Bismarck, the creator of the German empire, became its first chancellor. When added to his Prussian positions (premier, foreign minister, and minister of commerce) the imperial chancellorship gave him almost complete control of foreign and domestic affairs. To maintain the peace necessary for the consolidation of the empire, he proposed to advance a strong military program, to gain the friendship of Austria, to preserve British friendship by avoiding naval or colonial rivalry, and to isolate France in diplomacy so that revanche would be impossible. Therefore, in 1872, he formed the Three Emperors' League (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia) and also maintained friendly relations with Italy.
The Balkan rivalries of Austria and Russia and the subsequent triumph of Austria at the Congress of Berlin (see Berlin, Congress of), over which Bismarck presided, caused a rift in Russo-German relations. A defensive alliance with Austria was now concluded (1879), and this Dual Alliance became a Triple Alliance when Italy adhered in 1882 (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente). Friendship with Russia was revived in the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887. Bismarck, with his system of alignments and alliances, became the virtual arbiter of Europe and was acknowledged as its leading statesman.
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