- Apr 26, 2004
Modern Life Is Rubbish
A German Diplomacy AAR
Chapter 1 - For Tommorrow
Age of Bismarck
Differences between France and Prussia over the accession to the Spanish throne of a German candidate - whom France opposed - led to the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Following a French declaration of war, joint southern-German and Prussian troops, under the command of Moltke, invaded France in 1870. The French army was finally forced to capitulate by the fortress of Sedan. French Emperor Napoleon III was taken prisoner and the Second French Empire collapsed. Following the capitulation of Paris, the Peace of Frankfurt am Main was signed: France was obliged to cede Alsace and the German-speaking part of Lorraine to Germany. The territorial cessions deeply hurt the French national feeling, creating an obstacle to Franco-German understanding.
On January 18, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, the Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed "Emperor of Germany". The German Empire was founded, with 25 states, three of which were Hanseatic cities. It was a "Little German" solution, since Austria had been excluded. Bismarck's domestic policies as Chancellor of Germany were characterized by his fight against perceived enemies of the Protestant Prussian state. In the so-called Kulturkampf (1872-1878), he tried to limit the influence of the Catholic Church and of its political arm, the Catholic Centre Party, through various measures - like the introduction of civil marriage - but without much success.
The other perceived threat was the rise of the Socialist Workers' Party (later known as the Social Democratic Party of Germany), the declared aim of which was the establishment of a new socialist order through the transformation of the existing political and social conditions. From 1878, Bismarck tried to repress the social democratic movement by outlawing the party's organisation, its assemblies and most of its newspapers. Through the introduction of a social insurance system, on the other hand, he hoped to win the support of the working classes for the Empire.
Bismarck's priority was to protect Germany's expanding power through a system of alliances and an attempt to contain crises until Germany was fully prepared to initiate them. Of particular importance, in this context, was the containment and isolation of France, because Bismarck feared that France would form an alliance with Russia and take revenge for its loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.
In 1879, Bismarck formed a Dual Alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary, with the aim of mutual military assistance in the case of an attack from Russia, which was not satisfied with the agreement reached at the Congress of Berlin. The establishment of the Dual Alliance led Russia to take a more conciliatory stance, and in 1887, the so-called Reinsurance Treaty was signed between Germany and Russia: in it, the two powers agreed on mutual military support in the case that France attacked Germany, or in case of an Austrian attack on Russia. In 1882, Italy joined the Dual Alliance to form a Triple Alliance. Italy wanted to defend its interests in North Africa against France's colonial policy. In return for German and Austrian support, Italy committed itself to assisting Germany in the case of a French military attack.
For a long time, Bismarck had refused to give in to Emperor Wilhelm I's aspirations of making Germany a world power through the acquisition of German colonies ("a place in the sun"). Bismarck wanted at all cost to avoid tensions between the European great powers that would threaten the security of Germany. But when, between 1880 and 1885, the foreign situation proved auspicious, Bismarck gave way, and a number of colonies were established overseas: in Africa, these were Togo, the Cameroons, German South-West Africa and German East Africa; in Oceania, they were German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Marshall Islands.
In 1888 Kaiser Wilhelm I died, followed only 99 days later by his son Friedrich III. The young and ambitious Wilhelm II, Friedrich's son, acceded to the throne. Political and personal differences between Bismarck and the new monarch, who wanted to be "his own chancellor", eventually caused Bismarck to resign in 1890.
When Bismarck resigned, Wilhelm II had declared that he would continue the foreign policy of the old chancellor. But soon, a new course was taken, with the aim of increasing Germany's influence in the world (Weltpolitik). The Reinsurance Treaty with Russia was not renewed. Instead, France formed an alliance with Russia, against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Alliance itself was undermined by differences between Austria and Italy.
From 1898, German colonial expansion in East Asia (Jiaozhou Bay, the Marianas, the Caroline Islands, Samoa) led to frictions with the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan and the United States. The construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed by German banks and heavy industry, and aimed at connecting the North Sea with the Persian Gulf via the Bosporus, also collided with British and Russian geopolitical and economic interests. To protect Germany's overseas trade and colonies, Admiral von Tirpitz started a programme of warship construction in 1898. This posed a direct threat to British hegemony on the seas, with the result that negotiations for an alliance between Germany and Britain broke down. Germany was increasingly isolated.
Age of the Triumverate
But all this changed in 1899 when Kaiser Willhelm suffered a heart attack whilst out strolling in the foothills of the German alps. Or so we are told. All we know is that an interim government has been set in in control of Germany at the turn of the century, a triumvirate of Army, Civil Service and Chancellor.
First, the Army leader, F.M. Von Hindenburg. Hindenburg was educated at the Wahlstatt and Berlin cadet schools and he fought at the 1866 Battle of Königgrätz and in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War. In 1898, he gained promotion to the rank of general. During his time in the German Army, Hindenburg was regarded by his superiors as an imposing, but mediocre officer. He was not charismatic, but he did possess an ability to impress people. This is why he was chosen to represent the Army in the new triumvirate.
Second, the Chancellor, Bernhard von Bülow. After serving in the Franco-Prussian War, von Bülow entered first the Prussian Civil Service, and then the diplomatic service. In 1876 he was appointed attaché to the German embassy in Paris, and became second secretary to the embassy in 1880. In 1884 he became first secretary to the embassy at St Petersburg, and acted as charge d'affaires; in 1888 he was appointed envoy at Bucharest, and in 1893 to the post of German ambassador at Rome. In 1897, on the retirement of Baron Marshall von Bieberstein, he was appointed state secretary for foreign affairs (the same office which his father had held) under Prince Hohenlohe, with a seat in the Prussian ministry. As foreign secretary Bülow was chiefly responsible for carrying out the policy of colonial expansion (or Weltpolitik) with which the emperor had identified himself, and in 1899, on bringing to a successful conclusion the negotiations by which the Caroline Islands were acquired by Germany, he was raised to the rank of Count. On the resignation of Hohenlohe in 1899 he was chosen to succeed him as Chancellor of the empire and Prime Minister of Prussia.
Finally, the least well-known figure in the German triumvirate, the obscure and mysterious, shadowy and curious, enigmatic Peter von Evanstein. To most people he is but a name whispered in shadows and it's reputed that noone has seen his real face, and his past is a closely guarded secret... the truth is that noone else wanted the job and poor Peter was lumbered with it. A nobody found bumbling around the Government Offices with nothing much to do, his past is uninspiring, his charisma lacking and his knowledge of Diplomacy rudimentary. But the future holds great things... For he shall have a great future, a great tommorrow.
So let us toast, "For Tommorrow!"