Bethmann Hollweg’s foreign policy
DOI link for Bethmann Hollweg’s foreign policy
Bethmann Hollweg’s foreign policy book
It was to become a major incubus on the chancellor’s conduct of foreign affairs that there were so many who believed him to be a Schlappmacher. It made it that much more difficult for him to do what common sense clearly dictated he should do: reduce tensions and loosen the formation of blocks potentially hostile to Germany. The highest priority was a reduction of the Anglo-German antagonism and this could only be done if the naval arms race was scaled down. So far all attempts to defuse the Anglo-German naval race had foundered on the refusal of the Kaiser and Tirpitz, backed by much vocal opinion, to accept any limitation of the German rate of building. The only condition on which they would agree to such a limitation would have been a British declaration of neutrality in a war involving Germany. This would have seriously curtailed the British diplomatic freedom of manoeuvre, running counter to the traditional British aim of a balance of power in Europe, and was therefore unacceptable to the British. Even this fundamental difficulty in Anglo-German relations was, however, not beyond hope of resolution and in other respects, colonial and Balkan questions, Bethmann Hollweg did achieve a certain relaxation of tension with Britain. It required a good deal of courage in face of the loud-mouthed machismo displayed not only by the nationalist leagues, but across a wide party spectrum in the Reichstag. Had Germany been a fully parliamentary country the conduct of foreign policy would not necessarily have been easier. The chancellor himself did not want to turn his back on Weltpolitik and in the existing climate that would have been an impossibility. He did not, however, want to damage the security of the Reich in Europe for the sake of ill-defined or nonexistent colonial advantages.