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The Road To War: The Triple Alliance
Who was in the Triple Alliance and why was it formed?

Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy formed the Triple Alliance. In 1882, they signed a document that promised they would give each other military support in case of a war. The Alliance agreement stated it was 'essentially defensive and conservative' with the aim of stopping anyone who 'might threaten' the three nations.

Map of countries in the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance

The alliance formed between Germany and Austria-Hungary had strong ethnic ties. Germany and Austria-Hungary shared borders and (in many regions) the German language, as well as a desire to add to their territories. Austria-Hungary specifically wanted the Balkans.

The German Empire had only been officially created out of smaller German-speaking nations about twenty years before the Alliance was formed, and had quickly gained great influence over the older, fading Austro-Hungarian Empire. By co-operating rather than competing, land could be taken over by either empire without conflict of interest.

Italy wanted more territory in parts of Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. It also wanted protection from attacks from its northern neighbour, France. Finally, Italy still disputed land with Austria-Hungary. An alliance could turn out to be more effective in negotiating this land back, and stop Austria from taking any more land in a war. However, Italy still did not entirely trust Austria-Hungary, so made a secret treaty with France after the joining the Triple Alliance.

A conflict involving any one of the Triple Alliance countries could, by the terms of the treaty, bring in the other two. Rather than acting as a deterrent, the Treaty could be used as a bullying tactic. If a small nation was threatened by one of the Triple Alliance, the Triple Entente would have to ignore the situation or face a major conflict with Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy combined.

How do you think war came out of the alliance system that was meant to keep the peace?

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A - There was no system of international arbitration between the alliances to help negotiate territory disputes, so any small dispute could involve countries with a large and powerful military.

B - Contradictory alliances were made, so that some agreements cancelled out others.

C - War could not be avoided, so the alliance system helped countries be stronger.

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