Summary of Events Leading to World War I: Four Crises

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Summary of Events Leading to World War I: Four Crises

On this screen you will learn to identify the First Moroccan Crisis (1905-1906), First Balkan Crisis (1908), Second Moroccan Crisis (1911), and Second Balkan Crisis (1912-1913). What were the results of these four crises? Note that after each crisis a larger war was averted because the powers would summon diplomatic conferences.

First Moroccan Crisis

The First Moroccan Crisis, also known as the Tangier Crisis, concerned the colonial status of Morocco and was really provoked by the signing of a friendship agreement between France and Britain known as the Triple Entente. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was perplexed over this agreement, so he decided to test the new-born friendship. He felt that a crisis, however contrived, would show the two countries would not support each other.

Morocco became the focal point of the Kaiser's worries because France was interested in taking it over as colony. In fact, France had already reached agreements with Britain and Spain granting their permission to France to take on Morocco as a protectorate.

Visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Reacting against this permission with hostility, Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Tangier, Morocco, on March 31, 1905, and made a speech in favor of Moroccan independence. His visit represented such an upfront challenge to France that many in the French government began to rally for war. On January 3, 1906, France did begin moving troops toward the German border. A few days later, delegates from thirteen nations convened in Algeciras, Spain, to resolve the dispute. The only nation to side with Germany was Austria-Hungary.

Diplomatic Aftermath

Diplomats took Germany's carefully planned performance as a signal. Germany was not attempting to keep France out of Morocco, nor even to reserve Morocco for herself. Germany wanted most of all to break up the Entente Cordiale between England and France.

Likely, Kaiser Wilhelm had an even more strategic motive in mind--simply the humiliation of France. His chief purpose in meddling in Morocco was to demonstrate the political impotence of France--to reveal that France could not stand up politically or diplomatically in the face of a German challenge.

The Kaiser succeeded somewhat in that endeavor. Through the tension they created, they forced French Foreign Minister Theophile Delcasse to resign.

With Delcasse's resignation, the Germans felt they had achieved a resounding diplomatic triumph. At the same time, the Germans scored another victory when they forced the French to call a summit meeting in Algeciras, Spain, in 1906.

Algeciras Conference

The Germans looked forward to the Algeciras Conference with supreme confidence. But just as Germany seemed to be soaring toward the height of power, things began to go wrong. As diplomats were convening at Algeciras, it became clear that Germany, not France, was going to be the country in trouble.

Russia, France, Britain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Germany, even the United States sent representatives. Early in the convention, a test vote was taken on a minor issue. However minor, the test vote showed that all countries present sympathized with France--all countries except Germany and Austria-Hungary.

An international agreement was eventually signed in Algeciras by which France retained control over Moroccan political and financial affairs--though it ceded control of the Moroccan police. As a result of the agreement that followed, Moroccan independence was confirmed, but France was given control over the Moroccan financial system. Whoever control a country's purse strings controls the country. Hence, as a result of the Algeciras Conference, France became the ruling power in Morocco.

Diplomatic Fallout

Though the Algeciras Conference had solved the Moroccan problem, it strained the relationship between the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance, a prominent event leading up to World War I. It became clear after the Moroccan Crisis that if Germany decided to unleash a war against France, she would be opposed by almost every great power in Europe. So at the Conference at Algeciras, which resolved the First Moroccan Crisis, Germany humbled herself and gave in to the powers of Europe. Thus, as a result of Germany's humbled stance, a possible European war had been averted.

The First Moroccan Crisis had primarily been a struggle among European powers for hegemony. The details of the Moroccan situation were less significant than what the Algeciras Conference revealed about the diplomatic constellation of Europe.

First Balkan Crisis

A chain of further crises followed the Moroccan Crisis of 1905-1906. The next one occurred in 1908, the First Balkan Crisis, otherwise known as the Bosnian Crisis. The Balkan peninsula was the real sore spot of late-nineteenth century diplomacy. Within that sore spot was a really hotspot, a piece of territory known as Bosnia. Austria wanted Bosnia.

Buchlau Agreement

At the same time, the Russians wanted control of Constantinople so they might have the right to pass warships through the Bosporus. To hammer through their respective desires--Austria for Bosnia and Russia for Constantinople--the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Alois Aehrenthal, and Russia, Alexander Izvolsky, met in Buclau, now in the Czech Republic, in 1908.

No one took notes at the meeting, but the two Foreign Ministers seem to have entered into a secret agreement. They would call an international conference, and at this conference, Russia was supposed to announce she favored Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina while Austria would announce she supported the opening of the Bosporus to Russian warships.

