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Bismarck’s Foreign Policy Between the Years 1871 and 1890

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Differently to Bismarck’s domestic policy, which seemed to have differing aims across these years it seems that Bismarck’s foreign policy maintained certain aims across these years and Bismarck adapted his foreign policy due to the circumstances in front of him so that he could maintain and achieve these aims. These choices made by Bismarck had mixed success and failure but at the end of it all Bismarck had achieved his main aim, The preservation of the new German state.

Bismarck’s first idea to maintain peace in Germany was the League of Three Emperors, which was an alliance between the emperors of Austria, Russia and Germany. Other aims that come out of this alliance were the isolation of France and trying to avoid making a choice between Austria and Russia. The league was created on the 22nd of October 1873 but it remained much like an empty shell as Germany rejected ideas for a Russo-German military pact shortly after its creation. Bismarck had preserved peace and stopped the chance of him making a choice between Russia and Austria however France had escaped isolation. France escaped because it was misinterpreted that Bismarck was going to launch a pre-emptive strike on France and because of this England and Italy expressed serious concern and France had then escaped. The league of three Emperors can be seen as a success and a failure for these reasons.

Then begun a crisis in Europe known as the Eastern Crisis, which forced Bismarck to adapt his policies. This was started by an uprising in Bosnia-Herzegovina that threatened the existence of the Turkish empire, which would leave a huge void in Europe, that both Russia and Austria would want to fill, if it collapsed. He once again aimed to maintain peace and therefore the existence of Germany and to do this he had to stop growing tension between Austria and Russia and also avoid making a choice to join either because if he did the other would look to France to prevent German intervention. Bismarck’s refusal to make a choice either way infuriated Gorchakov but Germany could ill-afford to see the empires of Austria or Russia permanently weakened so he had to maintain this evasion. However once Russia invaded Turkey in April 1877 Bismarck’s aims changed again. Germany and Austria now faced hostility from Russia and so he aimed to deflect this hostility away from Germany onto Britain but this failed as Germanys own neutrality in the situation was interpreted as an anti-Russian act. Nothing Bismarck tried here seemed to go his way the policies used during the Eastern Crisis failed but still Germany continued to survive and thrive so we cannot say that the situation was a failure.

A revival of The League of Three Emperors was next for Bismarck but soon after he tried to revive it became obvious that it wasn’t going to happen. So instead he tried for a dual alliance with Austria but his reasons for doing this are not certain. Historians argue about his aims, some argue that he wanted to pacify Austria- Hungary and try to make Russia adopt a more “a more peaceful policy.” Some think Bismarck was aiming towards the real German Unification with the involvement of Austria. However German historians say that he was creating a bloc across middle Europe maintaining the balance between Britain in the west and Russia in the East. The alliance would also of done Bismarck some favours at home because it would please Catholics, national liberals, conservatives and the army during a time when there was intense political division over tariffs. The alliance with Austria followed after much deliberation and it proved a political victory for Bismarck because if it is true that Bismarck hoped to make Russia adopt a more peaceful policy then Russia fell straight in for it in September 1879 when talks in Berlin took place. This Russian adoption of a less hostile policy also led to the reproduction of The League of The Three Emperors which was Bismarck’s very first initial aim at this point in time and therefore entailed another political victory and it also meant that he had politically bluffed the Russians into ensuring the safety of Germany for the short term.

The emergence in France of a peaceful bourgeois republic in 1877 meant that Bismarck could stop his prolonged aim of isolating France as their threat was temporarily numbed. It also meant that Bismarck who, according to one argument, was trying to create a middle Europe bloc could take this rare chance of creating friendly relations with France. He did this by proposing an Entente meaning friendly relations between two states. His likelihood of making this entente work increased when he made himself “presentable to France” by taking hold of African colonies in 1884 and therefore causing an argument with the British and giving the French and Germans a reason to have a relationship which was clearly the fear of Britain. Later that year the proposed colonial entente was agreed between the two nations and political success was Bismarck’s again. This however quickly fell through as a new war minister who was very anti-German was employed meaning that the political climate changed rapidly in the direction of anti-entente.

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