view of German interests we have nothing to complain of for we do not wish to see strained relations between Great Britain and France, if only because such a state of affairs would imperil the peace of the world, the maintenance of which we sincerely desire. Concerning Morocco, which constitutes the essential point of the agreement, we are interested in this country, as in fact in the rest of the Mediterranean, principally from the economic point of view…We must protect our commercial interests in Morocco, and we shall protect them.”
According to Dr. Gooch, “It is regrettable that the British Cabinet did not perceive—or at any rate did not help France to perceive—the wisdom of securing German consent by a solatium. Though the Secret Treaties of 1904 reserved no share for Great Britain in the contingent partition of Morocco and though it has been argued it was reasonable for the contracting parties to make alternative arrangements in the event of Morocco collapsing from internal weakness, our share in the transaction which suggested double-dealing involves the British Government in partial responsibility for the crises of 1905 and 1911.”
According to Tayor, “The agreement, signed on 8th April 1904, therefore appeared to contain a gross inequality the British gains in Egypt operated immediately; the French gains in Morocco depended on their fixture exertions. The inequality was apparent, not real. The British were already established in Egypt beyond all challenge; their gain was merely a free hand for Cromer and his financial schemes—gratifying, no doubt, but irrelevant to their imperial strength. The French, on the other hand, were at liberty to add the finest part of North Africa to their empire. But in politics it is the apparent which counts. When Delcasse gave up Egypt, he renounced a cause which ranked, however mistakenly, second only to the lost provinces; when Lansdowne gave up Morocco, he wrote off a country unknown to all except a few traders and experts in strategy. Both British and French opinion believed that France had paid the higher price. Because of the sentimental weight of Egypt, the entente was on trial in France as it was not in Great Britain. The entente was essential for France; it was merely an advantage for the British. But the French had paid cash down, the British with a promissory note. Hence the French could take an independent line—could try to go back in their bargain towards Spain and could flirt with Germany. British good faith was on trial; they had to back the French up in Morocco when international difficulties arose. Yet all the entente did for the British were slightly to lessen their naval needs in the Mediterranean and to give Cromer a field day in Egypt; for the French the situation in the Far East made it a matter of life and death.”
It is desirable to refer to the military and naval talks between England and France from 1905 to 1914. The Entente Cordiale of 1904 bound England merely to give diplomatic support to France on the question of Morocco.
However, after the visit of William II to Tangier, the British Government and the public opinion in England felt that Germany was trying to break up the entente by bullying France. It was also felt that France was being threatened merely on account of her friendship with England.
There was also political and commercial rivalry between England and Germany. The rapid growth of the German navy was also worrying British statesmen. It was found that on the question of Morocco, the English press was “more French than the French.” It was hinted that in the event of a war on the question of Morocco, “England will stand unconditionally and actively on the French side and will go against Germany, even with enthusiasm.”
It was in the atmosphere that talks started between Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Minister, and Cambon, the French Ambassador in London. Great Britain was prepared to “take a step further” and offer to France more than mere diplomatic support. Negotiations had reached the final stage when Delcasse fell in 1905.
In December 1905, Sir Edward Grey became the Foreign Minister of England. It was the eve of the Algeciras Conference and Germany was adopting a threatening attitude towards France and consequently the French Government was feeling very nervous. It was in these circumstances that in January 1906, Cambon asked Grey whether the British Government would be prepared to render France armed assistance in the case of German aggression and whether it would sanction the continuation of military and naval talks.
The reply of Grey was that although he could not give a definite reply without consulting his colleagues, his personal view was that if France was attacked by Germany on the question of Morocco, public opinion in England would be strongly moved in favour of France.
The naval talks had already been done by Sir John Fisher himself and Grey assured Cambon that even military talks would take place on a satisfactory basis and it was actually done. While Grey encouraged the French to expect British help in the case of necessity, he reserved to himself the liberty of action.
