On the eve of World War I, alliances were a significant part of the international system. In the past, the creation of competing blocs of Great Powers was seen to be a key cause of the beginning of war in 1914; however, this analysis misses the point.
Instead of enhanced rigidity, it was rather the uncertainty of the coalitions’ cohesiveness in the face of a casus foederis that encouraged a predilection for high-risk crisis management among decision-makers.
Bismarck, who was the Chancellor of Germany at the time, began a series of alliances with foreign nations in 1873. The goal of these alliances was to isolate France and prevent France from exacting retribution against Germany for her defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871.
The Alliance System played a significant part in the events that led up to the First World War, primarily because it led to the division of the major European countries into two competing military camps by the year 1907: the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.
The conflict that ensued as a result of the animosity between the two groups was known as the First World War. Additionally, the alliance system converted small disagreements into complex disputes, which ultimately led directly to the beginning of the First World War.
To begin, with the establishment of the Alliance System, there was no nation that was in a position to negotiate or act as a mediator. This was due to the fact that all of the European Powers had either joined the Triple Alliance or the Triple Entente.
Second, the majority of the information on the partnerships was kept under wraps. For instance, the Dual Alliance was covertly established because Germany did not want to provoke Russia into a conflict. As a direct consequence of this, mutual mistrust and anxiety among the powers increased, and they began to view one another with an increasingly skeptical eye. The tension that existed between the two military camps reached an all-time high.
Thirdly, as a result of the reassurance that is offered by the alliance system, the European countries think that their friends would supply them with military backing in the event that a conflict broke out, and as a result, they have become less eager to resolve disagreements by diplomatic means.
Fourthly, both sides felt the need to outdo the other in terms of strength, which led to an acceleration of the arms race and an increase in the size of both the army and the navy. For instance, Germany and Britain competed against one another to develop dreadnoughts.
Fifthly, any dispute that arises between nations that belong to either of the two groups has the potential to include the other countries in both camps. For instance, during the Bosnian Crisis, Germany was on the side of Austria, whilst Russia was on the side of Serbia. This caused the dispute that had begun as a minor disagreement between two nations to escalate into a wider war that included four countries.
In addition, the character of the alliances had shifted by the year 1910, in contrast to the time previously, when the alliances were mostly used for defensive purposes. After the Bosnian Crisis in 1909, the Dual Alliance was changed so that it had become an aggressive alliance. The German government made a promise to give military assistance to Austria if Austria invaded Serbia and Russia intervened on behalf of the matter. This occurred after the Bosnian Crisis in 1909.
The system of alliances was a direct contributor to the outbreak of World War I since it escalated a dispute between Austria and Serbia over the assassination in Sarajevo into a war involving seven different nations. Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were murdered in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip.
The assassination took place during World War I. Austria placed the blame on Serbia because to the fact that the killing was facilitated by a Serbian underground organization known as the Black Hand. On July 5, Austria requested and received unrestricted backing from Germany in the form of a “blank check.” On July 23, Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia. On July 25, Serbia accepted most of the requirements outlined in the ultimatum; however, the last condition was not one of them. As a result, Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28.
On July 29, Russia issued an order for its armed forces to begin mobilizing in support of Serbia. On July 30, Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia, asking that its armed forces begin demobilizing. After Russia’s refusal, Germany declared war on Russia, and France began mobilizing on August 1 to help Russia in this conflict. Following the implementation of the Schlieffen Plan, Germany invaded France via Belgium on August 3, three days after it declared war on France.
The United Kingdom issued an ultimatum to Germany, demanding that Berlin cease its invasion of Belgium. After Germany’s refusal, Britain launched a war against Germany on August 4th. It is abundantly clear that the alliance system was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities in a very short amount of time in a total of seven different nations, namely Serbia, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Belgium, and Britain.
In conclusion, the Alliance System was a significant contributor to World War I (WWI) because it contributed to the division of the European powers into two competing military camps known as the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The competition between these two camps was a primary factor in the outbreak of the conflict. The alliance system was directly responsible for the beginning of World War I because it escalated a minor dispute between Serbia and Austria into a larger war that affected seven different nations.
The Alliance System was to blame for the outbreak of the war because it was responsible for the creation of rivalries between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. Additionally, the Alliance System was responsible for reducing the flexibility of the responses of the great powers to crises, making it extremely difficult to prevent a major war from breaking out.
