The Diplomatic Background of the War, 1870-1914

By Charles Seymour | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE CONFLICT OF ALLIANCES

The effect upon German foreign policy of the diplomatic combinations and understandings that took place from 1898 to 1907 was immediate and violent. It was inevitable that the retirement of Great Britain from her position of splendid isolation so favorable to the German position on the Continent, should be a cause of anxiety at Berlin. It is true that the British understanding with France was at first not taken too seriously, but it indicated future difficulties for the German Foreign Office; and the Convention of 1907 with Russia placed further obstacles in the path of German diplomacy. Equally significant, in the minds of Germans, as a sign of the growing opposition to Germany was the new spirit of initiative manifested in French diplomacy. The altered international situation, suddenly realized by Germany, led that Power to change its tone from one of conciliation to one of bellicose brutality, and resulted in the atmosphere of diplomatic tension characteristic of Europe during the past decade.

We may remind ourselves that German foreign policy from 1870 to 1900 was essentially pacific in character. Bismarck was undoubtedly sincere when he emphasized the "satiation' of Germany and the necessity for her of a period of unruffled international calm. The Kaiser Wilhelm II also, despite his

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