Cambon quoted Grey that “in the event of an attack by Germany upon France, no British Government could remain neutral,” but Grey pointed out that “a personal opinion was not a thing upon which, in so serious a matter, a policy could be founded.” Much was to depend upon the manner in which a war broke out between France and Germany. While England was not prepared to fight against Germany to put France in possession of Morocco, the English public opinion would be in favour of helping France if she were attacked by Germany. To quote Grey, “Events might change, but as things are at present, I do not think it necessary to press the question of a defensive alliance.”
It is true that Grey was favourably incline towards France but he was not prepared to enter into any formal agreement with France which might bind England to go to war. Such an agreement had to be sanctioned by Parliament and the latter might not be willing to do so. Moreover, such an agreement was bound to add to the hostility between France and Germany.
The whole of the British Cabinet might not approve of his view. Consequently, Grey left the whole thing in the melting pot and approved the holding of military and naval conversations between the military staffs of both the countries. These talks continued up to 1914 and the military preparations in both the countries were linked up with each other.
The British and French officers thoroughly surveyed the grounds upon which their armies were to fight in Belgium and France. Sir Henry Wilson, Director of Military Operations, spent his holidays cycling on the ground where the war was likely to be fought.
The whole wall of his London office was covered by a big map of Belgium. Ways and means were found out for putting the English armies on the French soil within as short a period as possible. The estimate was that within 12 days of declaration of war, English troops would be fighting in Europe.
Prof Fay has condemned Grey for concealing the military and naval talks from the Cabinet for years. It was in 1912 that the British Cabinet came to know of them. The British Parliament and the public came to know of them in 1914. It is pointed out that that was not an honest way of doing things. Grey ought to have placed the whole matter before the Cabinet and not taken action in consultation with the Prime Minister alone.
It is also maintained that the naval military talks committed England to come to the help of France although there was no definite pact to that effect between the two countries. The only justification of Grey was that he did everything in the best interests of his country and there was absolutely no dishonesty about what he did.
9. The Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907:
During the 19th century, England followed a policy of splendid isolation and refused to commit herself in spite of the efforts made by Bismarck. However, by the end of the 19th century she came to realise that the policy of splendid isolation was not in her best interests and was another name for annihilation.
It was this realisation that was responsible for the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902. It was with the same objective that the Entente Cordiale of 1904 was made with France and all the outstanding disputes between the two countries were amicably settled. Although the Entente of 1904 was not a military alliance, both the countries came nearer each other by the force of circumstances, and England backed France in 1906, 1908 and 1911 on the question of Morocco.
It is rightly pointed out that the Anglo-Russian Entente was a complement of die Anglo-French Entente. When Delcasse was in office, he did his utmost to bring Russia and England together. He felt that in the event of a war between England and Russia, French position would be very much weakened and even the utility of the Franco-Russian alliance of 1893 and the Entente Cordiale of 1904 would be very much lessened.
France would be put in a very awkward position if her two partners quarrelled among themselves. No wonder, when the Dogger Bank accident took place, Delcasse worked hard to bring about a settlement between Russia and Great Britain.
In spite of the tense atmosphere prevailing in England against Russia, the matter was hushed up and the possibility of a war between England and Russia was avoided, Delcasse felt that in the event of a war between England and Russia, the latter might join Germany and thereby endanger the very existence of France.
Russia had been weakened very much in the Russo-Japanese War and there was every possibility of a conflict between Russia and Japan in the future. Russia needed peace for a long time to put herself on her feet and that was possible only if England, the friend of Japan, “could be won over.”
According to Taylor, “The Dogger Bank affair marked, indeed, the end of an epoch in European history—the epoch in which an Anglo-Russian conflict seemed the most likely outcome of international relations. This conflict had been expected in the Near East for fifty years, in Central Asia for twenty, and in the Far East, with the greatest likelihood of all for ten. After November 1904 the conflict was indefinitely postponed. The British has settled their differences with France: they had escaped war with Russia, Their security, and therewith their isolation from continental affairs, seemed at its height.”