Why Everything Went Wrong

Everything might have worked fairly well except that Austria jumped the gun. Without waiting for a conference, she proclaimed that she was going to annex Bosnia, which she did.

The problem with Bosnian annexation was that Bosnia lie next to Serbia. Austria taking her made the people of Serbia a little bit nervous because they also lay claim to Bosnia.

Meanwhile, Izvolsky discovered he was going to have difficulty seeking a safe passageway through the Bosporus because France and Britain refused to support his plans.

Then, to top it all off, the proposed diplomatic conference never took place.

Russia, As Well As Serbia, Inflamed

Back home in Russia, the public knew nothing about Izvolsky's secret deal. All the Russians saw in this entangled diplomatic picture was that the Serbs had had their toes stepped on by the Austrian annexation of Bosnia. And what ethnicity were the Serbs? They were Slavic, just like the Russians.

The important point is that Austria's actions in this Balkan Crisis inflamed Russian and Slavic nationalism against the Austrians.

War Averted Because Russia Backed Down

The First Balkan Crisis dragged on and on. Encouraged by Russian backing, Serbia began to make military preparations and the Austrians followed suit. Europe appeared to be on the brink of a full European war, but in March of 1909, the German government sent a sharp note to Russia demanding it abandon its support of Serbia and recognize Austria's claim to Bosnia and Herzegovina. With Russia still to weak to risk a war against the great European powers, she gave in. She withdrew her support of Serbia. With that withdrawal, the crisis came to an end. Were that she had backed down in 1914.

Though war was averted by Russia backing down, the Bosnian Crisis was significant in that it made Germany and Russia direct opponents and ended all ideas of a German-Russian alliance.

Not So in 1914

In 1914, Germany tried to repeat what it had succeeded in doing in 1908-1909, but in 1914, Russia was unwilling to back down.

Summary of the First Balkan Crisis

The First Balkan Crisis, otherwise known as the Bosnian Crisis, erupted when Austria-Hungary annexed the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a part of the deteriorating Ottoman Empire though Austria-Hungary had been occupying the province since 1878. This snatch took place in May 1908, and upset nearly everyone--the Ottoman Empire, of course, but also Britain, Serbia, Russia, and France. Finally, the Treaty of Berlin, signed in 1909, officially recognized the Austrian-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The crisis was over but relations between Austria-Hungary on the one hand and Serbia and Russia on the other were permanently damaged. For that reason, the First Balkan Crisis contributed to the making of World War I.

Second Moroccan Crisis

The Second Moroccan Crisis made 1911 one of the most serious years preceding World War I.

The Second Moroccan Crisis, also known as the Agadir Crisis, was a reaction caused by the appearance of the German gunboat, Panther, in the Moroccan port of Agadir on July 1, 1911. Its deployment was an attempt to intimidate the French into compensating Germany for certain concessions at the Algericas Conference. Germany also dropped the significant hint that the Panther would be withdrawn from Agadir as soon as the French withdrew from Fez.

But the maneuvers of Panther also sparked hostility with Britain because Germany and Britain had been naval rivals. In fact, the British saw Panther's deployment as an attempt to establish a German naval base on Morocco's Atlantic coast. British support of the French in the Second Moroccan Crisis also reflected the strength of the Entente Cordiale.

War fever, already running high, reached an all time frenzied pitch. While both France and Germany made military preparations, the British, among all peoples, were probably the most alarmed. As warships maneuvered in the neighborhood of Morocco, England made it clear she was ready to support France. British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey told Germany that England must be consulted about an new arrangements concerning Morocco.

Owing largely to these threats from Britain, German agreed to negotiate with France. It now seems that German diplomats had come to look upon the establishment of a French protectorate in Morocco as inevitable and that the "leap of the Panther" was largely for the purpose of compelling France to compensate Germany in return for freedom to disregard the act of Algeciras.

In the resulting Treaty of Fez (November 1911), Germany acknowledged France's claims in Morocco in return for some French territory in what now is the Republic of the Congo.

Crisis had been adverted while it strengthened the Entente Cordiale. It deepened the rift between the Entente and Germany by reinforcing fear and hostility. Besides, Germany, as a result of the Treaty of Fez, had to content itself with swamp-land in the Congo. The Germans wanted revenge.

Second Balkan Crisis

It is necessary to divide the Second Balkan Crisis of 1912-1913 into four components in order to understand it.