In addition, there was mistrust amongst the alliances, which made it difficult for diplomats to come to a consensus when they convened to discuss how to address a significant issue. However, we cannot conclude that this is the sole reason since, as A.J.P. Taylor explains, “As late as 1911, the Triple Entente was effectively in the process of disintegrating.” This means that we cannot say that this was the only factor.
However, the fact that Germany was determined to maintain its dominance over Europe, imperialism in Africa, rivalry with Britain for naval superiority, and Austria-backing Hungary were all other factors that contributed to the commencement of the conflict. As a consequence, we may also assert that Germany is guilty of the war because of the arguments that F. Fischer makes in The War of Illusions.
The measures are taken by Germany after 1911 demonstrated a desire for war, as well as preparedness for it and a willingness to provoke it. Another significant factor was nationalism, which sprang from the universal desire across European nations to increase their territory while simultaneously enhancing their reputation and sense of self-worth.
Because of the enmity that each nation felt against the others, nationalism was also responsible for competition in areas such as the arms race and the development of colonies. These competitions were brought about by jealousy.
There were many alliances formed between the years 1879 and 1907, including the Dual Alliance on October 7, 1879, which was between Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Franco-Russian alliance on January 4, 1894, and the Entente Cordiale on April 8, 1904. However, there were two major alliances formed, and they were the Triple Alliance on May 20, 1882, which was between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, and the Triple Entente on August 31, 1907, which was between Britain, and France The primary objective of these alliances was to provide assistance to the allies of each nation in the event that they were attacked by another nation.
However, over time, these alliances evolved into instruments of national aggression due to the fact that allies were willing to support one another even when the issue was not directly related to them; consequently, the likelihood of conflict between nations’ allies increased. However, the partnerships suffered from a great number of flaws.
Because none of the alliances were made public, there was a natural tendency among the European Powers to mistrust and suspect one another. Due to this mistrust, diplomats were compelled to find workable answers to a significant number of the problems that arose before the conflict; yet, these solutions were not always the most effective. Furthermore, alliances were always negotiated on a war footing, which caused friction and ultimately led to a race for weaponry between the European Powers, particularly Britain and Germany, who competed primarily in the Naval Competition.
This race was primarily between the two countries. A little disagreement that just included one power could easily escalate into a conflict that affected all of the powers, therefore it was inevitable that all of the alliances would ultimately result in a massive conflict of some kind. Finally, with the formation of the Triple Entente, the Central Powers, most notably Germany, began to experience feelings of being threatened.
The Germans had France on the west, Russia on the east, and Britain controlled the seas, so it was natural for them to feel like they were surrounded. In reality, they were. As a direct response to this danger, the Kaiser implemented a more aggressive foreign policy that sought to undermine the cohesion of the Entente nations and coerce Germany into joining them in their pursuit of Weltpolitik and even Realpolitik.
In spite of the fact that the alliances played a significant part at the beginning of the conflict, nationalism was also a significant factor. During the 19th century, there was a growth in nationalism, of which there were two types: first, the desire for independence among minorities in various countries, notably in Austria-Hungary; and second, the desire of independent nations for domination and status.
There were around a dozen distinct minority groups residing in Austria-Hungary, each of which desired its own independence. As a result, Austria-Hungary had a number of national conflicts. Those who lived there included Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, Rumanians, and Poles, but only the Austrians and the Hungarians had the authority to govern.
The remaining population did not enjoy the benefits of political liberty; as a result, they yearned for political autonomy. Because of their ties to Russia, Slavic nationalists posed the greatest risk to the continuity of the Dual Monarchy as well as to the Serbs. This was due to the fact that Slavic nations are traditionally associated with Slavic peoples.
Because Serbia had long aspired to merge with the Serbs living inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire so that they might build a big Serbian state, Serbia was a significant adversary, and this rendered Serbia accountable for the nationalist movements that occurred. On October 6, 1908, Austria-Hungary annexed the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (where the majority of the population was comprised of Slavs), despite the fact that tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia were building at the time. Austria-Hungary did not pay these tensions any attention.
The fact that the Serbs were unable to realize their ideal of forming a Greater Serbia as a result of the annexation was the source of much of their bitterness. This has some repercussions. It was embarrassing for Russia since Austria did not follow up with her commitment, and as a result, the Russian government ramped up her weaponry development and increased her efforts to get cooperation from France.