It appears that during the Russo-Japanese War, Edward VII and Izvolski, who later became the Foreign Minister of Russia, discussed the question of Anglo-Russian relations and the possibility of rapprochement between the two countries. Both of them seem to have approved of the idea of an Entente between the two countries.
It was felt by Russia that if she could end her disputes with Great Britain, she could pursue an active forward policy in the Balkans and also in the Far East. It there was an Anglo-Russians Entente and reconciliation with Japan; there could come into existence a quadruplicate combination stronger than that of the triplicate.
Both Edward VII and Sir Edward Grey were in favour of an understanding with Russia. The first Morocco crisis (1905-6) and the growing naval strength of Germany created a lot of anxiety in England and there was a genuine desire to come to an understanding with Russia so that in the event of a war with Germany, British position might not be weakened.
Sir Charles Hardinge who had worked as British ambassador in Russia, was also a strong advocate of a friendly settlement with Russia. He exerted a lot of influence on Sir Edward Grey in favour of Russia. Sir Arthur Nicholson, the new British ambassador in Russia, also played an important part.
Negotiations started soon after Izvolski became Russia’s Foreign Minister in May 1906. He admitted in October 1908 that such negotiations were going on. To begin with Russia was opposed to the partition of Persia into spheres of influence, but on account of the insistence in London, she had to give way. In March 1907, a Russian fleet visited Portsmouth.
On the invitation of the British Government a deputation of Russian officers and sailors visited London and they were entertained as guests at the Admiralty. After the banquet, there was a gala performance which was attended by Sir John Fisher, First Lord of the Admiralty and Sir Edward Grey. This was an unusual thing.
The progress of negotiations was hampered by certain difficulties. It was difficult to reconcile English liberalism and Russian autocracy. Both the Czar and the Russian reactionaries and militarists were opposed to an understanding with England and Izvolski had to face great difficulties. The Liberal press of England condemned Russian pogroms and the reactionary and oppressive character of the Czarist regime. In spite of this, difficulties were overcome on account of the sincere efforts on both sides.
Another cause of delay was the British desire to bring Russia and Japan together. It was felt that there must be a satisfactory reconciliation between Japan and Russia on the question of China. An Anglo-Russian Entente was of no use if the two friends of Great Britain were to fight with each other. So great was the interest taken by the British Government with regard to the Russia-Japanese negotiations that they were actually concluded before an Anglo-Russian agreement was made on 31 August 1907.
The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 dealt with Tibet, Afghanistan and Persia. As regards Tibet both England and Russia recognised the sovereignty of China and agreed not to interfere in her internal affairs or get any concessions there. The land of the Lamas was to remain a barrier between the Russian bears and the British lions.
As regards Afghanistan, Great Britain promised not to annex it and Russia pledged herself not to interfere with the affairs of Afghanistan. Russia declared Afghanistan outside the sphere of her influence She withdrew her diplomatic agents from Herat. She agreed to deal with Afghanistan only through the British authorities. There were to be no more intrigues in Afghanistan either by England or by Russia.
As regards Persia, both England and Russia agreed to respect the territorial integrity and independence of Persia, but at the same time the country was divided into three regions. In the North, Russia was to have her own sphere of influence and in the South Great Britain was to have her own sphere of influence.
Between these two spheres of influence, a central new region was created in which neither England nor Russia was to get any concession. It is to be noted that the King of Persia was not consulted with regard to the settlement concerning Persia and the treatment of the King of Persia was the subject of a cartoon in the Punch in which the British lion and the Russian bear were shown mauling between them an unhappy Persian cat. The lion said to the bear “Look here. You can play with his head and I can play with his tail and we can both strike the small of his back.” The cat merely said: “I don’t remember having been consulted about this.”
