In 1871 two new major states of Europe had been formed—the German Empire and the kingdom of Italy. The new German Empire, under the hand of Otto von Bismarck, was steered carefully, always with an eye upon France, for the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) had left France thirsting for revenge and for recovery of the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.
Germany had allied itself with Russia and Austria-Hungary in the Three Emperors' League, but Austria-Hungary and Russia were not the best of friends, partly because they were at odds over the Balkans and partly because Russia represented the Pan-Slavic movement, whose program threatened the very existence of Austria-Hungary. The Treaty of San Stefano (1878), following the Russo-Turkish War, furthered the cause of Pan-Slavism through the creation of a large Bulgarian state and offended Austria-Hungary as well as Great Britain. A European conference (1878; see Berlin, Congress of), called to revise the treaty, caused a sharp decline in the friendship between Russia on the one hand and Austria-Hungary and Germany on the other; Bismarck formed (1879) a secret defensive alliance—the Dual Alliance—with Austria-Hungary.
In 1882 Italy, angry at France chiefly because France had forestalled an Italian advance by occupying Tunis, signed another secret treaty, which bound it with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Thus was the Triple Alliance formed. It was periodically renewed until 1913. In 1882 Serbia joined the alliance, in effect, through a treaty with Austria-Hungary. Romania joined the group in 1883, and a powerful Central European bloc was created. Italy was from the first not so solidly bound to either of its allies as Germany and Austria-Hungary were to each other. Italy was in fact a rival of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans and particularly for control of the Adriatic; moreover, there remained unsettled territorial problems (see irredentism). The Triple Alliance, however, turned diplomatic history into new channels.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.