Circumstances Leading to Formation of Triple Alliance and Triple Entente

by Aakriti Verma - 19 April, 2021, 12:00 23331 Views 0 Comment

When World War 1 began in 1914 and ended in 1918, the series of events and wars were the severest rounds that Europe had ever experienced in several centuries.

Let us look at how the Triple Alliance formed and started. If we go back to the time of the Franco-Prussian War, we can trace the beginning of The Triple Alliance. The whole thing started even before that, it started from Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 but it came into Limelight in the late 19th century around the time of the Franco-Prussian War.


It could be said to have begun in the German Victory over Austria in the battle of Sadowa (1866) and the German defeat of France, Battle of Sedan in 1870. The balance of power brought into being by the Vienna Congress was reversed. For the first time, the power was shifted from Paris to Berlin (New Capital).

Otto von Bismarck’s era in 1871 ushered in a series of impulsive doing with Europe. Bismarck came up with very interesting information in Europe inhabited by 5 powers where 5 powers are at play everyone should attempt to be on the site on which there are 3 powers and with this am in mind he laid the principle of Foreign Policy. Bismarck’s aim was to keep France isolated from Bismarck’s Germany and with this, he was particularly significant in defining the trajectory along with both Berlin and Paris. His aim was to win over other powers on its side in terms of diplomacy.

In the second half of the 19th century, Britain decided to remain aloof peaceful Britain had no problem accepting whichever power is dominantly provided it is not going to Challenge the British hegemony. France – unreconcilable and Britain – unwilling to be aligned Bismarck had only Austria-Hungary and Russia to take care of.

The three emperors’ league or the Dreikaiserbund was an alliance between Germany, Russia and Austro – Hungary. Bismarck was in charge of the German foreign policy from 1871 and his goal was a peaceful Europe based on the balance of power. He feared that Russia, France and Austria would crush Germany at once, so he came up with the solution to ally with the two of the three. In 1873, A League of Three Emperors was formed, an alliance of the Kaiser of Germany, the Tsar of Russia, and the Kaiser of Austria-Hungary. An agreement was negotiated between the monarchs of Austria-Hungary, Russia and Germany on October 22, 1873. Maintaining the status quo and avoiding war were the cornerstone of Bismarck’s political philosophy. The collective was disbanded in 1878 over the Balkans issue and following the body’s first conclusion in 1879.

A defensive Dual Alliance system between Austria-Hungary and Germany was formed to counter the potential Russian Aggression. Later in 1882, Italy joined the agreement which came to be known as the triple alliance.


If we leave aside the exact motivation of Germany’s behavior behind the Berlin Congress and take the substance of it that Bismarck preferred Austria-Hungary. This goes on to explain why in 1879 a dual alliance was forged with Vienna. In 1879, A Secret Treaty was signed b/w Berlin and Vienna laid a clear set of protocols in which the alignment was made.

The terms of Dual Alliance b/w Germany and Austria-Hungary was clearly a military strategic alignment. If Austria-Hungary gets attacked by Russia then Germany would provide Military Assistance and on the other hand, Germany gets attacked by France then Austria would do the same.

Later, in 1882, when Italy joined the Alliance, it had its reasons for joining the Austro-German Alliance. Conservatives sympathized ideologically with two monarchies used to control the Italian Government. Its terms were that both other powers would support Italy if she were attacked without provocation by France. Italy in return was pledged to support either of her allies only if it were attacked by two or more great powers but would aid Germany if she were attacked by France alone. On the other hand, in Hey the event of war between Austria -Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral.

Germany and Austria – Hungary for proposing to come to each other military aid if either of them was attacked by France or Russia which also meant Bismarck was not guaranteeing a blank cheque in Balkan.  The alignment was a kind of a defensive alliance Berlin remained a staunch ally of Austria-Hungary. Russia decided to ignore Bismarck’s favouring of Austria-Hungary and attempted to get close to Germany Bismarck was happy to bring Russia back on board because it would guarantee the fact that Russia and France would not be able to come to each other. The 3 emperors League was reinstated in 1887 but this time with more definite provisions. He is either of the 3 signatory words to go to the board with the 4th power than the other 2 would remain basically neutral. The reinsurance Treaty of 1887 was an attempt by Bismarck to keep Russia on board.


