World War One, known as the Great War, was triggered by the alliance system. The outbreak of war became a domino effect because of the coalitions between major powers and their hostility against each other. These treaties are divided between two oppositions, starting with the Triple Alliances made up of Germany, Austria-Hungry, and Italy. The Entente Cordiale followed suit, in fear of the power that came from the Triple alliance. The Triple Entente consist of France, Great Britain and Russia. The secrecy of these alliances build up tension until the start of the war, and by that point, these treaties have become aggressive weapons. Such a result back fired on Bismarck’s original theory of having the triple alliance as a defensive coalition, for the sake of protection. It was because so many alliances and treaties were made that each country on both sides were bound to each other, the moment one power announces war everyone else was thrown in as well. It was rivalry between European countries and disagreements such as Italy’s annoyance at France for their intervening in Africa, France’s bitterness towards Germany, and Russia’s threats to Austria-Hungary that led to alliances. These major powers found common ground in their enemies and made pacts with each other to assist and aid if war broke out. These treaties between countries eventually created two counterparts, each side wanted to build up their “multi-empire” and take over the rest of Europe. This is how militarism raised to prominence, along with imperialism, an intense race to add colonies and expand territories. Alliances also caused nationalism as each side wanted to affirm their power. Each European power had their own agenda in their battle for prevalence, such pride within one country contributed to the need for one group to prove that they and their ‘friends’ are the greatest.
Militarism during World War I played a role in influencing politicians and the policy-making process for the country. After 1907, German, especially, increased in military. This period was known as the “State within the State,” as the parliament and politicians had no control over the formation of its army. War plans, such as the Schlieffen Plan, was accepted by the German civilian government, regardless of the impact it would make in the build up of the war. Similarly, in 1914, the Czar of Russia was also forced into increasing military by the Russian generals. The race for military armament caused a significant rise in the army and naval. France was estimated to have increased the defence force by 10%, Britain by 13%, Russia by 39%, and German by 73 percent.
By the 1900, industrialism caused uproar for the need in increasing new markets and resources. With Britain expanding their empire throughout five continents, and France’s hold over most of Africa, this became the motivation for German’s rivalry to find more colonies of their own. The competition for economic expansion in Africa made clashes between Germany, Britain, and France. As well, the receding Ottoman Empire in the Middle East caused a power struggle for the Balkans, Russia, and Austria-Hungary.
Nationalism is each country making a statement in proving the power and dominance. More specifically, Germany’s felt the need, due to their lack of colonies, to gain wealth and power through the war. For France, their long-time conflict with Germany boosted their ambition to join the war especially after the embarrassing lost of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. With the Ottoman Empire decreasing, nationalism also affected the Balkans, comprised of many conflicting ethnic groups. And finally, Archduke Ferdinand’s parade through Serbia on a national holiday sparked anger for nationalist. However, the assassination of Ferdinand gave Serbia and Austria-Hungary the reason to announce war on each other.
Alliance, the most important cause of World War I, is the mutual agreement for assistance made between them major powers, their colonies, and allies that eventually created a domino effect in pulling everyone into war. World War I was caused by two opposing alliances after the Franco-Prussian War. Developed by Bismarck’s diplomacy, the Three Emperor’s League was formed in 1872. This became the Triple Alliance deriving of Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Italy was also under their protection as long as they stayed neutral when war broke out. However, conflict raged between Russia and Austria-Hungary, especially with the power struggle of the Balkans and Austria-Hungary’s general dislike for the Slavs. Eventually, the alliance fell apart, and France took the opportunity to become allies with Russia in 1890; thus, creating the Franco-Russia Entente. Britain’s distrust for Germany also joined France in forming the Entente Cordiale in 1904, while overlooking their major imperialistic conflict, and Russia in 1907. As a result, the Triple Entente of Great Britain, France, and Russia, countered the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
The alliance system is a highly debated cause of World War I, and one of the most influential, out of the four main causes: Militarism, Imperialism, Nationalism, and The Alliance System. Such a distinctive alliance between major powers during the built up to the war was an abstruse process. There were many secret military discussions during this time as Germany made a secluded pact with Austria-Hungary in 1879, with Italy joining in three years later. The intensified stress over this alliance allowed France and Russia to agree and help each other, and Britain joining in, in fear of being all alone. With these alliances made in secrecy, it produced suspicions among the European powers; the distrust for each other made it difficult for diplomats to devise a proper solution to all the issues strung together by the rest of the causes. After a while, it didn’t take much for a chain of events to start, and eventually, everyone was hauled into war.
