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Alicja Baska, 2A

Compare and contrast Bismarck's policies towards Austria and France between 1862 and 1871.
In 1862 Bismarck became a Chancellor of Prussia. His skillful political manoeuvrings led in 1871 to unification of Germany and gave basis for the development of the German Empire – the biggest power of Europe of that time. Such course of events was only possible thanks to Bismarck's numerous provocations and well-planned actions he undertook. The way he took advantage of particular situations and achieved his aims is admired even today as well as it made Bismarck the most influential politician of his times. As Bismarck said himself, he represented the policy of no compromises as well as he was aware of the fact that just words are not enough to achieve his goals: “Not through speeches and majority decisions are the great questions of the day decided, but by blood and iron”. That explains his policy towards neighbours: Austria and France - influential and possibly able to threaten Prussian power. Bismarck very quickly understood that both these countries, especially if started to cooperate, could be a serious enemy and that is why soon after his rise to power, he decided to prevent and counteract possible dangers. He did it though in a way that not Prussia, but its enemies were seen as aggressors. At the beginning, Bismarck's main goal was to strengthen the position of Prussia among other German states. The question over the dominance needed to be finally answered as Austria competed with Prussia for a long time. The great opportunity appeared when the duchies Schleswig and Holstein were to be fully incorporated in the boundaries of Denmark (that violated the Treaty of London of 1852). Bismarck firstly used Austria as an ally fighting with Denmark and then provoked Prussio-Austrian war ('Seven Weeks' War') over ruling both duchies, not only one as it was arranged shortly after the common victory over Denmark. The war shaped the relations with Austria giving Prussia dominance over the Germanic states. Similarly, Bismarck used war to define the relations with France. Being afraid of France – for a very long period perceived as the greatest power in Europe – and taking into account that Napoleon III could strongly oppose Prussian growth in power, Bismarck provoked the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 – only 4 years after war with Austria. The main difference is that in war with Austria, Bismarck fought with his former and natural ally, while France was rather a natural enemy. Bismarck was successful in both wars. They were quick and left no doubt about their winner. What was also similar about them was Bismarck's taking advantage of isolation of both his enemies. Both Austria and France had nobody to be supported by. What is more, in both wars it was Prussia who seemed to be attacked. In Seven Weeks' War, when tensions between the two sides were growing, Austria, which at that time was weaker and engaged also in Italian affairs, first started to mobilize the army being afraid that in case of war it might have been surprised by fully mobilized and well-prepared Prussian troops. Then Bismarck had an excuse for starting to mobilize his army as he could claim that it was only a respond for Austria's actions. War with France was not declared by Prussia as well. Here, Bismarck used slightly different tactics of more social basis – famous Ems Telegram caused great anti-Prussian moods all over France and somehow compelled Napoleon III to declare the war on Prussia. All in all, both wars were the outcome of clever provocation and Bismarck was later perceived as a major peacekeeper in Europe rather than an aggressor. Besides many similarities, the policies towards Austria and France had one major significant difference: Bismarck considered Austria as a natural ally, e.g. in case of wars with France or Russia, while France was an enemy that had to be weakened. That explains why the Treaty of Prague was so lenient for Austria as it did not lose anything and was not as humiliated as France after Franco-Prussian war. The treaty ending the war was signed in Versailles. Apart from harsh for France settlements, it also consisted proclamation of the German Empire. France not only was compelled to observe the birth of a new power in a symbolic for France place reflecting its prestige and prosperity but also had to pay huge indemnity and lost rich in iron ore Alsace and Lorraine. Humiliation of France and its craving for revenge was later one of the causes for the outbreak of the First World War while Prussia and Austria fought together as allies. Bismarck's foreign policy between 1862-1871 had one main goal: it was securing the position of Prussia in Europe and having such strong and dangerous neighbours was a threaten for Bismarck's vision of German unified under Prussia. That is why the 'blood and iron' policy towards Austria and France included wars. After easy and significant victories, Bismarck's position was no longer endangered, he had the biggest and the strongest army in all Europe and he could focus on maintaining and still strengthening the German power. Keeping peace in Europe became then in interest of German Empire and that is what Bismarck attempted to do after turbulent years 1862-1871.