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Causes of the Franco-Russian alliance

During the late 19th century many countries sought an alliance with other countries to guarantee their own safety, preserve peace and sometimes to help their economic position. this is highlighted by alliances and treaties such as the “Dual Alliance” of 1879, the “Dreikaiserbund” of 1881 and the “Reinsurance Treaty” This was also the case for both France and Russia, with them agreeing the “Franco-Russian Military Convention” on August 18th 1892 and later agreeing the “Franco-Russian Alliance” in 1893.

France and Russia were animated by a common desire to preserve peace. The only reason it was possible for France and Russia to form this alliance is because Germany allowed the Reinsurance treaty to become invalid. Both countries wanted different things from the alliance but there was one common reason between them, and that was to oppose Germany – although both countries had different incentives for this. France, Russia and Germany all contributed to the alliance being formed, either through their aims or what they did.

France aimed to get revenge on Germany for the Franco – Prussian war of 1970 – 1971 where France were disastrously defeated, Germany aimed to stay free from an invasion from France and keep Austria-Hungary happy as France and Austria- Hungary were on either side of German, and Russia wanted an ally so it could feel safe form Germany. France made an alliance with Russia because it was against Germany. France wanted Revenge on Germany because of the humiliation of losing the Franco-Prussian war and the valuable land lost, like “Alsace – Lorraine”.

They wanted revenge and this widely known. France knew that “without Russia’s help, the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871, in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine could never be repaired”, so it was important France allied with a relatively strong power. Karl Marx said “If Alsace – Lorraine is taken, then France will later make war with Germany in conjunction with France”. France needed an ally because she felt extremely vulnerable, this was mainly due to Bismarck and Germany.

Bismarck had been successful in isolating France diplomatically over the previous decade, so she needed to catch up with the other major powers. France couldn’t ally with Britain because Britain kept itself in “splendid isolation”, so Russia was really the only real choice as they were the only other great power who was suspicious and disliked Germany. France feared Germany, Germany had a preponderant military, so to counterbalance the German – British alliance, France agreed the Franco-Russian alliance.

They had to try and make sure the disastrous defeat of the “Franco – Prussian war” wasn’t repeated, so making an alliance with a country as powerful and with such a good geographical position, for an attack on Germany, would inevitable almost guarantee their safety. If Germany started a war with France they would have to fight on two fronts as Russia and France were on either side of Germany, which would stretch resources immenseleyRussia also feared Germany’s dominance so seeked an Alliance to reduce the chance of being attacked.

After the Reinsurance treaty had expired in 1890 Russia wanted to turn to another country who had strained relations with Germany, and also after the renewal of the “Triple alliance” (of Germany, Austria and Italy) it prompted serious consideration from Russia about her isolated position, so she turned to France. Russia couldn’t form an alliance with Britain, because Britain didn’t want to make an Alliance at this time and they kept themselves isolated. Russia saw an Alliance with France as a very attractive prospect.

This is because even before the alliance was formed, France had lent Russia considerable sums of money so Russia could build up their army and France had given Russia military assistance in weapons procurement, so now an alliance was formed, it would almost ensure that France would continue investing capital into Russia and helping with arms development. During the 1880’s Russia was borrowing up to 2 million francs every year from the French, so an alliance would hopefully secure the very important financial support needed by the very backward Russian economy at that time.

Russia also seeked an anti – German alliance because Russia was unhappy with the way in which Germany had treated them. From being once an ally with Germany, Russia had totally changed their views about their foreign policy with them. Firstly there was the fact that Germany had failed to renew the “Reinsurance treaty” with them, which could have left Russia in a very vulnerable position, and secondly there was the trouble Bismarck had caused in November 1987, over the bonds on the stock market.

Bismarck banned the sales of bonds on the Berlin stock market because Bismarck was annoyed with the Russian government imposing taxes on foreign owners of estates in Russia. The Franco – Russian alliance helped Russia and France in different ways, but for both of them it was good for the alliance to be anti – German because both powers feared Germany and both wanted revenge against Germany, France for the “Franco – Prussian war” and Russia for their bonds being banned from the Berlin stock market.

Both countries were apprehesive about Germany’s intentions but the geographical position of France and Russia, on either side of Germany, meant that Germany fealt a bit threatened so the chance of attack on France and Russia was reduced. The Franco – Russian alliance was not merely a commercial or financial scheme, it was the supreme guaranty of the unhampered development of the two nations, which was needed as both countries were left feeling isolated and vulnerable, France after the “Franco – Prussian war” and for Russia the expired “Reinsurance Treaty”.

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