According to Grey, England made a better bargain than Russia. To quote him, “What we gained by it was real—what was gained by Russia was apparent.” However, Prof. Fay does not agree with this view. His view is that Russia was the gainer while England was not. Although England gained peace of mind with regard to her Indian frontiers, she otherwise lost a lot. She lost independent action in Persia and although Grey protested on many occasions, he could not check Russia.
On one occasion, he was prepared even to resign. The Russians took advantage of the British fear of Germany and consequent reliance on Russia. The Russian attitude was put in a nutshell by Sazonov in these words. “The London Cabinet looks upon the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 as being important for the Asiatic interests of England, but this Convention possesses a still greater importance for England from the viewpoint of the policy which is being pursued by England in Europe. The English, engaged in the pursuit of political aims of vital importance in Europe, may, in case of necessity, be prepared to sacrifice certain interests in Asia in order to keep a Convention alive which IS of such importance to them. This is a circumstance which we can, of course, exploit for ourselves, as, for instance, in Persian affairs.”
According to Professor Fay, “Though Izvolski hoped that the Triple Entente would give him greater freedom of action in the Near East and Middle East, and though the French counted on it in the same way in Morocco, so far as England was concerned it aimed at the preservation of peace through the establishment of a balance of power.
It was insurance against the supposed danger of possible German aggression and not for any aggression against Germany’s existing position in Europe and in the commercial world. But to German eyes, it had a more ominous and irritating appearance.”
Although all the terms of the Anglo-Russian convention were made public and there was no military obligation of any kind between the parties, both Russia and England came nearer each other with the passage of time.
It was felt that the danger of Germany was so great that they must forget their minor differences. It was this Entente which brought England and Russia on the side of France in the war of 1914-18.
Ketelbey says that the Anglo-Russian Convention completed the entente of Great Britain with the Dual Alliance. In the words of Lord Oxford, “It put an end once and for all to the Russian ‘menace to India’ which had haunted the minds of British statesmen and diplomats—even of those who used the largest maps—for generations.”
There could be no objection to the composing of the long-standing quarrels between England and France and England and Russia, but opinion is seriously divided on the question how far Great Britain was wise to abandon her diplomatic isolation. No military alliance was involved in the Anglo-Russian Convention, no menace was implied to Germany and it could only be regarded as a defensive combination against the Central Powers.
It gave the greatest security to France. It heartened her chauvinists. It encouraged her revanche policy. The people of France looked to the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine with eagerness and the Convention created new hopes in that direction. Although Russia could not with certainty count on British support, the understanding gave her greater security. Checked in Asia, Russia was awakened again to her interests in the Balkans and her rivalry there with Austria.
It strengthened Great Britain in her bitter naval competition with Germany. Germany was very much upset by this Convention. In that country there was something like a scare which produced a sort of hysteria among the Pan-Germans, Navy-Leaguers and Prussian Generals. It is not that Germany feared Great Britain although she began to hate her for her successful imperialism and her “traditional policy of opposing whatever Continental Power was for the time being the strongest.”
What she feared was the effect of Britain’s support upon France in Alsace-Lorrain and upon Russia in the Balkans. To quote Bethmann Hollweg, “England was well aware that the eyes of France were steadfastly fixed upon Alsace-Lorraine and could hear the deep notes of the revanche motif sounding, evening through the harmonies of the Russo-French fraternization.”
Again, “The general tension throughout the world originated, indeed, in the certainty of English support enjoyed by a Franco-Russian policy through whose ultimate objects we were endangered.” Ketelbey maintains that it was from this time that Germany began to bring forward against Great Britain and particularly against King Edward VII, the repeated charge of “encirclement, a deliberate policy of surrounding Germany with a combine of hostile nations-France, Russia, Great Britain, Japan by affiliation, and Italy by seduction from the Triple Alliance.
10. The Haldane Mission, 1912:
Lord Haldane, British Minister of War, went on a mission to Berlin with a view to arriving at some settlement with the German Government. The main object of the mission was to lessen the tension between the two countries arising out of naval competition.
