The decision by Bismarck to ally with Austria was more of a tactical than a long-term strategic one.
It was a defensive pact, and allowed Bismarck to dictate Austria's foreign policy, specifically pertaining to
Russia. This treaty did not give Austria full license to confront Russia.
The real reason to ally wit h Austria was a warning shot to Russia. It had been in an anti-German mood
and Bismarck felt Russia needed to be put in its place. However this backfired. Austria was led by anti-
Russian foreign ministers. Their motives were to reconstruct an alliance, the Dual Alliance and include
Britain to create the Triple Alliance aimed at Russia. The Austrian hoped in this regard by the absolute
refusal by British PM Gladstone to such a binding agreement. The liberals in Britain were wary of such a
deal. This gave Bismarck a way out. The Austrians reluctantly joined Bismarck in the Three Emperors
Alliance of the 18th June 1881. This treaty guaranteed neutrality, not suppor ting powers in times of war.
This was enough for Bismarck. This promise was to take into account each others interests in the Balkan
peninsula. Bismarck appeared to have created peace in the Balkan peninsula. However his actions in 1882
and 1883 showed that Bismarck valued the Austrian friendship more than the more powerful Russian
These two diplomatic instruments were the Triple Alliance of 1882 and the Austro-German Treaty of
Defense with Romania in 1883. Why did Bismarck concluded these anti-Russian treaties?
The Tripl e Alliance was with the Italians. They found themselves threatened by French colonial expansion
in Tunisia. The Italian PM Depretis, approached Germany for some alliance to offset French domination.
Bismarck was not too seduced initially but when he saw relations between Russia nd France he saw Italy
was a necessary balance to France. Bismarck was wary of an attack on Austria from France. This
protected Italy from French ambition. This showed an extra effort to protect Austria. This became even
more clear with the treaty with Romania.
This was an automatic promise to Romania to protect it from attack. This was in violation of the Three
Emperors Alliance. This was to Austria's advantage. This shows Bismarck favouring the Austrian
connection over the Russian.
In the 1840s two theories came about concerning the German revolutions. The first was the Great
Germany solution, to include all German-speaking peoples, br inging Austria into a Germany. The other
was the Little Germany solution, the one Bismarck pursued, excluding Austria. More importantly,
Bismarck understood any effor t tot include the German population of Austria would be difficult and
"Only historical states are possible…what could be put in that part of Europe now occupied by the Austria
state?....New creations in this ter r itory could only be such as would bear a permanent revolutionary
Any effort to import Germans from Austria would have to bring in Slavic people, whose protector was the
Russian Empire. The war that Bismarck fe ared, one based on race, would be WWII. He saw the survival
of Austria as necessary to preventing such a war.
"Germany would maintain the survival of Austria at all costs"
Bismarck's plan was all good until the question of the Balkans once again came to the forefront.