In 1887, German and Russian alignment was secured by a means of secret reinsurance treaty arranged by Otto von Bismarck however in 1890, he fell from power and the treaty was allowed to lapse in the favor of dual alliance(1879) between Germany and Austria Hungary the development was attributed to count Capri the Prussian general who replaced Bismarck as a chancellor. Caprivi recognized a personal inability to manage the European System like his predecessor had so he was counselled by the contemporary figures to follow a more logical approach which leads to the collapse of the Reinsurance treaty b/w Russia & Germany.


Some of the distant origins of World War1 can be seen in the results in consequences of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 and the concurrent unification of Germany. Though Germany had won decisively and established a powerful empire, France fell into chaos and military decline for years. Bismarck was wary of the French desire for revenge and achieved peace by isolating France and by balancing the ambitions of Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans. A legacy of animosity grew between France and Germany after the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. The annexation caused widespread resentment in France, giving rise to the desire for revenge. France eventually recovered from its defeat, paid its war indemnity, and rebuilt its military strength. However, France was smaller than Germany in terms of population and industry and so many French felt insecure next to a more powerful neighbor. By the 1890s, the desire for revenge over Alsace-Lorraine no longer was a major factor for the leaders of France but remained a force in public opinion. Jules Cambon, the French ambassador to Berlin (1907–1914), worked hard to secure a détente, but French leaders decided that Berlin was trying to weaken the Triple Entente and was not sincere in seeking peace. The French consensus was that war was inevitable.


The Triple Entente means “friendship, understanding, agreement” describes the informal relationship and understanding between the Russian Empire, French third republic and Britain. The treaty of France & Russia locking them into a tight embrace in terms of strategic and military commitments towards each other in case of a war with either Germany or Austria-Hungary.

Russia had previously been a member of the League of three Emperors, an Alliance with Austria- Hungary and Germany. The alliance was clearly a part of Bismarck’s plan to isolate France diplomatically. Later, as well, in order to stop Russia from allying with France Bismarck came up with the reinsurance treaty with Russia in 1887. The treaty dissolved in 1890 with the dissolution of Bismarck’s era.


In 1894, we had a situation along the central axis b/w Berlin & Vienna, another axis came across purpose, Russia & France. Out of 5 powers, 4 were already aligned by 1894. Among them, Russia had the largest manpower reserves, but it was economically backward. Russia shared its worries about Germany with France and they both decided to enter an Entente. The Franco-Russian Alliance was formed. Wilhelm’s rash decision not to renew the reinsurance treaty pushed Russia into the arms of France. France developed a strong bond with Russia by ratifying into Franco-Russian Alliance, the alliance was simply and purely formed to counterattack the Triple Alliance. France’s main aim was to attack Germany and regain Alsace-Lorraine.


In the last decade of the 19th century, Britain was still sticking to its policy of “Splendid Isolation”. However, by the early 1900s, the German threat increased, and Britain realised they need to ally with other powers. In 1904, a series of agreements were signed with France, the Entente Cordial, mostly aimed towards resolving the colonial disputes. The Entente is not an alliance, so Britain was free to make its own policies. They maintained a friendly relationship with each other in the Anglo-French Treaty and revived their diplomatic relationship as well.

Britain also entered an Anglo-Japanese treaty in 1902, when Japan and Russia entered the war in 1905, Russia was defeated by Japan, it was widely said that Britain aided Japan secretly. After the Russian – Japanese War, two years later, in 1907, Britain decided to enter an entente with Russia, which came to be known as Anglo-Russian Treaty (1907). These 3 treaties led to the formation of TRIPLE ENTENTE.

The Triple Entente between Britain, France, and Russia is often compared to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria–Hungary and Italy, but historians caution against that comparison as simplistic.


The first Moroccan crisis was an international dispute held over the status of Morocco. The crisis worsened the situation with Germany and ended up in the stronger relationship of Britain and France during the Crisis which ensured the success of the new Entente Cordial. On the other hand, it can be concluded that THE ANGLO-FRANCE ALLIANCE got strengthened instead of getting weakened by the German challenge to France over Morocco.


The Balkan Wars were two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in South-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war; one of them, Bulgaria, was defeated in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost nearly all its territory in Europe.  The war increased international tension between Russia and Austria-Hungary. It also led to a strengthening of Serbia and a weakening of the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, which might otherwise have kept Serbia under control, thus disrupting the balance of power in Europe toward Russia.

Russia initially agreed to avoid territorial changes, but later in 1912, it supported Serbia’s demand for an Albanian port. Serbia backed down, after an Austrian and then an international naval demonstration in early 1912 and Russia withdrawn its support. Montenegro was not as compliant, and on May 2, the Austrian council of ministers met and decided to give Montenegro a last chance to comply, or it would resort to military action. However, seeing the Austro-Hungarian military preparations, the Montenegrins requested for the ultimatum to be delayed, and they complied.