The alliances played such a huge role throughout WWI because alliances strive on fear. Speculations of war held everyone in a state of paranoia. It is a terrifying notion that one human emotion could cause a massive response. However, it is undeniable that alliances ride on the power of nerves, and feeding it fear only causes further destructions. When people are afraid, generally, they do not want to be alone. This is how the alliance happened, no one wanted to be under attack on their own. As a result, they joined up with each other in an attempt to find protection. After finding a ‘friend’ to aid in times of fear, it is only natural that society would want to prepare themselves with military forces and resources from other colonies. This became an armed race in who has more ships and bigger guns. Finally, nationalism, the adrenaline of war, comes into play, where everyone thinks that their country is the best.
Military actions, such as the Schlieffen Plan was composed knowing that Germany was surrounded by enemies on both sides. This, ultimately, caused thousands of lives that could have been averted if the Great Powers did not allied the way they did. It was also because of these alliances that smaller countries and colonies were pulled into the war. Alliances made by major powers became fatal because each power was vying for dominance. A conflict raised by one power’s sheer will for supremacy easily involves all power because of the pact they made with each other. Without allies, conflicts between certain countries could have stayed between themselves. It would have been a war between two countries, and not against the rest of the world.
What was once an alliance made strictly for defensive purposes, became aggressive by 1910 due to the greed for omnipotent superiority. All the major powers came together in fear of isolation if war happened. Effectively, they brought war upon themselves when fear turned into built up tension, military inflation, and confidence seeding from adrenaline. At one point, it was decided that there was no need for fear, because each group of alliance thought they were powerful enough to take over. Such an alarming thought made the Austro-German alliance so aggressive within the decade before the war and up till the Bosnian crisis in 1909. German government’s promise to give aid to Austria-Hungary, and Russia’s threat to retaliate if Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia made the alliance system a tool for aggression.
Lastly, after the Triple Entente was created, Germany became more and more hostile in response to feeling that her security was threatened. Crisis broke from 1905 up till the start of the war in 1914 when William II tried to place outstanding foreign policies in an attempt to break the Ententes. Germany continued to complain the prospect of being “encircled” adding more tension for the country creating avid agitation for the country. A lot like poking at a person who is already at wits ends, such a high amount of pressure made it possible for one spark of fire to easily blow up into a massive explosion.
The military’s arms race amongst the Europeans first started because of the alliances. Within four years after the formation of the Triple Entente in 1907, Germany had built nine dreadnought battle ships and in return, Britain built eighteen. The high tension of alliances led to a race for the most armed force because each side has an incredible amount of power when put together. The rivalling opposition would consequently want to have even more force in case the other side attacks. Militarism was comprised of alliances wanting the most amount of power because each side had such prominent capability to cause fatal damage.
Nationalism, deriving from imperialism, made ethnic groups solely patriotic to their nation, disregarding everyone else. The Slavs residing in the Balkans and under Austria-Hungary’s control was encouraged by the Russians to break free. The alliance made this struggle a starting point for World War I. The receding Ottoman Empire made the Balkans desperate for sovereignty, while Russia’s willingness to support her Slavic brothers by threatening Austria-Hungary. Without alliances, this could have easily been a European war, between two nations in a power struggle- something that has been common throughout history. However, because of Serbia’s association with Russia, and Russia’s pact with France and Britain, this one skirmish became what was eventually known was World War I.
The alliance system also sparked fuel in imperialism, a mad scramble for territory. Colonies of each country were pulled into the war because of the alliances of the major power. Ultimately, each side wanted more territory to add to their group. Germany’s jealous over France and Britain’s control on Asia and Africa motivated them to join up with Austria-Hungary. Without allies, Germany would not have the power to over-turn major powers such as Britain with their massive empire. Similarly, France’s choice to join up with Russia was to find revenge in Germany after taking Alsace-Lorraine away from them during the Franco-Prussian war. Without the Entente, France would not be able to singularly regain lost territory.
Out of the four main causes of war, the alliance system was the more important cause because of the fatal result it brought. Comparatively, militarism, imperialism, and nationalism are less dangerous by itself. Just the same, there are limits to how much power one person is capable of when by themselves, however, when they team up with two other ‘friends’ suddenly, the power becomes immense. Alliance is what magnified power for each side causing tension for the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente at the start of World War One.