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To What Extent Is It Reasonable To Blame Germany For The Outbreak Of World War I Essay, Research Paper

To what extent

is it reasonable to blame Germany for the outbreak of World War I. ??????????? Germany?s

invasion of France via Belgium was the initial act of war that brought about

the commencement of war.? However, is it

fair to say that it was Germany and Germany alone who acted to bring about this

first step?? I would argue that a series

of events led to the German invasion of Belgium, but to what extent could

Germany be blamed for this series of events? ??????????? Germany was

a new power in Europe; the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership in

January 1871 was the result of the brilliant diplomacy of Otto von Bismarck who

by skilful use of war, and his excellent methods of convincing others of his

good intentions created the new empire.?

However, the emergence of the German empire had upset the balance of

Central Europe maintained for centuries by the Holy Roman Empire and

temporarily sustained by the German Confederation.? Many people believe that the invoking of hatred within France by

the creation of this new empire and the mistrust of the other surrounding

empires over Prussian expansionist tendencies led inevitably to a European

war.? The fact that war was averted for

nearly forty years was due to Bismarck?s brilliant diplomacy.? He managed to convince the other European

powers that Prussia?s only ambition was to consolidate its gains and not to

expand further.? He also made a series

of complex treaties with Russia, Austria and Italy.? The basic outcome of this web of agreements was that Germany had

a neutrality pact with Russia in the event of an Austro-Russian war, whilst

promising support to Austria and Italy in the event of a war with another

country.? These treaties succeeded in

isolating France a kept the peace for a considerable time, in this way what

Bismarck achieved was momentous.?

Whether, had Bismarck continued as German Chancellor after 1890 on the

accession of Wilhelm II, war may have been averted we will never know.? It is unlikely that Bismarck?s delay could

have been sustained indefinitely even had Bismarck remained as Chancellor.

However, war, if inevitable, would have come about in a different way under

Bismarck as he would have never allowed the alliance system of 1914 exist had

he been in power. ??????????? Caprivi?s

legacy was not perhaps as rosy as his predecessor had intended.? Despite France?s still being isolated and

treaties still existing between Germany and Russia, Italy and Austria, the

situation was more complex.? Problems

had existed between Austria and Russia for many years over an area known as the

Balkans.? The Ottoman Empire was in a

state of disintegration with both Austria and Russia vying for a greater

influence in the area.? Both powers held

a right to do so as Russia, predominantly a Slav country, felt that they should

have an influence with their fellow Slavs.?

However, Austria felt that if she did not have an influence in the area,

Russia?s policy would lead to a surge of Slav nationalist spirit with the

inevitable result that Austria?s Slavic peoples would rise up and overthrow

Habsburg rule.? Austria was a declining

power by this time and had regions of the empire begun to break away, it was

likely that a Slav nationalist uprising would result in the overthrow of the

system and an end to Habsburg rule.? For

these reasons, Russia and Austria clashed frequently over the issue of the

Balkans and indeed it was from this area that the spark for the First World War

would come. ??????????? The most

important of the Balkan crises came in 1878.?

In 1876-77, full-scale Bulgarian uprising led to a confrontation between

Turkey (The Ottoman empire) and Russia that led to a war from 1877-1878 over

the future of Bulgaria resulted in a defeat for the Turks.? The Russians then forced the Turks to sign

the Treaty of San Stefano.? This treaty

contained harsh terms that were felt by Britain and Austria-Hungary to give

Russia too much power in the Balkans area.?

Bismarck, unwilling to upset either Austria or Russia decided to play

the ?honest broker? in the conference of Berlin in 1878.? The result was that Russia was unhappy about

the settlement over Bulgaria, as it appeared to them that the Germans,

represented by Bismarck had sided with Austria.? Even Bismarck?s diplomacy had floundered over the difficult and

complex situation in the Balkans. The result was a distinct cooling of

relations between Russia and Germany, resulting in the effectual invalidation

of the Reinsurance Treaty between the two powers that insured the neutrality of

Russia in the event of a war with France.?

??????????? When the

Reinsurance Treaty was brought up in 1890, it could have been renewed through

clever diplomacy, had Germany sought reconciliation with Russia.? However, no such reconciliation was sought

and the Treaty that effectively stopped European war through ensuring that

France remained isolated was allowed to lapse.?

However, not only had this agreement been damaged by Bismarck?s handling

of the San Stefano treaty, but it had been further damaged by Wilhelm II who

seemed increasingly in favour of Germany forging closer links with Austria and

Italy and pursuing a more expansionist policy.?