In addition, the risk posed by Serbia increased due to the fact that without those two provinces, Serbia would never have been able to become a unified state and wouldn’t have had access to the ocean. This resulted in the establishment of a number of significant nationalist groups, one of which was the Black Hand, which was established in 1911 by Dragutin Dimitrjevié.
However, nationalism was not confined to only Austria-Hungary throughout that time. Rivalries arose as a result of the desire of the Great Powers to maintain their control and status in Europe. Because it led to other major reasons, which dealt with Germany’s hostility against Europe, nationalism in Germany was a highly important cause that led to other important causes.
Between the years 1871 and 1890, Germany had the goal of securing its position as the dominant force in Europe by the establishment of amicable alliances with other nations. However, when Kaiser Wilhelm II took power, he chose more extreme tactics, and this continued until his death. Through a strategy known as Weltpolitik, he intended to make Germany preeminent in international affairs.
Aside from that, people and officials in the German military both desired an expansion of German territory, since this would provide them a better opportunity to compete effectively with Britain and the United States. Additionally, nationalism existed in Russia, France, and Britain throughout this time period.
The acquisition of land was Russia’s primary objective; she sought both eastward and westward expansion. However, her territorial goals were in direct opposition to those of Britain and Austria-Hungary, which led to conflict. Politicians in Russia want to obtain warm water ports since the ones their country already had were covered in ice for the majority of the year.
During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, France and Germany fought a war that resulted in the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. French nationalism included the desire to regain these territories. In addition to this, she had the goal of regaining the reputation of her country by conquering abroad territories like Morocco.
On the other side, Britain was in a highly strong position, mostly due to the location of her territory and the isolationist approach that she took to foreign affairs. She was the most industrially advanced country in Europe, and she had the most extensive fleet and colonial holdings of any nation on the globe.
The majority of the time, her interests and France’s goals were in direct opposition to one another. For instance, both countries desired Burma, India, Thailand, Egypt, and Russia, all of which made her feel threatened, and her interests in the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to the supremacy and prestige that each nation desired to have over the rest of the globe, they want to reclaim the pride and dignity that had been stripped away from their nations as a result of certain occurrences. Russia and Germany are two key instances that illustrate this point.
The Bosnian issue resulted in severe humiliation for Russia at the hands of Austria-Hungary. Aehrenthal conned Russia by entering into an arrangement for mutual assistance, which he subsequently breached. If Russia sided with Austria-Hungary throughout the annexation process, Russia was assured that it would get backing for its claims to the Straits. The ruse that Aehrenthal played resulted in significant repercussions, including discussions between Greece and Montenegro with Turkey and Serbia, which contained preparations for military operations, and resistance to Austria-Hungary on the part of Russia, which resulted in Russia supporting Serbia.
On the other side, Germany was put in an analogous circumstance, during which she too felt ashamed and embarrassed. During the time of the Agadir crisis, she sent her gunboat named “Panther” to the port of Agadir, which is located in the south of Morocco. Germany wanted the entire French Congo as compensation for giving up all of its claims on Morocco; however, the British intervened, and this caused the Germans to feel powerless because they felt they weren’t allowed to handle their own affairs.
As a result, Germany gave up all of its claims on Morocco. In Germany, von Moltke emphasized how important it was for countries to avoid being humiliated by saying, “If we once again crawl out of this affair with our tail between our legs, if we cannot pull ourselves together and take an energetic line which we are ready to back up with the sword, I despair of the future of the German Empire and shall quit.”
Von Moltke was referring to the humiliation that Germany had experienced in the past. This lends credence to the notion that German leaders are eager to attain international supremacy and are prepared to resort to violence in order to accomplish their goals.
The foreign strategy that Germany pursued during the years 1890 to 1914 served as a trigger for this event. The majority of responsibility for Germany rests on the shoulders of the Kaiser and the other military commanders. When Wilhelm II took power in Germany, he instituted a number of reforms that resulted in the country being more belligerent and more willing to resort to violence in order to accomplish its goals.
