The Diplomatic Revolution
- From the point of view of structural forces relating to an organized system there
were probably two fundamental sources at work:
1) The psychological aftermath of the decades of war of Louis XIV…
the collective mental fallout and push for peace.
2) The common plateau of military power achieved between and
amongst the states…they arrived at a military stalemate.
- The most severe challenge you can pose for an international system is to change the
membership of the great powers that lead it without resorting to an all-out war
between all the powers.
- The 18 Century Balance of power brought an end to the Dutch Republic and Spain
being “great powers.” Replacing them within the inner circle of great powers
(being Austria, France, and Great Britain) was Russia and Prussia.
- It was true, however, that Prussia of Frederick the Great posed problems for this
- Prussia broke all the rules of territorial power requirements. All the other powers
had consolidated continuous territorial bases…while Prussia had three scattered
territorial bases. Prussia was a geographically fragmented great power. It had three
major fragments: Prussia itself to the east, Brandenburg and recently acquired
Silesia (which was the central block of Prussia), and the West-German territories
(i.e. Mark). It was a very unstable basis for a great power, which is why it was
so volatile within the system.
- Frederick the Great in late 1740 said in regards to the 18 Century balance of
power, “Who would have thought that destiny has chosen a poet [being himself] to
topple the political system of Europe and to turn upside down the political
combinations of its rulers.”
- As he looked around at his neighbours in Europe he feared their size and was
paranoid of a possible unification against him.
- His fears, insecurity, diplomatic incompetence, and miscalculations were his own
undoing and threatened the 18 century balance of power.
- By the mid-1750s there was a growing colonial war between Britain and France.
- Britain thought that this war would lead to complications in Europe and in order to
secure their possessions in Europe (i.e. protect Hanover against conspiracies),
Britain signed the Anglo-Russian Subsidy Treaty in September 1755.
- The idea was that in return for an annual subsidy of 100 000 pounds (which the
Duke of Newcastle though was monstrous and the Russians were not cheap), the
Russians provided 50 000 men and 25 ships. For the British, this was merely a
defensive treaty, while for the Russians this was a stepping-stone that would assist
them in putting Prussia back in its place.
- This longer term Russian ambition in using the British as a tool in bringing down
Prussia opposed the future goal of the British to bring in the Prussians into this
- Frederick the Great was well aware of Russian hostility and he also knew that the
Austrians were still angered by the annexation of Silesia. The foreign policy of
Maria Theresa and that of Kaunitz was essentially to eliminate Prussia’s alliance with France and isolate Prussia – thereby exposing it to a war of revenge.