The Three Emperors' League survives

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,537
SoCal
#1
What if the Three Emperors' League ( League of the Three Emperors - Wikipedia ) would have survived?

The Three Emperors' League was an alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia which broke down in the late 1880s as a result of Austro-Russian disputes over the Balkans. However, what if Russia would have been more conciliatory and thus this alliance would have survived (or been recreated)?

It strikes me as rather foolish of Russia to abandon this alliance over the Balkans considering that the Balkans shouldn't have been a high-priority issue for Russia. The Balkans had and still have low human capital and, in any case, Russia did not plan on annexing the Balkans. Thus, IMHO, the smart move for Russia would have been to give Austria-Hungary a free hand in the Balkans on the condition that A-H and Germany support Russia's claims to both Trebizond and the Armenian Vilayets of the Ottoman Empire.

Russia had little of value to gain at Germany's and Austria-Hungary's expense even in the aftermath of a successful war with these countries. Thus, Russia should have remained allied with these countries and not have allied with France. True, Russia might have gotten less French loans in such a scenario, but that would have been a price well worth paying for a continued alliance with Germany and A-H. Basically, the territories that should have been of interest to Russia would have been Trebizond, the Armenian Vilayets of the Ottoman Empire, the Caspian Sea coastline of Persia, northern Afghanistan, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and perhaps Tibet and/or the sparsely populated parts of Inner Manchuria. I certainly don't see either Germany or A-H actually going to war with Russia for the sake of any of these territories. Thus, Russia should have remained allies with these countries in order to protect its western flank in the event of any future wars of expansion that Russia might launch in Asia.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this? Indeed, what do you think would have happened had the Three Emperors' League survived?
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,514
Dispargum
#3
I don't think Russia's ambitions in the Balkans were driven by economic or territorial expansion. It was pan-Slavism. Russia felt very protective or at least patriarchal toward the other Slavic peoples. Also, all treaties end at some point. Russia did not want the Three Emperors' League to end with a stronger Austria-Hungary on their western border. Russia's policy was also guided by a desire to keep A-H weak in addition to pan-Slavism. Then there's the Bosporus and Dardenelles. How will Russia get to the Turkish Straits if A-H dominates the Balkans?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,537
SoCal
#4
I don't think Russia's ambitions in the Balkans were driven by economic or territorial expansion. It was pan-Slavism. Russia felt very protective or at least patriarchal toward the other Slavic peoples.
And there's the problem! Russia's desire to lead other Slavic peoples has constantly got it into trouble--whether in 1914 or in 2014!

Also, all treaties end at some point. Russia did not want the Three Emperors' League to end with a stronger Austria-Hungary on their western border.
A-H would only be stronger if it will acquire some additional territory, which I suspect is unlikely.

Russia's policy was also guided by a desire to keep A-H weak in addition to pan-Slavism.
If A-H doesn't acquire additional territory, then it shouldn't be that strong. As it is, Russia was able to mop the floor with A-H in WWI in real life; it was Germany that was the real problem for Russia.

Then there's the Bosporus and Dardenelles. How will Russia get to the Turkish Straits if A-H dominates the Balkans?
If A-H is allied to Russia, then there should be no problems for Russia in regards to this.
 
May 2015
1,018
The Netherlands
#5
Russia didn't have to give Austria a free hand on the Balkans. Under the League of the Three Emperors there was an understanding that the Eastern Balkans (Bulgaria) was the Russia sphere of influence and the Western Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Servia) was the Austrian sphere of influence. This was the key to solve the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia on the Balkans and would have kept the peace as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in Europe. Unfortunately, Russian decided otherwise. The (Eastern) Balkans were seen as instrumental for Russia's ultimate goal of obtaining Constantinople and the Straits. Also, public pressure led Russia into adopting a proactive pan-Slav agenda on the Balkans.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,537
SoCal
#6
Russia didn't have to give Austria a free hand on the Balkans. Under the League of the Three Emperors there was an understanding that the Eastern Balkans (Bulgaria) was the Russia sphere of influence and the Western Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Servia) was the Austrian sphere of influence. This was the key to solve the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia on the Balkans and would have kept the peace as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in Europe. Unfortunately, Russian decided otherwise. The (Eastern) Balkans were seen as instrumental for Russia's ultimate goal of obtaining Constantinople and the Straits. Also, public pressure led Russia into adopting a proactive pan-Slav agenda on the Balkans.
Wouldn't having Bulgaria as a Russian ally be enough for Russia to ultimately acquire Constantinople and the Straits, though? I really fail to see what value Serbia would have in regards to this if Bulgaria would remain a Russian ally.

Also, IMHO, Russia focused too much on Constantinople and the Straits (whose value was in part symbolic) and not enough on Ottoman Armenia and Trebizond. IMHO, Ottoman Armenia and Trebizond were much more useful as living space for Russia in the long(er)-run than Constantinople and the Straits were.
 

Similar History Discussions