The relations between the two countries were so much strained that it was fell that unless something was done at once, the two countries might be dragged into a war against each other. Count Mettemich, the German Ambassador in England, was unhappy at the mutual misunderstandings and recriminations between the two countries. English public opinion demanded that the British Government must insist upon the “Two-Power Standard.”
This meant that the English Navy was to be as strong as the combined navies of any other two Powers. The view of Mettemich was that the fundamental cause of the alarm and agitation was the enormous growth of the German Navy and there was the necessity and desirability of slowing down the German programme of construction of her ships. Bulow himself was in favour of arriving at some understanding on the question of the navy, but Admiral Tirpitz, German Navy Minister, was not prepared to arrive at any settlement which aimed at reducing the German Navy or retarding its growth.
Mr. McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, also proposed that England would build six Dreadnoughts a year against the four Dreadnoughts of Germany. There was a strong feeling in England that Germany was trying to steal a march over England and consequently there was a demand that eight Dreadnoughts should be built instead of six as proposed by McKenna. The popular cry was: “We want eight and we won’t wait.”
As the situation was deteriorating, two persons played an important part to bring together the two countries and remove the points of conflict. Those persons were Ballin and Cassel. Ballin was the head of the Hamburg-American Line, and his view was that the main cause of Anglo-German animosity was the rapid growth of the German Navy. Ballin had friendly relations with William II, the German Chancellor and Tirpitz. Sir Ernest Cassel was a London banker who was born in Germany.
He had great influence with Edward VII and the big business of England. In 1909, Ballin and Cassel met to find our ways and means of bringing about an understanding between the two countries. In the winter of 1911-2, Ballin met Cassel and the latter met Sir Edward Grey. In January 1912, Cassel went to Berlin with a memorandum which had been approved by the important members of the British Cabinet.
That memorandum was to serve as the basis of the negotiations and its text was as follows:
“1. Fundamental Naval superiority recognized as essential to Great Britain. Present German naval programme and expenditure not to be increased, but if possible retarded and reduced.”
“2. England sincerely desires not to interfere with German colonial expansion. To give effect to this she is prepared forthwith to discuss whatever the German aspirations in that direction may be. England will be glad to know that there is a field or special points where she can help Germany.”
“3. Proposals for reciprocal assurance debarring either Power from joining in aggressive designs or combinations against the other would be welcomed.”
Cassei met the German Chancellor and showed him the memorandum. The view of the German Chancellor was that it would be best if Sir Edward Grey visited Berlin to conduct the negotiations. Cassei returned to England and communicated what had transpired.
Sir Edward Grey was not willing to go to Berlin and he had his own reasons for it. His view was that his visit to Berlin was bound to create distrust and suspicions in France and thereby weaken the Entente which the British Government was not prepared to do.
This was particularly so because the British Government had decided to withdraw the British ships from the Mediterranean and replace them by the French ships. Grey also believed that if the negotiations failed, there was every possibility of the German Government putting all the blame on him. His fear was that the whole plan might be “one of those petty unofficial manoeuvres that could be avowed or disavowed at Berlin as best might suit German convenience.”
His feeling was that nothing would come out of the talks because the German Government had already decided to increase her navy and the public opinion in England would not tolerate a deal with Germany particularly when the British Government was to spend more and more on the development of her navy. To quote Grey, “The mutual arrest or decrease of naval expenditure is the test of whether an understanding is worth anything.”
Ultimately, it was decided to send Lord Haldane to Berlin. His visit was to be private and informal so that if nothing came out of it, there might be no sensation or disappointment among the public. Haldane was required “to find out whether Germany’s recent overture was serious or not. He was also to attempt to gather information about the Baghdad Railway. But there is no question of entering upon negotiations. We desire only to learn the intention of the German Government and to enquire about its plan for naval programme.” This points out to the restricted scope of the mission.