The result was that Russia felt isolated and sought a treaty with

France.? It is perhaps surprising that

no treaty of this kind was forged previously. However, Russia and France had

had many differences in the past due to France?s revolutionary progressive

history; in contrast Russia still maintained its autocratic Tsarist

system.? However, bordered by

potentially hostile powers each needed an ally in the event of war.? France was showed immediate interest in this

agreement as it resulted in not only an ally, but also a means through which to

get even with Germany. France and Germany had become

enemies through a series of wars during the 19th century.? During the Napoleonic wars, Napoleon had not

only beaten Prussia on several occasions, but Prussia had been humiliated.? The result of this humiliation was that

Prussia sought to get even, and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 resulted in

not only a humiliating defeat for France, but also the unification of Germany.? France had been looking for revenge ever

since, and the prospect of an alliance against Germany appealed to the

nationalist feelings within France. The later Entente Cordiale

between Britain and France in 1904 and the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 effectively

ensured that Europe was split by two opposing alliances, the Triple Alliance

(Germany, Austria and Italy) and the Triple Entente (Britain, France and

Russia.) These alliances were the key that made European war possible, however,

even at this stage; war was far from inevitable and could have been avoided. ??????????? The trigger

factor was the successful assassination attempt by a Serbian terrorist

organisation, ?The Black Hand? on the life of the Austrian heir to the Habsburg

throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand.? This

event took place in Sarajevo on Sunday 18th June 1914. It was

originally a state visit by the Archduke to the capital whilst Austrian troops

carried out manovres close to the Serbia border through fear of a Slav attack

on newly taken Bosnia, due to the revised San Stefano Treaty.? It was the wedding anniversary of the

Archduke and his wife Sophie, and they celebrated by driving through the

streets of Sarajevo in an open top car enjoying the warm weather. The bungled

attempts by the ?Black Hand? gang, a group of amateur assassins were initially

unsuccessful as a hand grenade thrown at the car missed the intended target

injuring some twenty onlookers.? The

officials in charge of the visit decided to change the route, however, a wrong

turn was made by the first car and as the Archduke?s driver tried in vain to

reverse, a second assassin, Princip, fired several shots at point blank range

killing the Archduke and Sophie. ??????????? This event

seems to be relatively insignificant, except that the Austrians took the event

as a deep affront on their national pride.?

They felt that in an age where an insult could not be left unavenged

somebody must be to blame. It had been Archduke Franz Ferdinand who had time

and again prevented war as a cool headed general; it seems ironic that his

death caused the very thing he had been trying to avoid.?? The ?Black Hand? were certainly a Serbian

terrorist organisation, whether the Serb government had any knowledge of their

actions is unsure, but what is for sure is that Austria blamed Serbia for the

attack.? However, if Austria was to

commence an attack on Serbia, it was almost inevitable that Russia would get

involved.? For this reason Austria

refused to act without the prior promise of support from Germany. On July 5th,

one week after the assassination, Austria sent an envoy to Germany requesting

permission for a response.? It was at

this point that war could have been avoided. Had the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II,

refused the Austrian request for support, it is probable that war would have

been avoided.? So why did the German

Kaiser give the Austrians a ?blank cheque? and promise unconditional support to

Austria?? It is in this action that

Germany?s responsibility lies, were they planning war, or did they not expect

Austria to actually go to war over the event? ??????????? Kaiser

Wilhelm II was brought up in a liberal family, but a withered arm and having

liberalism spoon fed into him from an early age caused him to blame his mother

for his withered arm and rebel against her liberal ideas.? The result is that we see Germany turning

away from liberal ideas during his reign.?

He became obsessed with the military and surrounded himself with

military advisors, indeed he only saw his Chancellor once weekly, though the

Chief of the Military cabinet met with the Kaiser three times weekly.? This led to policies such as naval

expansion, which invoked the ill will of Britain. In December 1912, the Germans

held a war council at Potsdam; the real question is were the Germans planning

European war even in 1912 or were they simply preparing for the possibility

that European war might occur? It seems to me that the conference did not set a

date for war, but simply discussed what Germany should do should the situation

arise.? However, the war conference

shows that Germany was not reluctant to enter into a war, and the Kaiser and

his advisors, yearning for expansion of the Empire saw the potential benefits

of such a war. ??????????? The ?Blank

Cheque? given by Germany to Austria led to war. Is it possible that Austria?s

intentions for war with Germany?s backing could have been mistaken?? However, this was an extremely difficult and

precarious position for the Germans.? If

they refused to support Austria, they would be accused of leaving Austria in

the lurch, and Austria might turn to the open arms of the Triple Entente,

however, if Austria were encouraged to pursue a course of action, Germany could

have been accused of pushing Europe towards war.? The result was the non-committal, but essentially vital ?Blank

