The politics concerning foreign affairs followed by Wilhelm II.Wilhelm II. was the German Emperor from 1888 to 1918 was an important reason for the outbreak of the First World War. The years from 1890 until 1914 were coined by imperialistic competition concerning African colonies, military armament and nationalism. While BismarckOtto von Bismarck was the Chancellor of the German Empire from 1871 to 1890 had focused on establishing a system of peace in Europe Wilhelm II. focused on the expansion of Germany into an imperial major power.
Change of alliance relationships
After the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 and the victory against France Bismarck realised that the French felt humiliated by their defeat. Due to the German and French hereditary enmity he aimed to isolate France from other European powers like Great Britain or Russia. He constituted new alliance relationships, the so called “ZweibundThe Dual Alliance (1879) was a defensive alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary” with Austria. Simultaneously Russia and Germany were obliged to neutrality in case of war, by the reinsurance contractThe Reinsurance contract between Germany and Russia was created in 1887. With Wilhelm II. ascending to power the European alliance relationships changed as he desired a higher level of power and eventually dismissed Bismarck.
Mistrust grew among the European nations concerning the German Reich as Wilhelm II. aimed to conquer more colonies1.
Naval agreement conflict
Especially Wilhelm the second’s aim to expand German fleets and thus turn Germany into a maritime major power aggravated political tensions and confederated Great Britain, France and Russia against Germany. To receive the necessary loan for the fleets’ expansion the ReichstagThe Reichstag was the Parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918. It had no formal right to appoint or dismiss governments compelled the opposition to agree to the plan. Emperor Wilhelm II. did his utmost to arm Germany in order to assert itself as a maritime power within Europe, which was taken with an especially high amount of distrust from Great Britain, the leading maritime power in Europe. In consequence those conflicts allied Great Britain, France and Russia under a common cause2.
Another factor for the increasing tension in Europe was the conflict concerning African colonies. Concerning colonialism Bismarck advocated a rather more defensive opinion than Wilhelm II, as he feared that German colonialism could lead to subsequent conflicts due to the geopolitical position of Germany. When public pressure on Bismarck increased he finally decided to insinuate the African region to the German estate in 1884. The imperialistic expansion was eventually realised after Bismarck’s dismissal in 1890, when Wilhelm the second aimed to form Germany into a power similar to Great Britain. Great Britain occupied the majority of African territory and was the undisputed leading empire.
The military armament as well as the present colonialism had a crucial influence on the outbreak of the First World War in 19143.