TRIPLE ENTENTE & WORLD WAR I
The Triple Entente was an informal agreement between the European nations of France, Russia and the United Kingdom (Britain) in the years before the 1914 outbreak of World War I. The French term ‘entente’ means agreement or friendship, thus showing that the Triple Entente was an agreement of mutual support for the member nations. With that said, the Triple Entente was not necessarily a true military alliance as was its counterpart – the Triple Alliance. The Triple Alliance was a mutual defense alliance between the major European nations of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. This means that each member nation of the Triple Alliance agreed to come to the military aid and defense of the other member nations in the event that they were attacked. Instead, the Triple Entente was informal in nature and based upon three smaller agreements between France, Russia and the United Kingdom.
The first of these agreements was the Franco-Russian Alliance. The Franco-Russian Alliance was an economic and military alliance between France and Russia that reached following a series of meetings and exchanges that occurred from 1891 until 1894. At the time, both countries were concerned about the growing strength of Germany in Europe and the creation of the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in 1882. France was still upset with Germany over the events and outcome of the Franco-Prussian War, which lasted from 1870 until 1871. Prussia was the largest Germanic Kingdom at the time and later unified with other Germanic Kingdoms to form the country of Germany. As part of its defeat, France gave up a territory of its land called Alsace-Lorraine, which bordered with Germany. Germany’s control over Alsace-Lorraine was a major factor, which led to heightened tensions between Germany and France. As such, France wanted to construct a protective alliance with Russia. For its part, Russia was concerned about Germany’s ties to both Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Russia bordered all three countries and was worried about control over trading routes and the growing influence that each nation had along its borders. Therefore, this led Russia to agreeing to the Franco-Russian Alliance, which linked the two countries based economically and militarily.
The next agreement that led to the development of the Triple Entente was the ‘Entente Cordiale’. The Entente Cordiale was an agreement between France and the United Kingdom that was finalized on April 8th in 1904. The Entente Cordiale was significant because it essentially ended century’s worth of tensions between the two countries and led to the eventual Triple Entente with Russia. The main focus of the Entente Cordiale was on overseas colonies and the rivalry that existed between France and the United Kingdom for these territories. In short, they each agreed to recognize each other’s spheres of influence in Africa and Asia, which united them in a common front against Germany. From Germany’s perspective, the Entente Cordiale was disappointing because they had used the previous French and English tensions as a way of asserting their own dominance in Europe.
The Entente Cordiale was tested in 1905 with the events of the First Moroccan Crisis. France considered Morocco to be in its colonial sphere of influence, which the United Kingdom recognized in the Entente Cordiale. In general, Germany was angered by French and English colonial expansion in Africa, since Germany was largely kept out and lacked the colonies that both France and the United Kingdom had at the time. This eventually led to Germany threatening France’s influence in Morocco, in March of 1905, when Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany visited the African nation. In the end, France retained its influence over Morocco with the backing of the United Kingdom. The issues arose again in 1911 with the events of the Second Morocco Crisis, which is also known as the ‘Agadir Crisis’. As before, the crisis was between France and Germany and centered on colonial expansion in Africa. When France sent troops into Morocco in April of 1911, the German government reacted by sending a gunboat (the SMS Panther) to Morocco. This again created heightened tensions between the two European nations and caused a brief international crisis. It was resolved once France conceded some of its colonial territory in Central Africa (Congo) to Germany. In turn, Germany agreed to recognize France’s claim to Morocco. Regardless, the two Moroccan crises highlight the increased tensions that existed between France and Germany in the years leading up to the 1914 outbreak of World War I. As such, this pushed the European nations further towards establishing and reinforcing their alliances, which set the stage for war.
The last agreement that led to the development of the Triple Entente was the Anglo-Russian Entente. This agreement was made between the United Kingdom and Russia on August 31st in 1907. It primarily dealt with issues between the two nations in regarding to their spheres of influence in Asia. For instance, both Russia and the United Kingdom considered Persia to be in their colonial sphere of influence. This caused tensions between the two nations, which were ultimately resolved with the Anglo-Russian Entente. The agreement essentially stated that northern Persia would be under Russia’s influence, while southern Persia would belong to the United Kingdom. As well, the United Kingdom retained control over both Afghanistan and Tibet. This agreement helped reduce the tensions between the two nations and led to the establishment of the Triple Entente. For instance, when combined with the earlier agreements of the Franco-Russian Alliance and the Entente Cordiale, the Anglo-Russian Entente finalized the informal alliance between France, Russia and the United Kingdom.
The member nations of the Triple Entente maintained their loyalty with one another and when war broke out in 1914, the three nations entered World War I as the Allied Powers. The Allied Powers of World War I faced off against the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Italy, which had previously been a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary flipped sides and instead joined the Allied Powers.
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