To What Extent Was Germany Responsible For The First World War?

2175 words - 9 pages

The First World War was not caused singularly by Germany and Austria-Hungary as the treaty of Versailles has set out. Germany is greatly responsible for much of the tension of the world situation in 1914, resulting from its aggressive policy of Weltpolitik, its attempts to have a superior navy, the Kaiser's personal poorly said remarks, and its attempts to break up the Triple Entente. However Germany was not solely responsible for the tension, many other events had occurred outside Germany's control, which had the same effect. Germany was also largely responsible for allowing the conflict in the Balkans to escalate into a major European conflict, by giving Austria-Hungary free reign, though it was not their intent. However Germany should not be held responsible for implementing its Schlieffen plan once war seemed immanent, as it was militarily necessary. Despite having large responsibility in the causation of the first world war, they should not hold the position alone as many other nation contributed or could have intervened.

In the decades before the outbreak of war in 1914, Germany had been the major instigator of tension between the European powers. Under the policy of Weltpolitik (world politics) Germany's wished to play a large part in international affairs, join in on the quest for colonial territory, and spread German influence abroad. The other European powers were all pursuing their own imperialistic policies and were all competing for the same aims as Germany. When Germany tried to bully its way into the grab for colonies the other nations responded by forming alliances isolating it. Weltpolitik accomplished very little positive effects, instead managing to sour international relations, and cause a great deal of tension. In fact Geiss argues that Weltpolitik was the dominant long-term cause of the war. The only territory that Germany attained from its policy was small; a 99 year lease on Kiao-chow in China, two small Samoan Islands, and some small territorial gains in the Congo.

The other aspect of Germany's Weltpolitik that caused anxiety was their wish for a strong German navy. The Kaiser believed the fleet was necessary in order to support German interests across the globe. However this fleet was also aimed at negating the naval power of Britain. Admiral von Tirpitz designed the German naval fleet in order to have enough battleships to be able to substantially weaken Britain enough that Britain would no longer have an adequate fleet if the two powers came ever came to battle. Mark McAndrew argues that the whole basis of German naval policy was to intimidate Britain with little regard for the international tension it would create. In fact as early as 1896, members of the German government recognised that by developing their navy they would antagonize Britain and risk a major war. This knowledge did not restrain the Kaiser, nor Tirpitz. In a letter to the Kaiser's brother, Admiral Georg von Muller wrote "Either we harness...

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