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effects of westpolitik on germany

Abstract

Westpolitik is a term that describes the foreign policy that was adopted by Germany in the late 1890’s. The sole intention of this policy was designed to make German a leading power as it sought to expand, strengthen itself and a raise a formidable empire that would rival those that already existed. The policy demonstrated the aggressive approach that the German’s wanted to implement.  This aggressive nature resulted in friction with other nations. The policy sought two major developments; one was the expansion of the German colonies and the second was the development of a large High Seas Fleet.

The results of this policy have been said to range from the World War I, formation of the Great Power Diplomacy and its subsequent crisis, formation of alliances, Treaty signing, Military developments, isolations and encircling of German, government and constitutional changes as well as dynamic foreign policies adoption by various nations.

The Effects of Westpolitik on German’s International Position

Westpolitik describes the Germany’s foreign policy adopted with intentions to make Germany an expansive, strong and a formidable empire in several fronts in 1897. To many, this policy was seen as a precipitating factor towards the World War I. The aggressiveness exhibited by this foreign policy indeed rattled many powerful nations. Prior to this; the Germans had adopted realpolitik which emphasized on diplomacy based on practical and real scenarios rather than on ideological approaches. The then foreign minister, Bernhard von Bülow openly stated that Germany was implementing it. Parliamentary proceedings of December the 6th 1897, Bernhard stated that “…we do not want to place anyone into the shadow, but we also claim our place in the sun.” [1] Kaiser Wilhelm II initiated this policy in 1888 after the death of Wilhelm I. This radical shift in German’s foreign policy was in contrast with the opinion that had been held by Bismarck and Kasier Wilhelm I, who had widely held to the belief that Germany was a European giant with goals and objectives cutting across the entire European continent. Kaiser Wilhelm sought to make Germany a leading power with interest to the maritime and in the larger Europe.The Weltpolitik had two major dimensions. The first one was fast widening or expansion of German colonies in the world (colonization) and the second one was the development of a large navy to be at per with the France, US, Russia and the Japanese navies. The colonization policy had already been started by Bismarck and it led to Germany becoming the third largest colonial empire. The enactment of the 1898 Navy Law ushered in the dawn to threaten the British Empire.

This policy had with it various repercussions all-over Europe and the world in general. Namely, one of its effects was the destabilization of the Great Power diplomacy. Its aggressive nature caused friction with other foreign nations and was closely linked with Great Power diplomatic crises prior to the First World War. [2]. It’s quest to have its place “in the sun” caused discomfort to other large empires. Understandably, it meant that German had adopted a policy geared towards making an industrial giant by creating its own colonial empire to compete with it’s rivals. This was to be achieved by the progressive development and expansion of it High Seas Fleet (navy) with sole aim to oust the rivals namely the British. This caused what was known as the “Aglo-german naval race” as each empire tried to outdo the other. At home in Europe, the British Empire felt that this policy threatened their existence.

This policy was seen by many as a result of nationalism, an ideology that had shaped the history of the German’s for many years. As efforts prior were directed towards achieving the unification of the West and the East German, in this new policy, all efforts and resources were directed towards building an international powerhouse with establishment of a colonial empire being seen as the most viable option.

Mit Erlaubnis des Reichskanzlers gesammelt und herausgegeben von Johannes Penzler Fürst Bülows Reden nebst urkundlichen Beiträgen zu seiner Politik.. I. Band 1897–1903. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1907. p. 6-8
Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from .http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/causeww1.htm

This policy was seen by many as a result of nationalism, an ideology that had shaped the history of the German’s for many years. As efforts prior were directed towards achieving the unification of the West and the East German, in this new policy, all efforts and resources were directed towards building an international powerhouse with establishment of a colonial empire being seen as the most viable option. The doctrine of “survival for the fittest” blended with nationalism which had existed provoked the nation with its notion that the fittest were to survive and if a nation by then was weak, it would be destroyed or its bargaining power drastically reduced.

This policy thus resulted in nations entering into treaty with each other.

The creation of two divisions in Europe, (Triple entente and Central Powers)cleared demonstrated the intricate balance that was to be considered and it was seen as a time bomb in triggering a war should either two nations enter into a war. [3]. This would immediately have resulted in the entrance by the other nations. This policy changed the stability mechanisms that had existed in Europe. This Entete comprising Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy agreed to support each other if attacked by either Russia or France. This made France feel threatened and together with Britain which also felt the same, they signed the Entete Cordiale which majorly was to encourage them to face the threat. Later, France joined the force as it perceived the threat of the large German navy.

Military alliances were also seen as a result of this policy. Many nations, joining forces to counter perceived threats, came together with sole aim of countering the military threats of the other. This was an extension of the various treaties that were signed by the various national governments.

Various nations’ foreign policies shifted due to the Westpolitk policy. Nations which had policy’s of defense radically changed to policies of aggression. An example would be Russia, which had an aggressive approach in the Far East was geared towards countering the Japanese war with China. It was designed to further exploit and expand their empires. Nations sought this by being aggressive rather than being defensive. Noteworthy, is that, all the nations involved all employed aggressive and defensive approaches.

This policy led to nations coming out of isolations and saw the signing on new treaties.. Example was Britain. This was because the British interests were maritime and imperial with no need to join alliances. The ideology of the Germans made the British Empire to reconsider its policy and thus joined the already existed alliances with a common goal. Britain tried to enter into treaties with German as a diplomatic way to hold the threats being unleashed by the Germans. Some treaties were the Aglo-German treaty and the Aglo-German China treaty. Further, the British went ahead and signed many treaties with other nations namely, Japan, Russia and France.