Bismark, who was serving as Chancellor of Germany at the time, used the analogy that the new, impetuous Kaiser was “like a balloon. If you don’t keep your grip on the string, you’ll never know where he’s going to go. Because the authority in Germany lay with the Kaiser and the military establishment, this led to internal instability, such as dissatisfaction among the working class, the emergence of socialism, and the disapproval of the government on the part of the majority of German parties. Since of this, the concept of war would make the Kaiser popular because it would give him the opportunity to relive the glory days that he had in 1871.
Additionally, Germany began expanding its fleet, making it a potential danger to Britain as a result of this development. The First Navy Law, which was approved by the Reichstag on the 28th March 1898, and the Second Navy Law, which was approved by the Reichstag on the 12th of June 1900, are two important laws that have been passed in Germany, which enable the construction of a massive navy. These laws were approved by the Reichstag.
The German military builds cutting-edge vessels, including dreadnoughts, submarines, and cruisers, using cutting-edge technology. This naval growth posed a danger to Britain, which prompted the beginning of the naval race at that time. And despite the fact that Germany pursued aggressive measures, it never deviated from her primary purpose, which, according to F. Fischer, was the “…aggressive insistence on Germany’s claims the next, but never wavered in its ultimate objective, the growth of Germany’s dominance.”
The arms race was a significant contributor to the outbreak of war, not only because it put the safety of nations in jeopardy due to the proliferation of new weapons, but also because it put the pride of nations in jeopardy, as was the case with Britain. There were significant advancements made in land and naval weaponry during this time period. On land, modern machinery was developed, and many of these devices underwent further development.
As a result of advancements in technology, improvements were made to tanks, machine guns, and rifles such as the Howitzer. As a result, nations are engaged in a never-ending arms race to develop stronger weaponry. The most important race, on the other hand, was the naval competition between Germany and Britain. Both of Germany’s Fleet Laws contributed to an immense expansion of Germany’s navy at the same time as Britain was building her first Dreadnoughts.
In addition to the dreadnoughts, battlecruisers, torpedo boats, and submarines were also constructed. This naval race had major repercussions, primarily as a result of the intensifying competition between both nations as well as the mutual mistrust that it bred, which in turn contributed to an increase in the level of international tension. In addition, beginning in the year 1890 and continuing forward, there were economic disagreements between Germany and Britain as a result of the fast industrial growth of Germany, which included the country’s production of steel, oil, and coal.
Because of this, German industry began to compete with British manufacturing across the globe, and as a result, German merchant ships posed a danger to the commerce of the United Kingdom. By 1914, nations all over the world were getting ready for war as a result of the intensifying competition and tensions that existed between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.
Mobilization, also known as “war by schedule” (a phrase used by A.J.P. Taylor), was a short-term factor that only sparked war after Austria had declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. This was the first time that war was provoked by a cause. The following series of events that transpired were chains of events brought about by the mobilization of several nations.
The military chiefs of each nation had developed many plans, all of which included mobilization before the conflict began. On the one hand, Germany had devised a strategic plan, the primary objective of which was to prevent the country from having to fight battles on two fronts by first seizing Paris and then going on to engage in combat with Russia. The name given to this strategy was “the Schlieffen Plan.” On the other side, the French had something called “Plan Seventeen.”
The plan’s objective was to first cross the Rhine River, then seize control of the Alsace-Lorraine regions, and last make their way to Berlin. The British also devised a strategy since they had already committed to assisting the French in the event that a conflict with Germany broke out. The British government organized an expeditionary force with the intention of assisting the troops of the French army.
On the other hand, people had an incorrect understanding of the mobilization plans, and they believed that the side that was able to mobilize more quickly and launch the initial attack would emerge victoriously. Aside from that, they had the incorrect expectation that they would return “home before Christmas.”
During this time period, countries in Europe were also engaged in what is known as “the Scramble for Africa.” This refers to the fact that each European Power wanted to have and expand their colonies in Africa so that they could trade with the locals and, as a result, boost their respective economies. In addition, it is possible to gain a reputation on a national and worldwide scale by achieving victory and expanding into new territories.
Despite this, the scramble for Africa resulted in numerous difficulties for Europe, mostly as a result of nations’ inability to reach a consensus over the boundaries of their colonies or their desire to extend those colonies. Germany had a variety of issues with the colonies due to the fact that she only possessed a small number of them and believed that Britain and France were preventing her from having “a place in the Sun.” This made Germany angry, so she sought methods to accomplish what she wanted and found that some of those options required resorting to violence.
