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Bismarck’s Foreign Policy

Essentially Otto Von Bismarck was the Prime Minister of Prussia. He played a vital role in pushing the foreign policy, which in turn led to unification. He was appointed Prime Minister by the Monarch in 1862, and from then and there he wanted Austria to cease being the dominant power and for Prussia to take its place. Prussia was one of the strongest states in Europe for military and industrial might. It was also one of the largest states in Europe, located on the Baltic Sea.

The unification process was the movements for Germany’s independent states to all become joined under Prussian power. Otto Von Bismarck used German nationalism to unite the states, which he did repeatedly in wars.

The foreign policy was based on unification happening on Bismarck’s terms, Prussia’s expansion and keeping France isolated. There were 5 powers in Europe: Germany, Russia, Austria, Britain and France. “France was bitter at her loss in the recent war and Britain did not wish to get involved in European affairs.” (http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/bismarck.htm)

In keeping France isolated, it meant their power being controlled and keeping war at bay. Bismarck wanted Austria and Prussia to live in peace until the opportune moment. Involving Germany in a war would only hinder Bismarck’s unification process and put Prussian dominance in danger.

Keeping on good terms was achieved through the Dreikaiserbund (the three emperor’s league). “This was an alliance of three conservative monarchies designed to stop the spread of revolution in Europe and preserve the status quo in Europe. However the alliance had little substance. There were no military features to it as Austria refused to agree to any. It did however ensure co-operation among the three Eastern powers rather than rivalry which was Bismarck’s primary objective.” (http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/bismarck.htm)

In 1887 he prevented war in Europe at the Congress of Berlin. Bismarck was concerned a war between Austria and Prussia could potentially involve Germany. He hosted a conference in Berlin to subside differences. Unfortunately, Russia was not content with Bulgaria being divided into three small states. Russia withdrew from the Dreikaiserbund.

The Dual Alliance: “It was against this background that the Dual Alliance was signed with Austria in 1879. This secret defensive alliance became as Carr pointed out “the very corner stone of German foreign policy”.” (http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/bismarck.htm)

There were two advantages to this alliance. One being that the alliance would secure Germany’s southern frontier if a war with Russia was to occur. The second benefit being it would push Russia into seeking closer ties with Germany.

In 1881 a new Dreikaiserbund was formed between Russia, Germany and Austria. Bismarck hoped that this agreement would help to diminish tensions between Austria and Russia in the Balkans. Russia was concerned about isolation, and was therefore content with this agreement. It was agreed that the Western Balkans would be dominated by the Austrians and the Eastern half by the Russians. The new Dreikaiserbund ended in 1887 due to Russia’s discontent.

Bismarck then created his final masterpiece, The Reinsurance Treaty. It was signed between Russia and Germany. This defensive alliance stated that Germany promised to stay neutral if Russia was attacked by Austria Russia would stay neutral if France attacked Germany. This treaty was well thought out; it reduced the chance of a Franco- Russian alliance.

1888 was the beginning of the end for Otto Von Bismarck. He was being forced to resign from his role of Chancellor. Whilst he attempted desperately to hold on to his supremacy, his fall from power overcame and he lost his reign of Prussia. He retired and died in 1898.

By Grace Hatter

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