Retrieved on 26th from
http://users.dickinson.edu/~rhyne/232/Six/Triple_Alliance_1882.html

Growing tensions due the Westpolitik policy led to shifting of foreign policies by different nations. The Germans being isolated. Shifting of alliances was witnessed and nations also changed their diplomacy. Defensive policy was adopted by nations that had prior been aggressive. Nations example Russia adopted diplomacy after defeat by the Japanese. They even entered into a treaty with the French with aim to defend each other in the case of a Germany attack. Tsar unlike the Kaiser, preferred a partial mobilization after the Australia declared war on Serbia. This was a different approach demonstrated by the Germans. Thus being offensive was being decided by the defensive capability of a nation. Nations sought to protect their interests.

The policy led to the centralization of the Habsburg monarchy (Austria-Hungary) the head normally was referred to as the Ruler of the Roman Empire. This was a defensive strategy geared towards power consolidation in the event of an attack. The centralization of this monarch was a direct result of the threat that was occasioned by the Germans. Austria and Hungary had co-operated in various fronts and this one was seen as strength in raising their defense against any external aggression.

This policy precipitated the World War 1.The objectives of the Westpolitik policy made nations to heighten their military and defensive capabilities in readiness for war. This was seen in the later during the occurrence of the World War 1. The German policy is seen by many historians as the precipitating factor that led to this First World War It is a war that involved the Great powers assembling in two different camps and lasted from 1914-1918. The Triple Entete and the Central power faced each other. Nearly 70 million military personnel with about 60 million Europeans were mobilized for this war. [4]. This changed the spending that various Empires had adopted. Human and economic resources were threatened by this war. Key trade routes and key source of raw materials were a source of greater conflict as each side sought to win the battle. The assassination of the heir to the Austria-Hungary Monarch in 1914 was seen as the trigger for this war. But analysis of preceding factors would tell otherwise. Foreign policies of various Empires including the Germans, Russians and the Hungarians, definitely had a hand in this war.

The aftermath of the war led to radical changes in the composition of governments. Constitutional changes were witnessed in major nations with case example being Britain. The expansion of various governments’ powers and responsibilities was witnessed. Nations which now enjoyed this advantage included the USA, Britain, France and the Dominions of the British Empire. Resultant new ministries and centers of powers were created to harness their grip. [5]

Stephen J. Lee; Europe, 1890-1945. (n.d) retrieved on 26th May 2010 from thttp://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Rzb2gmOWGeEC&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=German%27s+Weltpolitik+effects&source=bl&ots=iLqdIEMV3C&sig=uA7Sz2hcOSergsKZ4s3o8zGJcXo&hl=en&ei=fA39S8cEoJPiBuiFzKEL&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false
Spencer Tucker; Encyclopedia of world war . (n.d.). Retrieved on 26th May 2010, from http://books.google.com/books?id=2YqjfHLyyj8C&pg=PA273&dq&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

The taxes introduced during this period have remained even up to today. This is evident in the taxation regimes of various nations. Distinct changes were observed in the governance structures. Executive powers of governments were expanded and governments became active in the lives of people. Democratic government structures were put in place with strengthening of political parties in Britain.

The establishment of the Treaty of Versailles effectively made the Germans and its Allies accountable for all the damages and loss encountered during the war and subsequently provided a means for compensation. This treaty brought the foreign power shifting and also brought control over the German’s Westpolitik policy. The defeat in the war loudly, made the Germans to retreat on their aggressive policy. This burden is explained by many as to having led to the end of the Westpolitik era for the Germans. It paved way for the rise of Adolf Hitler.   It is stated that the Germans will finish paying the debt in 2010 while the rest will be paid in 2020. [6]

Various views are held in debating whether the German’s really provoked the

War. This has led to doubts and suspicious treatment of the Germans even in the modern world. The German foreign policy has drastically shifted to one that is focused on the local scenario rather than the larger external nations. Its aggressive foreign policy approach has been shelved. German provided the Austria-Hungary with a blank cheque and encouraged the Serbia war. After Russian mobilization, German became the first to declare war. This subsequently led to war with France and the invasion of Belgium. This clearly shows that German was the ahead in provoking the retaliation that span into wide scale war.

Findley, Carter Vaughn and J.A. Rothney. Twentieth Century World: 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company: 2006. Page 77.

REFERENCES

Findley, Carter Vaughn and J.A. Rothney. Twentieth Century World: 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company: 2006. Page 77.
Retrieved on 26th May 2010 from .http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/causeww1.htm
Retrieved on 26th from
http://users.dickinson.edu/~rhyne/232/Six/Triple_Alliance_1882.html

Stephen J. Lee; Europe, 1890-1945. (n.d) retrieved on 26th May 2010 from thttp://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Rzb2gmOWGeEC&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=German%27s+Weltpolitik+effects&source=bl&ots=iLqdIEMV3C&sig=uA7Sz2hcOSergsKZ4s3o8zGJcXo&hl=en&ei=fA39S8cEoJPiBuiFzKEL&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false
Spencer Tucker; Encyclopedia of world war . (n.d.). Retrieved on 26th May 2010, from http://books.google.com/books?id=2YqjfHLyyj8C&pg=PA273&dq&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false
Mit Erlaubnis des Reichskanzlers gesammelt und herausgegeben von Johannes Penzler Fürst Bülows Reden nebst urkundlichen Beiträgen zu seiner Politik.. I. Band 1897–1903. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1907. p. 6-8

 

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