German Foreign Policy under William II from 1890-1913

Under the reign of William II, Germany’s foreign policy transitioned to a more aggressive state, while maintaining the goals enacted by Otto Van Bismarck. German foreign policy from 1890-1913 became a problem for Germany because of its increased threat and involvement in conflicts. These decisions led to a hatred and fear of Germany that Bismarck had fought to prevent during his time.

While both Bismarck and William II ruled Germany, both tried to keep the Nightmare Coalition from forming, but the two regimes attempted to prevent this in different manners. Under Bismarck, Germany tried to prevent the Nightmare Coalition of France, England, and Russia by turning nearly all the countries in Europe against France by making Napoleon III look like the aggressor in the Austro-Prussian War. However, under William II this policy changed to a more aggressive manner of separating the Nightmare Coalition. To do this William II tried to break up the Entente Cordial by intervening in the Crisis in Morocco. William II, to test this new policy of peace, went to Morocco the year after the Entente Cordial proclaiming the French governed people of Morocco should be free. This instigated a feeling throughout Europe of fear in the new German choice of intervention in matters unrelated to them. Instead of breaking up the Entente Cordial the agreement tightened and even brought in Russia as a means of protection. Therefore, the foreign policy of William II attempted to prevent the Nightmare Coalition, but in doing so brought the other powers of Europe together.

Under William II, Germany attempted to maintain itself from destruction at the hands of many of the other European nations who desired it to be destroyed. William II maintained Bismarck’s goal stating, "Germany just wants its place in the sun". William II did not follow Bismarck’s ideas on how to do this, and subsequently failed. Germany was terrified of everyone joining together to defeat them; as a result, they often tried to break friendships and alliances using incidents like the Morocco Crisis. This did not work though. Instead, Germany made more foes who became more and more allied. This caused William II to look for a new solution as to how Germany could remain one powerful country.

William II decided to make Germany into the world’s greatest power. After reading the popular novel, Influence of Sea Power in History by Alfred Thayer Mahan, William II decided Germany needed to build a navy as large as the one controlled by his family in England. Germany declared their reasons for this new navy as being needed for: protection of their colonies, securing foreign trade, and the "general purpose of their greatness". In actuality the colonies were to be used to allow this huge navy to be refueled around the world. This navy was viewed as a threat to the other countries of the world, especially England. With a powerful Germany on both land and sea, who would be strong enough to oppose them? This fear added to the hatred for the aggressive threat of Germany.

William II before World War I kept the same goals regarding foreign policy as those of Otto Van Bismarck, but used incorrect procedures to achieve them. William II tried to break up the Nightmare Coalition, but instead made himself look like an aggressive and unpredictable leader, this in turn strengthened the bond between England and France, while adding Russia to this friendship in the Triple Entente. To make the situation even worse Germany decided to intrude on the French colony of Morocco not once, but twice! This further showed the German’s brash and threatening behavior. William II made the issue even worse when he decided to make Germany an even stronger power than it was. According to Mahan’s book, Influence of Sea Power in History, the way to do this is through a large navy. William II agreed with this idea and with his power decided to make it happen. This building of a massive navy made all the countries in Europe fearful and unset about the thought of a powerful Germany with the best army and a navy strong enough to instill fear in England. Thus, the foreign policy under William II was aggressive and centered around making Germany become the supreme superpower at the time.