Russia and the Balkan League

Back in 1908 Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolsky and Foreign Minister of Austria Aloi Aehrenthal got together at Buchlau in what is now the Czech Republic in order to come up with a secret plan of support. Supposedly, Russia expressed its approval of Austrian annexation of Bosnia while Austria, in return, would support free passage of Russian warships through the Bosporus.

Three years later, during Italy's war with Tripoli, Russia made another statement to secure the right of passage through the Bosporus. She failed in her attempt to secure such passage, and in that failure, Russia encouraged Serbia to form a Balkan League of States against Turkey and Austria.

Russia was glad to see in the following year, 1912, Serbia and Bulgaria, traditionally enemies, signing a treaty dividing between each other territory still under Turkish rule. Serbia was to obtain an outlet on the Adriatic coast while Bulgaria was to secure the larger part of Turkish Macedonia. Greece later joined the Balkan League.

Montenegro Gets Out of Hand

The Balkan League understood that none of the member's states wanted to start a war against Turkey without Russia's consent. Yet, there was no restraining of the ardent nationalism of those states. To quote a member of the French government:

Russia had started the motor but she couldn't apply the brakes.

And it was little Montenegro who got out of hand. Spurred on by Turkey's humiliation at the hands of Italy in Tripoli, on October 8, 1912, Montenegro declared war on Turkey soon to be joined by Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. That was the beginning of the Second Balkan War.

After six months of fierce but brilliant fighting, the superior forces of the Balkan allies surprised themselves--as well as the rest of Europe--by driving the Turks to the gates of Constantinople and forcing them to sue for peace.

Albania Is Created and Serbia Is Sacrificed

The worst fears of the diplomats had been realized. The Balkan states had broken loose and taken matters into their own hands.

The big question was: What will Austria do? Would she allow a proud, victorious Serbia to enlarge her territory? Would she allow Russia to become the dominant power in the Balkans?

Supported by Italy, Austria insisted that the Balkan states should NOT be allowed to settle things for themselves. The Concert of Europe was called into action, and at the insistence of Austria and Italy set up the independent state of Albania so as to block Serbia's access to the sea.

Serbia was hot with anger and turned to Russia for help. But Russia felt the time was not ripe to encourage a Serbian attack on Austria. As Serbia was forced to yield to the creation of an independent Albania, her hatred against Austria grew and grew and grew. Serbia derived some solace from a Russian statesman who suggested that the day for revenge was not too far in the future.

Serbia did not know how fortunate she was under the circumstances, for Austria was even contemplating a war of annihilation against Serbia but dropped those plans when Italy and Germany refused to cooperate. In fact, Germany issued a stern warning to Austria against such plans.

The Second Balkan War

Since Serbia had been deprived of what was not Albania--not to mention her access to the sea--she insisted that her new-found comrade and former enemy Bulgaria hand over a part of Macedonia.

Bulgaria not only refused. She launched a sudden attack on Serbia. Bulgaria's attack against Serbia on June 16, 1913, marked the beginning of the Second Balkan War.

Greece and Montenegro came to Serbia's help. Romania, jealous of Bulgaria's growing power and herself long for more territory, joined in as well. Even Turkey, hoping to save something from the wreckage, started fighting Bulgaria.

After a month of fighting, Bulgaria was forced to sue for peace. The Treaty of Bucharest ended the war in August of 1913. Bulgaria ceded territory to all her neighbors. Turkey got Adrianople while Serbia also obtained compensation for the loss of Albania.

No matter what sort of compensation Serbia received, nothing could stop the belligerent spirit that was building upon her soil. A member of the Serbia government best expressed this belligerency to a Greek Colleague:

The first round is won; now we must prepare for the second against Austria.

Within the year, a year of tense excitement and hurried military preparations on the part of all the powers, the time to fight the second round had arrived.

By 1912, the main source of international rivalry had shifted to the Balkans. An increase in the size of Serbia caused much consternation, especially with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which felt threatened.

The Second Balkan Crisis consisted of two wars in southeastern Europe in 1912-1913. An alliance known as the Balkan League had conquered territory held by the Ottoman Empire and then fell into disagreement, as conquerors, over how to share their winnings. The Balkan League consisted of Bulgaria, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia. The conquered territories include Macedonia and Albania.

The Second Balkan Crisis was a precursor to World War I in that Austria-Hungary became deeply alarmed at Serbia's gains through the wars. Serbia's growth in power, territory, and prestige also worried Germany, who saw Serbia as a pawn of Russia. Serbia's rise in power after the two Balkan wars was so significant that the two powers were willing to risk war following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian gunman.

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