Cheque.? The Austrians wanted revenge, and

German backing allowed them to commence a war with Serbia.? It was the ultimatum intentionally

containing completely unacceptable terms that Austria offered Serbia that

enabled war to commence. On 26th July 1914, Austria declared war on

Serbia despite Serbia?s acceptance of all bar one of the conditions on the

ultimatum. ??????????? Even at

this stage war could have been averted, but in fact mismanagement of the crisis

led to war.? It was predictable that

Russia, supported by France, would get involved; however, Russia initially did

not intend to engage Germany.? Russia

had two schemes for mobilisation, part mobilisation or full mobilisation, the

two were not interchangeable, once part mobilisation was ordered, because of

the rolling stock required etc. troops could end up stranded miles from the

front being rendered utterly useless, the result was that troops were fully

mobilise and placed along the entire front. ??????????? This again

was not an act of war towards Germany, but simply a threat of war, however, Russia?s

full mobilisation allowed Germany to blame the first move on Russia.? Despite the entreaties of Tsar Nicholas II,

Germany?s entire plan hinged upon a Blitzkrieg to wipe out France

followed by a concentration of forces on the Eastern Front.? For centuries, due to geographical position,

Germany had been petrified of a war on two fronts, Bismarck was obsessed by the

possibility and hence the Reinsurance treaty with Russia.? This had caused Germany to draw up a plan

known as the Schlieffen plan, which basically involved an attack on France

through Belgium, encircling Paris and thereby disabling France, causing her to

seek peace, hence allowing Germany to concentrate on Russia. The plan assumed

that it would take months for the Russian war machine to get moving, giving

Germany enough time to achieve victory against France. The result of this plan

was that as soon as Germany declared was on Russia, the trains went west,

through Belgium to attack France. ??????????? So, to what

extent was Germany responsible for the war of 1914? If one considers that the

Alliance system rendered war inevitable, then it can be said that Germany was

entirely to blame. It was Germany?s Triple Alliance with Austria and Italy that

began the system of Alliances under Bismarck. Germany can also be held

responsible for the lapse of the Reinsurance treaty with the result of a

Franco-Russian alliance followed closely by a Triple Entente between Russia,

Britain and France. Therefore, the defensive alliances, which were certainly

conducive to a hostile atmosphere, could certainly be blamed no Germany and

indeed these were vital in the eventual European war.? However, these alliances cannot be entirely blamed for the war. ??????????? The war

came about because of the mismanagement of a crisis.? In itself, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand should

not have led to war.? However, it was

the spark that lit the fuse in an atmosphere of hostility.? The communications breakdown between the two

?camps?, led in many ways to the commencement of war.? Again Germany played a role in the mismanagement of the Balkans

crisis, although in this case I think that a large part of the blame can be

laid on Austria.? If Austria had not

decided that the most appropriate form of revenge was war, then perhaps a full

scale European war could have been averted.?

It was the unacceptable ultimatum, and consequent declaration of war on

Serbia that led to the involvement of Russia and therefore a fight between the

alliances.? In this way we can blame the

fact that Austria was in the process of disintegration, and felt that it was

vital to her survival that a war was fought to prove her major power

status.? However, Germany cannot be

exemplified from blame, it was the promise of unconditional support that

allowed Austria to act.? It is difficult

to comprehend why Germany did this, but it is reasonable to assume that either

Germany wanted war or that she trusted Austria not to go to war.? Either way it is reasonable to say that as a

consequence of Germany?s non-committal ?Blank Cheque?, Austria was able to go

to war with the full support of its powerful ally. The lack of communication was

again seen in the almost accidental outbreak of war.? Russia?s full mobilisation caused Germany to feel threatened, and

as their plan relied upon surprise attack on France before turning east to

concentrate on Russia, war was brought about.?

However, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to mobilise fully right across the

front because of the practicalities of mobilising the huge Russian army, had

communication between Russia and Germany been better, perhaps the crisis could

have been controlled by an explanation of actions on Russians part, as both

Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II seemed intent on averting war. In conclusion, Germany can

certainly be blamed for causing the hostile atmosphere that had developed by

1914 due to the alliance system, and also for giving Austria unconditional

support in the Balkans crisis.? However,

to simply blame Germany for the outbreak of war would be not to consider all

the facts.? Austria?s loss of status,

and subsequent wish to restore itself as a great power through war led to a

spark igniting, and indeed the actual outbreak of war could be blamed on

Austria?s desire for war and revenge on Serbia. The unfortunate practicality of

fully mobilising Russia?s troops was also important in the outbreak of

war.? Germany can certainly be blamed

partially for contributing to the outbreak of war, but other factors and other

countries perhaps played a more pivotal role in Germany?s invasion of France in


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