Because of Germany’s support for Austria-actions Hungary in July 1914, which were very significant because July 1914 was the month in which the majority of the tragic events, which led to a chain of events that led to war, occurred, Germany also bore a large portion of the responsibility for the war. Germany considered Austria-Hungary to be her most important ally prior to Italy, and as a result, she pledged unrestricted support for whatever acts Austria decided to do.
This was shown by the fact that the Kaiser sent Austria-Hungary a “blank check” at the time when the ultimatum to Serbia was being drafted. The Kaiser assured Franz Josef that he could “rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary, as is required by the obligations of his alliance and of his ancient friendship.” The Kaiser said this to Franz Josef so that Franz Josef could “rest assured that His Majesty will faithfully stand by Austria-Hungary.”
Because of this, Austria gained greater self-assurance, and as a result, she declared war on Serbia. She did so with the knowledge that Germany would back her up, and according to historian S. Williamson, “the blank check provided Vienna the guarantees required to decide for decisive action against Serbia.”
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia each dominated a large number of nations (colonies) around the globe. They saw the expansion of other nations’ empires into new regions as a potential danger to their own, since they want to maintain the might of their own.
When Germany and Austria-Hungary acquired control of smaller nations like Bosnia and Morocco, the rest of the world saw this as an act of aggression on the part of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
A great number of nations had formed coalitions with each other. They made a pact to look out for one another. If one of them came under assault, the others would stand up for them.
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was shot and murdered by a Serbian man who believed Serbia should dominate Bosnia instead of Austria. The assassin was a Serbian national who held the opinion that Bosnia should be controlled by Serbia.
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of its leader in that country. As a result:
Conflict on land. On what was known as the Western Front, battles took place in France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. On what was known as the Eastern Front, battles took place in Russia. In addition, there were ground battles fought in Italy, the Middle East, and other areas of Africa.
Trench warfare was used in a number of the conflicts that were fought. It was necessary to dig many long ditches in the earth. Trench warfare was a way of life for the soldiers, who sometimes emerged to launch attacks.
The conflict known as the Battle of the Somme, which began in July of 1916, is a well-known example of a trench battle. An estimated one million troops were either killed, injured, or went missing during the conflict.
The government was granted further authority than it would have normally had because to the Defense of the Realm Act. There were regulations in place regarding the purchase of binoculars, bonfires, and bars. Because people believed that feeding wild animals was a waste of food, the practice eventually became illegal.
It was forbidden for newspapers to publish anything that was critical of the war effort. The production of weapons in factories, for example, resulted in the creation of a large number of new employment. First-time employment opportunities were made available to a number of women. Everyone was impacted by the years of the conflict. The course of their lives will never again be the same.
In conclusion, we may say that the Alliance system was not entirely to blame for the beginning of the conflict. There were other elements at play that both contributed to the conflict and played a role in its escalation. Because it had been increasing and extending to the nations of Europe and due it made people want to feel proud of their country, nationalism was a significant element.
This was because of both of these developments. In addition, the rise of nationalism caused countries to become envious of the successes of other nations, and as a result, all of them felt the need to strengthen their military. They erroneously believed that going on the attack was the most effective method of defense, and they were under the impression that the side that mobilized its forces first would emerge victorious in the conflict.
When Germany insisted that France maintain her neutrality, the French Prime Minister René Vivani said that “France would behave in line with its interests.” This is an example of how nationalism may cause nations to act in a manner that is determined by their own self-interests.
In addition, the part that Germany played was extremely significant since it resulted in the naval race, the war on Serbia (due to the fact that Germany had provided all of her support to Austria), and the readiness of the Kaiser to resort to violence in order to accomplish Germany’s goals. As a result, we have to also take into account the viewpoint of F. Fischer, who said that “Germany was accountable for the war because of its aggressive pursuit of its weltpolitik.”
On the other hand, we can’t ignore the fact that there were other, less significant factors at play, such as people’s lack of awareness about the direction the conflict would take. In conclusion, the Alliance System was responsible for the war in the sense that it stoked major tensions between the major European powers and set in motion the chain of events that led to the outbreak of hostilities as a result of the alliances and defense pacts that each of the allies had formed with each other prior to the conflict.