Bismarckian System of Alliances

Bismarck’s system of alliances between 1871 and 1894 was based on keeping Germany unified and intact. Bismarck wanted to keep peace in Europe, to assure that Germany wasn’t ripped apart by another war. To accomplish his goal, Bismarck was required to act as an "honest broker." Bismarck needed to do this so that he could make alliances with other world powers and keep France isolated.

Germany being the largest world power of this time period, and having the largest peacetime army made most countries in Europe very afraid. They were scared that Germany would become imperialistic and try to invade and take over the countries and other nation’s colonies surrounding them. Because of this Bismarck set out make Germany seem honest and trustworthy. Bismarck helped these thoughts into the minds of other countries by acting almost like a mediator between them. For example, Bismarck offered the use of facilities in Berlin in 1885 for the conference concerning the regulation of African affairs.

Bismarck’s ultimate goal was to keep France isolated and to keep what he thought of as the "Nightmare Coalition" (a Franco-Russian alliance of any kind), from coming into existence. He began his alliances with what is called the Dual Alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. He then added Italy to this alliance, forming the Triple Alliance in 1882. Bismarck had to keep France from gaining any allies, so, shortly after the Triple Alliance was formed; Bismarck formed a "reinsurance treaty" with Russia. This way France was left without an ally, since Britain had always hated France and Spain was still angry with France.

However, these alliances were hard to keep. After Italy unified, Austria was involved with Prussia’s affairs. Then, when Prussia unified into Germany, Austria was forced to get involved with taking the Balkans.