On the day of the arrival of Haldane in Berlin, William II declared that projects for the increase of the German Navy and Army would be introduced in the next session of the Reichstag. Mr. Churchill’s reply v/as in these words. “The British Navy is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, the German Navy is to them more in the nature of luxury. We shall make it clear that other naval Powers instead of overtaking us by additional efforts will only be more outdistanced in consequence of the measure which we ourselves shall take.” The speeches of William II and Churchill were not favourable to the success of Haldane’s mission.
Lord Haldane was given a good welcome in Berlin. He felt that the German Chancellor was very sincere to avoid a war. He told William II and Tirpitz that England was determined to build two ships for every ship built by Germany. As the question of the Navy seemed to be difficult William II suggested that other questions like colonies might be settled first and then the question of navy might be tackled. Bethmann, the German Chancellor, was asked by William II to prepare a formal draft for a settlement between the two countries.
The formal draft prepared by the German Chancellor read as follows:
I. “The High Contracting Powers assure each other mutually of their desire of peace and friendship.
II. “They will not, either of them, make any combination, or join in any combination, which is directed| against the other. They expressly declare that they are not bound by any such combination.
III. “If either of the High Contracting Parties becomes entangled in a war with one or more other Powers, the other of the High Contracting Parties will at least observe towards the Power so entangled benevolent neutrality, and use its utmost Endeavour for the localisation of the conflict.
IV. “The duty of neutrality which arises from the preceding Article has no application in so far as it may not be reconcilable with existing agreements which the High Contracting Powers have already made. The making of new agreements which make it impossible for either of the Contracting Parties to observe neutrality towards the other beyond what is provided by the preceding limitation is excluded in conformity with the provision contained in Article II.”
Lord Haldaiie proposed the following modifications in Articles II and III of the draft:
II. “They will not either of them make or prepare to make any unprovoked attack upon the other, or join in any combination or design against the other for purposes of aggression, or become party to any plan or naval or military enterprise alone or in combination with any other power directed to such an end.”
III. “If either of the High Contracting Parties becomes entangled in a war with one or more other Powers, in which it cannot be said to be the aggressor, the other of the High Contracting Parties will at least observe towards the Power so entangled a benevolent neutrality and use its utmost endeavour for the localisation of the conflict.”
Lord Haldane came back to England with a draft of the proposed German Navy Law. The same was handed over to the Admiralty Department, and after a thorough study and discussion the British Government forwarded a memorandum to Berlin. Germany did not approve of the British memorandum and was indignant that the British Government was putting forward very unreasonable proposals.
William II did not like the attitude of the British Government, but both the German Chancellor and the Foreign Minister persisted that another effort should be made to arrive at a settlement with England. William II overruled the Chancellor and directed the German Ambassador in London to inform the British Government that he was determined to get his Navy Law passed through the legislature.
He warned the British Government that if it withdrew its ships from the Mediterranean and concentrated them in the North Sea, that was to be considered as a threat of war. Although the German Chancellor resigned, yet he was persuaded by William II to continue in office. Tirpitz was able ultimately to carry his point by a threat of resignation. The net result was that William II agreed to act according to the advice of Tirpitz and not that of the Chancellor.
Seeing the attitude of the German Government, Churchill placed before the British Parliament the British Navy Estimates which provided for two keels to every additional German keel. The negotiations were abandoned as hopeless on 29 March 1912. The German Navy law was passed by the Reichstag on 14 May 1912. Thus ended the Haldane mission to Germany.
According to Prof. Fay, two causes were responsible for the failure of the Haldane mission. One cause was that the British Government was not prepared to let down the French Government in case France was attacked by Germany. Grey was prepared to go to any length to remove the fear of France that she may not be helped in the event of a German attack.
He was prepared to wreck the talks with Germany rather than create any doubt in the minds of the French statesmen. If such was the attitude of the British Government, the German Government insisted that Great Britain must declare that she would not help France and remain neutral.
