History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2004: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) “To Bismarck the conclusion of the Treaty of May 20, 1882, was the culmination of his system.” Comment.
Bismack had won for Germany national unity and hegemony of Europe by a policy of “blood and iron”. After achieving his goal, his aim was to maintain status quo and peace. He declared Germany as a satisfied country and she should do nothing which could threaten German Empire. To achieve his goal, he considered isolation of France necessary because Bismarck knew the biggest threat to German security and status quo as:
(1) France was humiliated during France-Prussian War, 1871 after which Germany was united.
(2) France would never be reconciled to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine lost after Franco-Prussian War.
(3) France would seek opportunity to avenge national humiliation and to recover territorial loss.
The Bismarckian Alliance System
To isolate France diplomatically, Bismarck formed a comprehensive system of alliances and tried to prevent the formation of counter alliance against Germany. This foreign policy of Bismarck after German unification in 1871 is called “The Bismarckian Alliance System”.
(1) Alliance with Austria and good relation with Russia
Bismarck’s key foreign policy was alliance with Austria and good relation with Russia. Inspite of defeating Austria in Sadowa, Bismarck treated Austria well and forged friendship.
Good relation with Russia was necessary to isolate France.
(2) League of Three Emperor
Bismarck succeded in forming League of three Emperor, comprising the Emperors of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary. However, with Balkan war and the enmity between Austria-Hungry and Russia, Bismarck had to choose one among them in the Congress of Berlin, and he chose Austria-Hungry. Thus, Russia withdrew from the League.
(4) Austro-German alliance
Finally Austro-German alliance was concluded in 1879. This alliance was aimed against Russia and France. Though later Bismarck pacified Russia though back channels, to stop her from making alliamce with France.
(5) Triple Alliance of May 20,1882
Bismarck next drew Italy into the Austro-German alliance as Italy feared that France may seek to restore the Papacy. Also there was Franco-Austrian rivalry over Tunis in North Africa. Bismarck used these situations to draw Italy and isolate France. Thus formed Triple Alliance of 1882 between Austria, Germany and Italy.
This was masterstroke of Bismarck as the alliance contained countries with bitter historical rivalry. The accession of Italy had every advantage and no disadvantages for Germany. Italy from 1878 to 1882 was in a restless and excited state. She might indeed precipitate a crisis which would upset the carefully poised equilibrium of Europe.
To Bismarck the conclusion of the Treaty of May 20, 1882 was the culmination of the Bismarckian Alliance System, which isolated France, maintained status quo, peace with German hegemony in Europe. Henceforward German hegemony in Europe moved securely on the pivotal point of the Triple Alliance, which gradually grew into the one grand combination in the European State system, with which all other possible combinations or ententes had to reckon.