The Divided Continent

       However, given the propensity for tension in European politics, merely having an understanding of common interests with another state was no guarantee of effective support against other states.  Thus, to cement the balance of power, states bound themselves to support and defend each other through treaties of military alliance, the first of which arose in 1882 between Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy.  In their Triple Alliance treaty (see also the 1912 revision), the three powers codified without specific provision the general objectives of mutual peace and friendship, no contrary alliances, exchange of political and economic ideas, mutual diplomatic support (within the limits of national interest), and common counsel to respond to threats to the peace.  But as for the military provisions, the treaty only obligated the signatories to intervene on behalf of an ally if that ally was attacked without direct provocation by another great power (i.e., France or Russia).  On the other hand, if an ally found itself forced to make war against another great power due to a threat to its security, the only duty of the other signatories was to observe benevolent neutrality towards that ally.  Thus, the conditions binding the signatories to make war on another country were limited to defensive situations.

Triple Allies in red; Entente Allies in blue; neutrals in green

       A decade later, when France and Russia signed the Franco-Russian alliance to counteract the military threat posed by the Triple Alliance, the European powers were effectively divided into two camps, and for the next two decades, all political and military calculations were made on the basis of this division.[1]   Yet as in the Triple Alliance treaty, the Franco-Russian alliance was purely defensive, as each state bound itself to attack Germany or her allies in the event that the other state was itself attacked.  Article 2 also obligated each state to mobilize fully and immediately if any of the Triple Alliance states mobilized.  The objective was clearly to deter Germany from attacking either state because of the threat of an all-out war coming from both sides.  The preamble clearly stated that the signatories had ěno other object than to meet the necessities of a defensive war, provoked by an attack of the forces of the Triple Alliance against either of them.î  The treaty also called for military cooperation in planning and in communicating information relative to the enemiesí forces; however, unlike the Triple Alliance, there was no requirement of diplomatic support.




1.     James Joll, Origins of the First World War, 2d ed., 1992, p. 49.