During WWI, did Imperial Germany prefer expansion in Europe or acquiring colonies outside of Europe?


Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
Iowa USA
They didn't have to worry about the Middle Eastern oil as long as the Turks would have remained allies with them. Of course, if the Brits take the oil-rich parts of the Ottoman Empire and the Turks want these territories back, what is Britain going to demand in exchange for this?

Also, one thing that I don't get is why Germany tried to cooperate with the Bolsheviks in an attempt to prevent the Ottoman Turks from conquering Baku in late 1918.
Accessing the Iraqi oil fields over land was much costlier for Germany than the sea route to British commonwealth. This is NOT an apples-apples issue. There's a reasonably good book from the crop of "centennial" Great War popular history volumes concerning the incomplete Berlin-Baghdad line.
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Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
With the defeat of Russia in the war of 1904-05, German foreign policy became more aggressive in relation toward both her Continental rivals and also toward Great Britain. The primary objective of the Reich had been its security in Europe, but with the increasing influence of a growing middle class in the officer corps (both army general staff, and in the navy), pretensions to imperial expansion were also ascendant. Whether this was due to an understanding that German industry, and the German armed forces, seriously lacked sufficient critical raw materials could be debated. German political and economic elites were not always of one-mind with the army, but the navy was a younger institution with exaggerated aspirations. The navy had an ally in the Kaiser.

I am not aware of any specific plans following a defeat of France in the West and then Russia in the East according to the faulty - and effectively incomplete - Schlieffen Plan. AFAIK the war plans of Germany changed after the debacle of the Marne in 1914, and the inability of the General Staff to effectively recover from that failure.

Germany, after its advance toward the Channel, had a presence in Belgium and Luxembourg so those could become either annexations or protectorates. By then Germany was already at war with Britain, so winning the war would cancel out GB's control over the Channel. Somewhere I recall reading that plans developed to settle German veterans in large numbers in Belgium, and even around Calais. In the early 20th century that seems rather fanciful, but then so was Von Schlieffen's plan.

In the East, it appears from some map-happy projections of Central Powers war aims, that Germany became intent upon taking the entire Baltic region from Russia, creating puppet states in Ukraine, Belarus - as mentioned above - and in Finland, effectively cutting Russia off from the West. Again that appears fanciful at best.

Evan more absurd was the intent to dominate the trade of the world with a navy that could not even fight its way out of its harbors. Of course this is all hindsight, but in many respects Germany was in some state of desperation by 1915-16. By 1917 Germany was beginning to starve, and the only realizable expansionist goal was to get control of the Ukraine for its foodstuffs.

The objectives were unrealistic from the start, and this all is an example of what has been described as a German/Prussian propensity for "tactical excellence" and of "strategic sclerosis" (historian Geoff Mortimer). Since Frederick the Great, and through to von Moltke the Elder and von Schlieffen, Germany could be successful if it waged short, intense wars, but German leadership was so myopic as to how efficient the armed forces were that it lost sight of more crucial strategic consequences. That carried through to the Second World War.
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