The Serbian government, having failed to get Albania, now demanded the other spoils of the First Balkan War be reapportioned, and Russia failed to pressure Serbia to back down. Serbia and Greece allied against Bulgaria, which responded with a pre-emptive strike against their forces and so began the Second Balkan War. The Bulgarian army crumbled quickly after the Ottoman Empire and Romania joined the war.

The Balkan Wars strained the German alliance with Austria-Hungary. The attitude of the German government to Austro-Hungarian requests of support against Serbia was initially divided and inconsistent. After the German Imperial War Council of 8 December 1912, it was clear that Germany was not ready to support Austria-Hungary in a war against Serbia and its likely allies.

In September 1913, Serbia was moving into Albania, and Russia was never helping to control it, and the Serbian government would not ensure to regard Albania’s regional honesty and recommended that some boondocks changes would happen.

In October 1913, the chamber of priests chose to send Serbia an admonition followed by a final proposal for Germany and Italy to be informed of some activity and requested help and for spies to be sent to report if there was a real withdrawal. Serbia reacted to the notice with resistance, and the final offer was dispatched on October 17 and got the next day. It requested for Serbia to empty from Albania within eight days. After Serbia went along, the Kaiser made a celebratory visit to Vienna to attempt to fix a portion of the harm done before in the year.

By then, Russia had mostly recovered from its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, and the calculations of Germany and Austria were driven by a fear that Russia would eventually become too strong to be challenged. The conclusion was that any war with Russia had to occur within the next few years to have any chance of success.


The July Crisis was a series of interrelated diplomatic and military escalations among the major powers of Europe in the summer of 1914 that was the ultimate cause of World War I. The crisis began on June 28, 1914. A complex web of alliances, coupled with miscalculations by many leaders that war was in their best interests or that a general war would not occur, resulted in a general outbreak of hostilities among almost every major European nation in early August 1914.

  1. The July crisis was a month-long period of ultimatums, diplomatic communications and threats that culminated in the outbreak of World War I.
  2. It began the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 28th1914. Encouraged by Germany, Austria-Hungary handed Serbia a stringent ultimatum.
  3. What followed was a month-long period involving diplomatic advice between European powers, including offers of mediation and promises of military backing.
  4. The Serbians accepted most but not all the terms in the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum. Dissatisfied and backed by Germany, Vienna declared war on Serbia.
  5. This prompted Russia to order the mobilization of its forces, in preparation for a possible war against Austria-Hungary. Germany followed suit by issuing declarations of war in late July and early August 1914.


Alliances had been a fixture of Europe’s international system for centuries. For almost 100 years, from 1814/1815 until 1914, they were used to manage Great Power politics. Alliances could bolster cooperation among all or at least most of the Great Powers, as in the case of the Quadruple Alliance, which would form the basis of the European Pentarchy and the Concert of Europe. They could also become instruments designed to wage war, as in the case of France and Sardinia in 1858 or Prussia and Italy in 1866. After 1871, the alliances of the Great Powers provided some sense of security in an age that was still shaped by the concept of war as a legitimate political tool.  neither the Triple Alliance nor the Triple Entente were incompatible with efforts to keep the peace of Europe. What turned them into destabilizing forces in European politics was a combination of inherent problems of alliance politics and other factors. Keeping the existing alliance together became a driving motivation for the British Foreign Office and, up to a point, also for its French counterpart. The same holds true for Germany and Austria-Hungary, with respect to Italy and Romania.

Alliances neglected to keep the harmony in 1914 and, in blend with the mobilized view of security that had risen among chiefs and enormous pieces of general society in Europe, even assumed a part in achieving war. Yet, is it right to pass judgment on them as a total disappointment in 1914? The appropriate response relies upon a presumption about the motivation behind collusions in the mid-twentieth century. Germany did not attempt to slow down Austria-Hungary’s high-hazard course until the finish of July 1914, though France lastly even Incredible England guaranteed Russia’s methodology of acceleration. In spite of the fact that the Triple Partnership self-destructed in the late spring of 1914, as Italy chose to remain impartial, Berlin and Vienna had the option to swear by their settlement of 1879 as an establishment on which to construct a wartime alliance.


Aakriti Verma
Aakriti Verma is pursuing a Master's in International Relations from Amity University.

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