Was it a mistake for Russia to ally with France in the 1890s?

Was it a mistake for Russia to ally with France in the 1890s?

  • Yes

  • No


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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,785
SoCal
I voted Yes and I've previously explained why keeping the Three Emperors' League with Germany and Austria-Hungary was a good move for Russia here:

The Three Emperors' League survives

Allying with France made a Russian rapprochement with Germany impossible due to Germany's and France's conflicting claims over Alsace-Lorraine. Also, by allying with France, Russia significantly increased the odds that Germany would be an enemy of its in any future war. In addition to this, even a victorious war against Germany and Austria-Hungary would not have given Russia much meaningful territory. After all, the last thing that Russia would have needed was more Poles and Ukrainian nationalists! Plus, this is not to mention that, without the benefit of hindsight, Russia would have been perceived as needing to provide most of the muscle in any future war against Germany--something which wouldn't have been very attractive for Russia.

IMHO, Russia should have continued its alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary--even if this would have resulted in significantly less French loans to Russia--so that it would have had a secure western flank in the event of any future expansionist wars in Asia which Russia would have decided to launch.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,466
Dispargum
Russia could not remain allied to Austria. They had too many competing ambitions. Theoretically, Russia might remain allied to Germany if Germany broke their alliance with Austria. I don't think the Russians were all that worried about absorbing more minorities. An alliance with Germany limits how far Russia could expand to the west. Even if Russia didn't want to annex parts of Germany, they still wanted more influence in Central and Southeastern Europe and Germany and Austria-Hungary were in the way. I don't think it very likely that Germany and Austria would break their alliance.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,785
SoCal
Russia could not remain allied to Austria. They had too many competing ambitions. Theoretically, Russia might remain allied to Germany if Germany broke their alliance with Austria. I don't think the Russians were all that worried about absorbing more minorities. An alliance with Germany limits how far Russia could expand to the west. Even if Russia didn't want to annex parts of Germany, they still wanted more influence in Central and Southeastern Europe and Germany and Austria-Hungary were in the way. I don't think it very likely that Germany and Austria would break their alliance.
Other than in the Balkans, where exactly did A-H and Russia come into conflict?

I mean, sure, a Czechoslovak puppet state might be nice to have for Russia, but Russia couldn't outright annex it for logistical reasons and it certainly isn't worth fighting a World War over!
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,466
Dispargum
I think the Balkans were enough. See my comment in your other thread about the Three Emperors' League.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,974
Sydney
Russia was thoroughly shafted by Austria during the Crimean war
their name was dirt in Moscow
the Russia Prussia relations were great under Bismark but kaiser Wilhelm II had other idea
he became increasingly hostile to Russia wich pretty much had no choice but to find allies
Britain was too standoffish
Italy too weak
so that was that
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this?
That the problem wasn't so much about Russia staying allied to Germany, but Germany staying allied to Russia.

The alliance secured Germany's eastern border certainly, but the trade-off of the alliance for Germany beyond that was very limited. Russia had near-global ambitions (keen eye on Constantinopolis and a possible dismantling of the Ottoman empire, "great game" in Central Asia, prospect of warm ports on the Indian Ocean through Persia, massive interests in the Far East and the Pacific) while Germany either would follow Bismarck's formula and limit itself to Europe ("Here is France, here is Russia, that is my African policy" as Bismarcks is to have put it), or seek its "place in the sun" and the young Kaiser rather preferred.

The probability even so was fairly good that the Russian empire sooner or later would draw Germany into a great-power conflict over something Germany had no skin in at all, beyond providing Russia with muscle. At worst such a scenario might even mean emboldening Russia, in the anticipation that Germany would be there to break heads on its behalf, when provoking a conflict with the the Ottomans, Japan, the UK, Austria... I.e. a not inconsiderable risk of ending up having to do heavy lifting for Russia with little to expect in return.

Afaik it was Germany that didn't renew it, not Russia.
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,959
Iowa USA
That the problem wasn't so much about Russia staying allied to Germany, but Germany staying allied to Russia.

The alliance secured Germany's eastern border certainly, but the trade-off of the alliance for Germany beyond that was very limited. Russia had near-global ambitions (keen eye on Constantinopolis and a possible dismantling of the Ottoman empire, "great game" in Central Asia, prospect of warm ports on the Indian Ocean through Persia, massive interests in the Far East and the Pacific) while Germany either would follow Bismarck's formula and limit itself to Europe ("Here is France, here is Russia, that is my African policy" as Bismarcks is to have put it), or seek its "place in the sun" and the young Kaiser rather preferred.

The probability even so was fairly good that the Russian empire sooner or later would draw Germany into a great-power conflict over something Germany had no skin in at all, beyond providing Russia with muscle. At worst such a scenario might even mean emboldening Russia, in the anticipation that Germany would be there to break heads on its behalf, when provoking a conflict with the the Ottomans, Japan, the UK, Austria... I.e. a not inconsiderable risk of ending up having to do heavy lifting for Russia with little to expect in return.

Afaik it was Germany that didn't renew it, not Russia.

Very good summary.

Wilhelm was what is often kindly referred to as a "visionary".

Given that the young Wilhelm was determined for Germany to seek its place in the sun, the alliance with Russia would simply lead to a conflict with the U.K. which Wilhelm did not want.

Wilhelm felt, properly, that there was a higher cost to being enemies with U.K. than with Russia.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,279
here
That the problem wasn't so much about Russia staying allied to Germany, but Germany staying allied to Russia.

The alliance secured Germany's eastern border certainly, but the trade-off of the alliance for Germany beyond that was very limited. Russia had near-global ambitions (keen eye on Constantinopolis and a possible dismantling of the Ottoman empire, "great game" in Central Asia, prospect of warm ports on the Indian Ocean through Persia, massive interests in the Far East and the Pacific) while Germany either would follow Bismarck's formula and limit itself to Europe ("Here is France, here is Russia, that is my African policy" as Bismarcks is to have put it), or seek its "place in the sun" and the young Kaiser rather preferred.

The probability even so was fairly good that the Russian empire sooner or later would draw Germany into a great-power conflict over something Germany had no skin in at all, beyond providing Russia with muscle. At worst such a scenario might even mean emboldening Russia, in the anticipation that Germany would be there to break heads on its behalf, when provoking a conflict with the the Ottomans, Japan, the UK, Austria... I.e. a not inconsiderable risk of ending up having to do heavy lifting for Russia with little to expect in return.

Afaik it was Germany that didn't renew it, not Russia.
This sounds reasonable. Based on this logic, a "yes," vote to the poll would be appropriate?
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,741
This sounds reasonable. Based on this logic, a "yes," vote to the poll would be appropriate?
Yes, on the logic of how the alliance potentially could do a lot of things for Russia, but really only one thing for Germany.

Which meant Germany stopped being available for an alliance. Russia had no real interest in letting lapse. Germany did that.

And it was then and only then that the prospect of one with France came on line. Which makes the whole proposition of "mistake" iffy. Compared to what? An alliance with Germany no longer available and so not an option? Or compared to going on alone, without any great power as an ally? Hardly a mistake then.