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Bismarck's Foreign Policy

Updated on February 24, 2013

Success or Failure?

Bismarck, as chancellor of Europe's newest Great Power Germany, led a very elaborate foreign policy, which although only constituted of temporary peace treaties, was able to keep France in isolation and hinder a war with two fronts, by creating the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in May 1882. Ultimately, Bismarck defended and built upon his own gains made during 1860s.

Otto von Bismarck's effective foreign politics began with the founding of "The Three Emperor's League" between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. All members identified socialism and republicanism as common enemies. This alliance was the easiest way to secure France's isolation and at the same time still be allies with Russia and Austria. However the Balkan crisis created more worries for Bismarck.

After the conflicts that arose between Austria and Russia over the Balkans, Bismarck played the role as a "honest broker" at the congress of Berlin in 1878, which led to the San Stefano Treaty. Following the Russian loss of influence in the Balkans, in the face of Bulgaria, Germany and Austria created "The Dual Alliance" to protect each other from a Russian movement to war.

Due to the Dual Alliance in 1879, Russia became even more isolated. The Tzar recognized this fact and turned back to Germany to create the "The Three Emperor's Alliance" - a revision of the Dreikaiserbund. This coalition was dissolved due to renewed Austria-Russian disputes with regard to Bulgaria. Finally in 1882 "The Triple Alliance" was formed which was still present up to the end of the Second World War. It was made up of Germany, Austria and Italy.

Do you think Bismarck's Alliances were a success or failure?

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Although I would not advocate Bismarck's methods (wars of unifications, etc.), he clearly succeeded in his aims. The next question is: Was the world better off with a united Germany? He also knew that Wilhelm II was a problem. I don't think a man like Bismarck would have blundered into WWI. Interesting article.