Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Was Bismarck’s Foreign Policy 1871-90 a Success

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The Aim of this essay is to study Bismarck's Foreign Policy from 1871-90 and come to a conclusion about whether it was a success. Otto Von Bismarck born on April 1, 1815 at Schonhausen and considered the founder of the German Empire. From 1862 to 1873 Bismarck was prime minister of Prussia and from 1871 to 1890 he was Germany's first Chancellor. Once Germany was unified, Bismarck noticed that Germany was under threat of attack from other countries surrounding it.

Bismarck primarily wanted to avoid any challenges against the new European order and to unite the new German state, which faced domestic opposition and great suspicion from the rest of Europe Bismarck wanted to do this, rather than seek further territory or fight more wars, which would put Germany’s unified country under a lot of pressure. Furthermore, France wanted revenge and therefore, Bismarck knew she had to be isolated. Part of Bismarck's foreign policy in which he was successful in achieving was the weakening and isolation of France.

The former objective was attained by the peace settlement imposed on France by the Treaty of Frankfurt, which included a large war indemnity. The five main powers in Europe were Great Britain, Russia, France, Austria- Hungary and Germany. Bismarck knew that to isolate France, he would have to form an alliance with at least two of them. Firstly, Bismarck knew that Britain would not present Bismarck with any problems as it was more concerned with its own empire than with the rest of Europe. Also, Britain was more pro-German than pro-French and therefore wouldn’t protest at the isolation.

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Therefore in fear of a future two-fronted war, Bismarck managed to bring Germany, Austria Hungary and Russia together to form the Dreikaiserbund also known as the league of 3 emperors, in 1872/3. The aim of this alliance was to maintain existing borders in Europe Fight and fight both socialism & republicanism, effectively slowly isolating France. This Alliance was going well between countries and serving its purpose until there was a war scare in 1875. Bismarck had previous convictions about France’s financial situation and he thought it would be an extremely long amount of time before France could pay back the war's indemnity.

However, France managed to recover quickly and German troops were forced to leave France, scaring Bismarck and fueling Rumors of a war between Germany and France. Austria-Hungary and Britain greatly disapproved of a war between these 2 countries. This put immense amount of pressure on Bismarck and he was forced to drop his ideas about isolating France until he knew that France would no longer have reasons to attack Germany. Another reason that the Dreikaiserbund was not a success was the Russo – Turkish War in which Russia was victorious in. this caused a treaty in Bulgaria to be enlarged.

This did not please Britain and Austria Hungary and soon Russia, Germany, Austria Hungary and Britain were locked in diplomatic arguments. The “Congress of Berlin” left Russia very disappointed especially at Bismarck’s role (Bulgaria was divided into three small states), Russia withdrew from the Dreikaiserbund. This resulted in the fall of the Dreikaiserbund, because of the impossibility to renew it with Russia not involved and therefore showing that the Dreikaiserbund was a failure which weakened Germany's control over their foreign policies.

In 1879, the Dual Alliance between Austria and Germany was formed. This was definitely a success for Bismarck. Austria and Germany agreed that if either one of them was attacked by Russia, the other will provide military support. They also decided that if either was attacked by any other European country, then the other would be neutral throughout any conflicts that resulted. Although the treaty itself was made public, the terms were kept secret. This treaty was renewed every five years until 1914.

This alliance was such a success for Bismarck, chiefly because he managed to maintain a permanent ally in case of any war that Germany would be involved in. Soon after the Dual Alliance in 1881, Bismarck understood that he needed to rekindle relations with Russia and therefore created a renewal of the Dreikaiserbund. Bismarck hoped that this agreement would help to reduce tensions between Austria and Russia in the Balkans. It was agreed that the Western Balkans would be dominated by the Austrians and the Eastern half by the Russians.

This was a success at the beginning because, again, Bismarck managed to keep on the right side of every country with all the alliances and this one benefitted every county involved. However, events in the Balkans were to disrupt Bismarck’s aims. Between 1885 and 1887 the Bulgarian crisis saw relations between Austria and Russia deteriorate. Moreover, worryingly there was a lot of pro French feeling in Russia. In 1887 the Dreikaiserbund ended as Russia made it clear she would sign no further agreement with Austria. However, in 1882, Bismarck created the triple alliance.

This was an alliance of peace and friendship and was an extension of the Austro-German Dual Alliance to include Italy. Under the provisions of this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary promised to assist Italy if she were attacked by France, and vice versa: Italy was bound to lend aid to Germany or Austria-Hungary if France declared war against either. Moreover, if one of the countries should find themselves at war the others would provide assistance. However, this alliance did not have the same security and the Dreikaiserbund seeing as Italy is only considered “half” a European power.

Moreover, Italy specified in the treaty that it could not be called upon to go into war with Britain. These were successes in the short term as Bismarck achieved his goals of allying with two other great powers and also kept them happy. Soon after, a re-insurance treaty was introduced due to the Austro-Russian rivalry over Bulgaria leading to the collapse of the Second Three Emperors' League. The reinsurance treaty meant that Russia and Germany would be neutral unless Russia attacked Austria Hungary or Germany attacked France.

By creating this treaty, Bismarck had been able to prevent his nightmare - a two front war, from being realized. However, peace did not mean security, and so neither the re-insurance treaty nor the triple alliance can be considered as a long-term success. Throughout the years there was extreme Austro-Russian rivalry over Bulgaria According to the terms of the Second Three Emperors' League, Bulgaria was recognized as a Russian sphere of influence The Bulgarians were experiencing an awakening of national self consciousness and did not want to be dominated by the Russians.

In 1885, in defiance of the Treaty of Berlin, the Bulgarians united Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia. Russia objected to the emergence of a large anti-Russian state but Austria and Britain gave their recognition to the union of Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia. Russia hated the Austrians for breaking the terms of the Second Three Emperors League and allowed the League to lapse in 1887. A large indication on how successful Bismarck's wereimportnatf ecn dncgreat reat foreign policies were would be the fact that once Bismarck resigned, Germany's foreign relations immediately began to fall apart.

Bismarck successfully guarded Germany. In 1890, Bismarck wanted to renew the Re-Insurance Treaty; Russia was also keen on doing so. The Kaiser was against renewing the Re-Insurance Treaty because he believed he could rely on his own personal relations (he had a close relationship with the tsar, owing to them being cousins). Bismarck offered his resignation, due to his frustration and the Kaiser accepted it, but prevented him from publishing his reasons for dismissal.

In 1891 there was an informal agreement between the Russians the French and French ministers visited Russia and in 1893 they formed a complete military alliance, an extremely dangerous move against Germany, and one which they would regret. In conclusion, I believe that to a certain extent Bismarck’s Foreign policy from 1871-90 was a success. For example, The Dual alliance between Austria and Germany In 1879, this alliance was such a success for Bismarck, chiefly because he managed to maintain a permanent ally in case of any war that Germany would be involved in.

It seemed that Bismarck’s goal in achieving the weakening of France and isolating it was well achieved in his time. Even when it seems that his plans are failing, he finds a way around that; for example the re-insurance treaty. However, to a certain extent Bismarck’s Foreign policy from 1871-90 was not a success shown in the collapse of both Dreikaiserbund. Moreover many could argue that if one was to look at things in the long term, Bismarck was in fact not successful at all in his foreign policies.

Was Bismarck’s Foreign Policy 1871-90 a Success essay

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