Another cause of the failure of the mission was that the German Government was not prepared to compromise on the question of the German Navy. While Germany was determined to increase her navy. Great Britain was equally determined to maintain her naval superiority. Under the circumstances, there was no scope for any compromise and no wonder the mission failed in spite of the sincere efforts of certain persons.
11. Encirclement of Germany:
A reference may be made to the so-called encirclement of Germany by the Entente Powers. It is well known that in the time of Bismarck, Germany was the arbiter of Europe, but things changed after his resignation in 1890. There was a stage when England was anxious to enter into an alliance with Germany.
However, that stage was over in 1901 when William II gave an evasive reply to a definite British proposal for an alliance between the two countries. It was then that Great Britain entered into an alliance with Japan in 1902.
In 1904, the Entente Cordiale was made with France. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought Russia and England together. At the same time, the differences between Russia and Japan were amicably settled through the good offices of the British Government.
Germany was faced with a new situation and she felt that Great Britain had strengthened her position to such an extent that her position had become comparatively weak. Although outwardly she did not show any signs of nervousness, she felt at heart that the Triple Entente was stronger than the Triple Alliance both in economic resources and military and naval strength.
Germany felt that her progress was checked in every quarter by the Entente Powers. On subjects like Alsace-Lorraine, Morocco, naval competition, the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, etc., one or the other Entente Power was opposed to Germany. Even in the case of the Balkans, there was a conflict between Russia and Austria for domination and if Austria was involved in a war, Germany was likely to be dragged into the same.
In such an eventuality, Germany was either to surrender or fight and neither of the two alternatives was a happy one. Although both Russia and England protested that the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 was not aimed against Germany, the latter was not satisfied. It appeared to Germany that all the Entente Powers were opposed to her and she was actually being encircled by them.
The bitterness was intensified on the question of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway. Russia was opposed to the project for political, economic and strategic reasons. Delcasse was opposed to the project on account of the French alliance with Russia. He went to the extent of disallowing the bonds of the Baghdad Railway to be quoted on the Pairs Bourse.
The British Government opposed the project as that was likely to affect adversely the British interests in Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf and also endanger the safety of the British Empire in India. The Germans completed a part of the railway in 1904 but they found their further progress blocked on account of the opposition of the Entente Powers. Germany was prepared to give up her claims in Morocco if France supported the Berlin-Baghdad railway project.
This France refused to do. The British Government demanded either the internationalisation of the whole of the project or British control over the Railway from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. Germany felt that she could not oblige England up to that extent and the bitterness continued to increase.
The naval competition between Germany and England forced Sir John Fisher to follow a “ruthless and remorseless” policy. Great Britain was determined to maintain her naval supremacy and William II was equally determined to beat England on that point. There was no possibility of a compromise and that is amply proved by the following statement of William II. “Count Mettemich must be informed that good relations with England at the price of the building of German Navy are not desired by him. If England intends graciously to extend us her hand only with the intimation that we must limit our fleet, this is a groundless impertinence which involves a heavy insult to the German people and their Kaiser, which must be rejected in limine by the Ambassador. France and Russia might with equal reason then demand a limitation of our land armaments. The German fleet is not built against any one and not against England, but according to our need. This is stated quite clearly in the Navy Law and for 11 years has remained unchanged. This Law will be carried out to the last iota; whether it suits the British or not, is no matter. If they want war, they can begin it; we do not fear it.” In a speech to the German officers, William II gave expression to his inner feeling in these words. “A strong navy, a strong army and powder dry.”
William II was himself determined to make Germany the strongest power in the world. That could be done only if he was able to defeat Great Britain and her allies. William II believed in a policy “World Power or Downfall” and was prepared to go to any extent to achieve that objective.
If he himself was prepared to defeat everybody, he ought not to have grumbled when his potential victims joined hands to offer joint resistance. There was no encirclement of Germany as such. What actually happened was that William II felt that the realisation of his ambitions was blocked on account of the combined opposition of the Entente Powers. Prof Fay made the following observations on this point.
