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Triple Alliance and Triple Entente

Formation of the Triple Entente

The Three Emperors' League died a slow death, but in 1890 its day was over: Germany refused to renew its reinsurance treaty with Russia, and Russia in consequence sought a rapprochement with France. At the same time France, face to face with an increasingly powerful Germany and a hostile Central European combination, felt great need of an ally, and French diplomats began to make overtures to Russia for an agreement to counterbalance the Triple Alliance. French capital aided Russian projects, especially the Trans-Siberian RR, and friendly diplomatic visits were exchanged. In 1891 there was a definite understanding between the powers; this was strengthened by a military convention in 1893, and by 1894 the Dual Alliance between Russia and France was in existence. It was publicly acknowledged in 1895.

Meanwhile, the fall of Bismarck, after the accession of William II to the throne of the German Empire, was followed by the appearance of more adventurous foreign policies. Germany committed itself to colonial and commercial expansion. The German plan for a Baghdad Railway was viewed with alarm by the powers with interests in the Middle East. The German commercial rivalry with Great Britain not only brought direct trouble but nourished German desire for sea power and a large navy.

Great Britain, long in "splendid isolation" from the other European nations, was being propelled by its interests to make some move toward protective international alliance. There had been some efforts to achieve a Franco-German rapprochement, but these ultimately had no effect. In 1898 Théophile Delcassé took control of French foreign policy; he was opposed to Germany and hoped for a rapprochement with Great Britain, his object being the isolation of Germany. Friendship between Britain and France did not seem possible because of their traditional enmity and, more important, their colonial quarrels in Africa. Moreover, Great Britain and Germany were traditional friends, and the two countries were bound by dynastic and cultural ties. There had been and continued to be active expressions of Anglo-German amity, but Delcassé's diplomacy, aided by the accession (1901) of Francophile Edward VII to the British throne, ultimately bore fruit. Although Great Britain and France had been on the verge of war over the Fashoda Incident in 1898, the matter was settled and the way opened for further agreements between the two powers. Though there was no alliance, the Entente Cordiale—a friendly understanding—was arrived at in 1904.

Colonial rivalries between Russia and Britain had in the late 19th cent. made those powers hostile; the field of contest was Asia—Turkish affairs, Persia, Afghanistan, China, and India. But after the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, and particularly after Sir Edward Grey gained influence in the British foreign office, Britain came to favor a friendly settlement. This was finally achieved in the Anglo-Russian entente of 1907. That agreement created the international group opposing the Triple Alliance—France, Great Britain, and Russia had formed the Triple Entente.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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