Upon taking office in 1888, Kaiser Wilhelm II vigorously opposed Bismarck's policy of cautious and peaceful foreign policy, instead demanding that "Germany must gain a place in the sun for her own". However, the OTL final split between Bismarck and Wilhelm led to a victory for Bismarck, as Bismarck did not introduce the divisive law allowing police to attack socialist agitators in their homes. Badly disgraced, Wilhelm lost most of his power and Bismarck continued to dominate German foreign policy. However, Wilhelm II maintained more power than his grandfather had and thus, in order to appease Wilhelm and secure a more productive alliance between the two leaders, Bismarck agreed to pursue a slightly more aggressive German foreign policy.
German Policy 1890-1893
With his power base over Germany assured once again, Bismarck continued his policies of retaining peace throughout Europe and his continued prescence managed to alleviate some of the tension between Germany and France. Although France was still committed to regaining Alsace and Lorraine, the leaders did not dare take on Germany, with its powerful Triple Alliance (consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy). Despite the death of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder in 1891, Germany still maintained the greatest army in Europe.
German colonies throughout Africa continued to expand throughout Africa, and in March, 1892, German forces landed to attack Liberia. The initial assault consisted of Alfred Graf von Waldersee leading 43,000 German troops in an amphibious landing and assault on Monrovia. However, the native Liberians had the covert support of the French from the Ivory coast. 51,000 Liberian troops along with substantial French aid successfully repelled the German assault on Monrovia, costing the Germans 5,000 dead and 8,000 wounded. This German defeat exposed the weaknesses of the Wehrmacht without the able leadership of von Moltke. Over the Spring of 1892, German forces were reorganized and reinforced. Germany eventually defeated and conquered Liberia by January 1893, but this setback led to the dimissal of Waldersee and his replacement with Erich Ludendorff.
After this short war, Franco-German relations soured quickly as the French covert involvement in the Liberian war was revealed. On the urging of Wilhelm II, Bismarck demanded an apology from the French government as well as reparations. The French refused, and Germany and France continued to have conflicting goals over the region.
Attempts at Peace 1894-1898
After this short war, Otto von Bismarck continued to use all of his diplomatic skill to keep his enemies at bay. The Triple Alliance was maintained and France continued to be isolated. In his later years, Bismarck began to build up the German High Seas fleet as a way to ensure German access to her colonies and as a way to balance out the power of England. However, at the same time Germany courted Britain to join their Alliance. Britain and Germany reached an Entente and so the British did not become as hostile to German naval buildup as might otherwise be expected.
A Collision Course 1898-1912
In 1898, Otto von Bismarck died. Following his death, the spurned Kaiser Wilhelm II appointed a weak chancellor to avoid a future humiliating defeat at the hands of what he referred to as a "minor government official". Wilhelm pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at securing Germany's place in the sun and thus made an enemy of Russia. In a short time, many of Bismarck's gains were lost, but a few parts of his legacy remained. Britain continued to work more closely with Germany and distanced itself from the Franco-Russian Alliance signed in 1904. Instead, England pledged neutrality in Continental affairs and concentrated on building up its empire.
Meanwhile, the Kaiser's efforts to expand his African empire hinged on conquering Ethiopia, which had smashed an Italian army of 31,000 in 1898. Unfortunately, the Italians in the area still held dreams of conquering Ethiopia and refused to allow the Germans to aid them in 1903 and 1906. Finally, in 1910 the Germans exerted great political pressure and managed to bully the Italians into allowing Germany to conquer Ethiopia, but it left the Italians with a deep-seated resentment to the Germans that would rise up again in 1913.
The Great War 1913-1917
Throughout the previous decade, France and Germany had been in a continuous state of diplomatic conflict over everything from border passage to African colonies, and thus it came as no surprise to Europe when the two nations declared war in 1913. The war was allegedly fought over a Russian annexation of Romania, which caused the Austro-Hungarian empire to feel threatened, but in reality the war was fought between France and Germany.
At the beginning of the war, the Ludendorffian plan developed by Germany called for a lightening thrust through the Ardennes and into Southern France, which would then curve upward and push the French army into the sea. By avoiding fighting in neutral Belgium, Germany would avoid drawing Britain into the war. Initially, this German offensive was highly successful, but Italy reinforced the French troops and allowed them to successfully fortify the area around Paris. German troops were halted at the battle of Troyes and, although they quickly took control of an area from Troyes to Amiens, the new technology of Machine Guns and fortifications stopped their attacks. At this point, German troops held the line and prepared to withstand anything the French could throw at them while Russia was being destroyed.
With a smaller Allied prescence in France (most Italian troops were withdrawn back to Italy to face off against the Austro-Hungarians), the German army could field a larger force in Russia and thus conquered the Russians more quickly. Throughout 1914 and 1915, German and Austrian troops advanced to conquer Poland, the Baltic States, Rumania, and parts of the Ukraine. However, the communists in Russia were brutally suppressed, so Russia was not convulsed by a revolt until February 1916. In this revolt, the Mensheviks lead a coup and toppled the Russian government. Russia was then embroiled in a three-way civil war between the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks, and the Czar's imperial holdouts. All factions agreed, however, that peace was needed with Germany. A peace treaty was signed in November 1916 to give to Germany much of Poland. The Russian civil war continued until the Mensheviks, under Julius Martov, gained full control of the Russian Soviets' Alliance, as Russia was renamed.
With the Eastern Front ending in a German victory, several million German troops were freed up to fight on the western front. However, despite substantial German numerical superiority, France managed to hold its own until early 1917. At this point, however, a massive German assault at Verdun broke through French lines, costing the French 430,000 casualties to 398,000 German casualties and allowing German troops to reach the Seine River and begin the battle over Paris. Over the next few months, German forces conquered the capital of France and forced a French surrender on August 17, 1917.
The terms of the Treaty of Cologne were very harsh. France was forced to give up Indochina, West Africa, and the Ivory Coast to Germany. The size of the French navy and army were also greatly reduced. The maximum size of the French army was 300,000 men, and the French navy was reduced to 30 ships of no more than 30,000 tons each. The French also lost the rest of Lorraine as well as Montbeliard and northern Bescancon. France was required to pay reparations to Germany totaling 32 billion gold Francs, an amount at the very limit of what was estimated that they could pay. German troops continued to occupy the region around Paris until these payments began on schedule. Finally, France was required to turn over its current, rather powerful, navy to the Germans. However, the British first mounted a raid to capture or sink nearly half of the French navy in order to stop Germany from gaining naval supremacy.
On the other hand, Italian efforts against Austria-Hungary were much more successful, and the Italians forced Austria-Hungary into a stalemate over the Alps that continued until the end of the war. By the end of the war, Austria-Hungary had suffered the twin blows of high casualties in Serbia and defeat in Italy, and thus it split into the empires of Austria and Hungary. Austria retained most of the western territory while Hungary retained much of the territory bordering Russia. A smaller nation of Yugoslavia also split off in the south to encompass Serbia and parts of southern Austria-Hungary.
Post-War Period 1918-1930
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