“The effect on Germany of England’s opposition to the Baghdad Railway, of her efforts to limit the German Navy, entry of England into a Triple Entente was to produce a conviction that Germany was being encircled. Germans believed that this encirclement was Edward VII’s personal work and that it aimed at strangling German commercial and colonial expansion, and even at crushing Germany’s political and military position. There is no substantial evidence that there was any deliberate encirclement with such aims on the part of King Edward or the British Government. Such notions were the product of German imagination, fear and suspicion.”
12. Rivalry between Triple Alliance and Triple Entente:
Between 1907 and 1914, there was a keen rivalry between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. While Germany tried to strengthen the Triple Alliance, Poincare tried to tighten and strengthen the Triple Entente and the latter was more successful than the former. Although the Triple Alliance was renewed in 1907 and 1912, it became weaker and weaker on account of many causes.
There were troubles within Austria herself She was also too much entangled in the Balkan politics. There was distrust between Austria and Italy on account of “unredeemed Italy”. The Italians were determined to get back the Italian-speaking territories under the control of Austria. As Austria was not prepared to oblige Italy, there was no genuine co-operation between them.
Moreover, both Austria and Italy were rivals in the Balkans and both of them were determined to control the Adriatic Sea. All these factors weakened the effectiveness of the Triple Alliance. Italy entered into an agreement with France in 1902 and with Russia in 1909. She voted with France against Germany on the occasion of the Algeciras Conference.
On the other hand, the Triple Entente was positively much stronger. The conflicting interests among the Powers were reconciled. Moreover, they were prepared to ignore petty differences for the sake of higher objects. The naval and military staff talks between England and France and Russia and France pooled together the resources of the Entente Powers.
The Entente Powers were cautious to avoid any doubt or suspicion among the partners, Grey was prepared to allow the Haldane mission to fail rather than create any suspicion in France. He supported France wholeheartedly on the question of Morocco and was prepared even to risk a war with Germany.
Europe was divided into armed camps, one represented by the Triple Entente and the other by the Triple Alliance. Every effort was made to lessen friction and suspicion and increase harmony, solidarity, and security of the camp. Sometimes, “blank cheques” were given by one ally to another.
Sometimes, assurances of “complete fulfillment of the obligations of the alliance” were given. Regarding his interview in 1913 with William II, Berchtold, the Austrian Foreign Minister, observed thus, “As often as opportunity offered during one hour and a quarter s talks to touch upon our relations as Allies, His Majesty ostentatiously used the occasion to assure me that we could count absolutely and completely upon him. This was the red thread that ran through the utterances of the illustrious sovereign. His Majesty did me the honour to say that whatever came from the Vienna Foreign Office was a command for him.”
The allies were coming to rely more and more on the support of one another. There was feverish activity for the growth of military and naval armaments. That led to suspicious and fears and that in turn gave an impetus to the race of armaments. According to Prof Schmitt, “In 1907 the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente had stood side by side; in 1914 they stood face to face.”
According to Grant and Temperley, “This remarkable arrangement of international checks and balances for a long time preserved peace among the peoples, but by the very fact of its existence ultimately engendered strife. For the system was one of competing alliances, not of a universal league. It was a Balance, not a Concert, of Power. As one combination strengthened or developed its growth alarmed other States outside its orbit and mechanically produced a counter-combination. Competing alliances produced competing armaments, and the rivalry of hatred and of fear ended in the two opposed groups carrying their competition to the battlefield.”
According to J.A. Spender, “The stage which Europe had reached was that of a semi-internationalism which organised the nations into two groups but provided no bridge between them. There could scarcely have been worse conditions for either peace or war. The equilibrium was so delicate that a puff of wind might destroy it…”
According to Lord Oxford, “We were often conscious that we were skating on the thinnest of ice and that the peace of Europe was at the mercy of a chapter of unforeseen and unforeseeable accidents.” That accident took place on 28 June 1914 when Archduke Francis Ferdinand was murdered by the Serbians and that led to World War I.