Due to the renewed outbreak of the rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans in the Bulgarian crisis of 1885/1886, the three emperors broke up and thus an essential part of Otto von Bismarck's alliance policy . Bismarck's endeavor was to prevent Russia from approaching France and thus a geostrategically dangerous two-front position for the German Reich through his so-called system of temporary workers .
The rapprochement turned out to be difficult, since the public opinion in the German Reich was characterized by an increasingly anti-Russian mood and the Russian side was angry about the closure of the German financial centers for Russian foreign exchange enforced by Bismarck. Only under the impression of the negotiations promoted by Bismarck for the conclusion of the Mediterranean Entents and the threatened Russian isolation was a new alliance formed.
On June 18, 1887, Bismarck and the Russian Foreign Minister Nikolai Karlowitsch de Giers signed a secret agreement limited to three years. In the first part of the agreement, both parties committed themselves to benevolent neutrality in the event of war , i.e. to stand still if Russia were attacked unprovoked by Austria-Hungary or Germany unprovoked by France. A German war of aggression against France and a Russian war of aggression against Austria-Hungary were therefore excluded. Furthermore, the German Reich recognized Russia's historical rights in the Balkans , particularly in Bulgaria . In the second part, the “Very Secret Additional Protocol”, the German Reich assured Russia moral and diplomatic support in the event that Russia deems it necessary to defend its access to the Mediterranean through the straits.
Bismarck de facto recognized the Russian right to penetrate the straits. In order to take the associated danger of war between Russia and the powers that were interested in maintaining the status quo in the Balkans (especially Great Britain and Austria-Hungary) at the top, the Chancellor played a key role in the conclusion of the Mediterranean Entente, which was a " Russian risk ”in the Balkans and on the Straits issue.
The reinsurance treaty was tied into Bismarck's intricate attempt to prevent war in Europe as part of the system of temporary workers. After Bismarck's dismissal, his successor Leo von Caprivi found himself unable to successfully continue this complex policy. However, Bismarck had already assumed that the reinsurance treaty would only have a short-term effect in relation to Russia in an emergency. Even during Caprivi's tenure, a “new generation” in the Foreign Office around Friedrich August von Holstein and Bernhard von Bülow planned to turn away from Russia in general and expand the dual alliance into a Central European power bloc, to which Great Britain would then be drawn.
It did not fit into this strategy that although the German Reich was not protected from a French attack in the reinsurance treaty, Russia was granted the de facto right to attack Austria-Hungary with reference to its historical rights in the Balkans.
When Russia pushed for an extension of the expiring treaty in 1890 because of the advantages described, the German Empire under Wilhelm II persistently refused . Even when Russia agreed to forego the “Secret Additional Protocol”, the German leadership maintained its position. The official reason for the German decision was the assumption that an agreement with Russia in relation to the Balkans would undermine the credibility of the German Reich towards its allies Austria-Hungary and Italy . However, today's research supports the thesis that a treaty with Russia would have been compatible with the Triple Alliance . In addition, after Bismarck's dismissal in 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm II took the view that the German Reich should protect itself more through its own military armament than through alliances. Between 1890 and 1893 there was a phase of German “maximum armament”.
Since Russia suddenly found itself without an international partner and the German-Russian relationship cooled down more and more due to foreign trade and economic policy incompatibilities, it moved closer to France and agreed a military convention with him in 1892 and finally a solid alliance with the Zweiververband in 1894 . With this, the two-front position that Bismarck always feared stood up for the German Reich and the foundations of the powerful political blocs in World War I were laid.
- Horst Groepper , Bismarck's fall and the disclosure of the reinsurance contract , Paderborn: Schöningh, 2008 ISBN 978-3-506-76540-6
- M. Geyer: German Armaments Policy 1860 to 1980 , 1984, p. 52