Posts Tagged ‘diplomacy’

(1815 – 1898)

The founder and first chancellor of the German Empire, was a political genius of the highest rank. At his best in foreign affairs, he was the principal architect of the age that gave Europe 26 years of Peace after the Congress of Berlin (1878). He was born on the 1st of April at Schönhausen, Brandenburg, former East Germany. After reading law Bismarck entered Prussian service and became a judicial administrator at Aachen; his conduct was unconventional and the criticism of his official superiors drove him to resign from service at the age of 24. In 1847 he became a member of the quasi-representative United Diet. Bismarck gained prominence in 1851 when he was chosen to represent Prussia in Federal Diet. In 1859 he was sent to St. Petersburg as ambassador only to be recalled in March 1862 and ‘sent as ambassador to Paris’. Finally, on September 22 he returned to Berlin to become Prime Minister devoting himself to the task of limiting Germany under Prussian leadership. In the war of 1866 he succeeded in defeating Austria and excluding it altogether from Germany.

He involved his country in the Franco-German War (1870-’71), a conflict that ended with Prussian success and a measure of unity. On March 21, 1871 Bismarck, now a hero, was created a Prince and appointed imperial chancellor. He initiated internal administrative reforms for the remainder of the decade, developing a common currency, a central bank and a single code of commercial and civil law for Germany. In foreign affairs he presided over the Congress of Berlin and this seemed to symbolize his paramount position as mediator between the great powers.
He was also the first statesman in Europe to devise a comprehensive scheme of social security, offering workers insurance against accident, sickness and old age. By 1890 his politics had begun to come under increasing attack, on March 18, 1890, two years after Wilhelm II’s ascension to the throne, Bismarck was forced to resign.
His last years were devoted to discrediting the Emperor and in composing his memoirs.

Bismarck’s most important legacy is the unification of Germany a task tried but failed since the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. Following unification, Germany became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Bismarck’s astute, cautious, and pragmatic foreign policies allowed Germany to retain peacefully the powerful position which was however not possible as power was concentrated in the new emperor’s hands. Wilhelm I rarely challenged the Chancellor’s decisions; on several occasions, Bismarck obtained his monarch’s approval by threatening to resign. However, Wilhelm II intended to govern the country himself, making the ousting of Bismarck one of his first tasks as Kaiser. His Weltpolitik to secure the Reich’s future through expansion undid diplomatic feats of the Iron Chancellor. It would ultimately lead to World War I. It also made the Kaiser play into hands of the military whereas Bismarck’s policy was to deny them a dominant voice in foreign political decision-making. This was overturned by 1914 as Germany became an armed state; although the Emperor and his cabinet formally retained the power, military officers played an increasingly influential role in the Cabinet.
His Far-seeing vision
In February 1888, during a Bulgarian crisis, Bismarck addressed the Reichstag on the dangers of a European war.
He warned of the imminent possibility that Germany will have to fight on two fronts; he spoke of the desire for peace; then he set forth the Balkan case for war and demonstrated its futility: “Bulgaria, that little country between the Danube and the Balkans, is far from being an object of adequate importance… for which to plunge Europe from Moscow to the Pyrenees, and from the North Sea to Palermo, into a war whose issue no man can foresee. At the end of the conflict we should scarcely know why we had fought.”
Bismarck also repeated his emphatic warning against any German military involvement in Balkan disputes. Bismarck had first made this famous comment to the Reichstag in December 1876, when the Balkan revolts against the Ottoman Empire threatened to extend to a war between Austria and Russia.
Subsequently, Bismarck made this accurate prediction:
“Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this” ― a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month. ( ack:wikipedia)
(This a revised and expanded version of the pen portrait posted earlier.)

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From the outset the Allies found stymied by Stalin’s hot and cold approach even when he was pestering them for material help. Following the Atlantic Conference in 1941 Churchill sent Lord Beaverbrook while Avrell Harriman from Roosevelt was included. The delegation had service members to help them with assessing actual needs of Russia. Their discussions were frustrating and in Harriman’s words ‘ pretty hard sledding.’ There were also moments of surprise and warmth. General Hastings Ismay, Churchill’s personal representative on the Services committee found Russian soldiery,- from top to lower ranks, was very finicky about saluting. Ismay’s Marine orderly once reported his embarrassment of commanding salutes at every turn by Russian officers but his superior let him a free hand saying, ‘ acknowledge their compliments handsomely’. This Marine in his impressive blue uniform was one day being given a guided tour. The Intourist guide showed a building and said,’This is Eden Hotel, formerly Ribbentrop Hotel’. A little later, ‘We are on the Churchill street, formerly Hitler street. The guide pointing to the Railway station intoned,’The Beaverbrook railway station, formerly Goering railway station..’ Stopping short the guide offered a cigarette,’Will you have one, comrade?’
The Marine took it and thanked, ‘Thank you comrade, formerly bastard!’
When Ismay later reported this to Churchill he relished it so much it became a standard joke, one among his repertoire of after-dinner pleasantries.

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Albert I of Belgium (1875-1934)
On the eve of the outbreak of World War I he was entertaining a powerful chieftain from the Belgian Congo at the palace; after dinner at a signal, the royal orchestra filed into the hall and began tuning their instruments.
“Tell me the kind of music you like best and my orchestra will be happy to oblige.” proposed the king. “That is it,”replied the guest,”they are playing it now.” The king nodded graciously and for the rest of the evening the assembled guests listened while the orchestra tuned up.

At the beginning of World War I, Albert resisted the illegal German demand to move troops through neutral Belgium in order to attack France. (The refusal to permit the passage of troops was based on a respect for international law, and a concern for the balance of power in Europe, which, at the time, required that Belgium be a neutral buffer zone between Germany, France, and Great Britain.)
Albert famously responded to the German desire to move soldiers through his country: “I rule a nation, not a road!” (ack:wikipedia)

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In 1938 the Axis were making overtures to several Latin American countries. The intention was obvious. Nazi Germany wanted to get a foothold in
the Central and South America by infiltrating commercially, politically and militarily. At the end of the year the German Army extended an invitation to the Brazilian Chief of Staff to visit Berlin. In order to block this Brazilian Foreign Minister proposed in January that the US Chief of Staff visit Brazil on a reciprocal arrangement. The idea appealed to FDR and the ship Nashville sailed on May 10 from NY carrying Marshall and his party.
At Curtiba while reviewing a parade of six thousand school children he noticed a group of children dressed in overalls and carrying hoes and rakes. They were from a nearby orphanage. After visiting the orphanage he asked Captain North who was in charge of housekeeping to buy enough candies for the 200 and odd boys.  In short a time it was managed. And even after Marshall and his party had left for the next leg of their journey the American’s spontaneous gesture of kindness had preceded them.
In the end their mission was a complete success. Not only the German design was foiled Brazil, by prior arrangement, actively supported the US cause. When the nation was drawn into war Brazil, put the German and Japanese nationals under the strictest surveillance for the duration. ( Selected from George C. Marshall by Forrest C. Pogue. Pub: Viking Press New York)

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