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A military alliance is an international agreement concerning national security in which the contracting parties agree to mutual protection and support in case of a crisis that has not been identified in advance.Military alliances differ from coalitions, which formed for a crisis that already exists.
Military alliances can be classified into defense pacts, non-aggression pacts, and ententes.Alliances may be covert (as was common from 1870 to 1916) or may be public.
Military alliances are related to collective security systems but can differ in nature. An early 1950s memorandum from the United States Department of State explained the difference by noting that historically, alliances "were designed to advance the respective nationalistic interests of the parties, and provided for joint military action if one of the parties in pursuit of such objectives became involved in war." A collective security arrangement "is directed against no one; it is directed solely against aggression. It seeks not to influence any shifting 'balance of power' but to strengthen the 'balance of principle.'"
The obvious motivation in states engaging in military alliances is to protect themselves against threats from other countries. However, states have also entered into alliances to improve ties with a particular nation or to manage conflict with a particular nation.
The nature of alliances, including their formation and cohesiveness (or lack thereof), is a subject of much academic study past and present, with the leading scholars generally considered to be Glenn Snyder and Stephen Walt.
According to a 2019 study, almost all alliances to 1870 to 1916 were covert. In other time periods, covert alliances have been rare. The study argues that from 1870 to 1916, the unusual amount of covert alliances was incentivized by other covert alliances. The creation of public alliances would signal to the covert ally that the public alliance was more valuable.
In the European historical context, a military alliance can be viewed as a league between independent states, defined by treaty, for the purpose of combined action, defensive or offensive, or both. The oldest such alliance in the world today is the Anglo-Portuguese alliance, dating back to 1373 where the then Kingdoms of England and Portugal pledged to "perpetual friendship" between the two countries. This remains in action today between the current United Kingdom and Portugal, and the two have never fought against each other in any military campaign. Alliances have often been directed to specific objects carefully defined in the treaties. Thus the Triple Alliance of 1668 between Great Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands, and the Grand Alliance of 1689 between the Holy Roman Empire, Holland, England, Spain and Saxony, were both directed against the power of Louis XIV of France. The Quadruple or Grand Alliance of 1814, defined in the Treaty of Chaumont, between Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia, had for its object the overthrow of Napoleon and his dynasty, and the confining of France within her traditional boundaries. The Triple Alliance of 1882 between Germany, Austria and Italy was ostensibly directed to the preservation of European peace against any possible aggressive action of France or Russia; and this led in turn, some ten years later, to the Dual Alliance between Russia and France, for mutual support in case of any hostile action of the other powers.
Occasionally, however, attempts have been made to give alliances a more general character. Thus the Holy Alliance of 26 September 1815 was an attempt, inspired by the religious idealism of the Emperor Alexander I of Russia, to find in the "sacred precepts of the Gospel",a common basis for a general league of the European governments, its object being, primarily, the preservation of peace. So, too, by Article VI of the Quadruple Treaty signed at Paris on 20 November 1815 – which renewed that of Chaumont and was again renewed, in 1818, at Aix-la-Chapelle – the scope of the Grand Alliance was extended to objects of common interest not specifically stated in the treaties. The article runs: "In order to consolidate the intimate tie which unites the four sovereigns for the happiness of the world, the High Contracting Powers have agreed to renew at fixed intervals, either under their own auspices or by their respective ministers, meetings consecrated to great common objects and to the examination of such measures as at each one of these epochs shall be judged most salutary for the peace and prosperity of the nations and the maintenance of the tranquillity of Europe".
It was this article of the treaty of the 20 November 1815, rather than the Holy Alliance, that formed the basis of the serious effort made by the great powers, between 1815 and 1822, to govern Europe in concert. In general it proved that an alliance, to be effective, must be clearly defined as to its objects, and that in the long run the treaty in which these objects are defined must – to quote Otto von Bismarck's somewhat cynical dictum – "be reinforced by the interests" of the parties concerned.Yet the "moral alliance" of Europe, as Count Karl Nesselrode called it, though it failed to secure the permanent harmony of the powers, was an effective instrument for peace during the years immediately following the downfall of Napoleon; and it set the precedent for those periodical meetings of the representatives of the powers, for the discussion and settlement of questions of international importance, which, though cumbrous and inefficient for constructive work, contributed much to the preservation of the general peace during much of the nineteenth century.
The Congress of Vienna was a meeting of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, and held in Vienna from November 1814 to June 1815, though the delegates had arrived and were already negotiating by late September 1814. The objective of the Congress was to provide a long-term peace plan for Europe by settling critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The goal was not simply to restore old boundaries but to resize the main powers so they could balance each other and remain at peace. The leaders were conservatives with little use for republicanism or revolution, both of which threatened to upset the status quo in Europe. France lost all its recent conquests while Prussia, Austria and Russia made major territorial gains. Prussia added smaller German states in the west, Swedish Pomerania and 60% of the Kingdom of Saxony; Austria gained Venice and much of northern Italy. Russia gained parts of Poland. The new Kingdom of the Netherlands had been created just months before, and included formerly Austrian territory that in 1830 became Belgium.
The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. It produced a brief period of French domination over most of Europe. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813–14), and the Seventh (1815).
The Treaty of Amiens temporarily ended hostilities between France and the United Kingdom during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was signed in the city of Amiens on 25 March 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and Marquess Cornwallis as a "Definitive Treaty of Peace." The consequent peace lasted only one year and was the only period of general peace in Europe between 1793 and 1814.
The Triple Alliance was an agreement between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. It was formed on 20 May 1882 and renewed periodically until it expired in 1915 during World War I. Germany and Austria-Hungary had been closely allied since 1879. Italy was looking for support against France shortly after it lost North African ambitions to the French. Each member promised mutual support in the event of an attack by any other great power. The treaty provided that Germany and Austria-Hungary were to assist Italy if it was attacked by France without provocation. In turn, Italy would assist Germany if attacked by France. In the event of a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Italy promised to remain neutral. The existence and membership of the treaty were well known, but its exact provisions were kept secret until 1919.
The Treaty of Paris, signed on 30 May 1814, ended the war between France and the Sixth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars, following an armistice signed on 23 April between Charles, Count of Artois, and the allies. The treaty set the borders for France under the House of Bourbon and restored territories to other nations. It is sometimes called the First Peace of Paris, as another one followed in 1815.
The Treaty of Paris of 1815 was signed on 20 November 1815 following the defeat and second abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. In February, Napoleon had escaped from his exile on Elba; he entered Paris on 20 March, beginning the Hundred Days of his restored rule. After France's defeat at the hands of the British and the Prussians in the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was persuaded to abdicate again, on 22 June. King Louis XVIII, who had fled the country when Napoleon arrived in Paris, took the throne for a second time on 8 July.
The Concert of Europe represented the European balance of power in two phases, the first from 1815 to the early 1860s, and the second from the early 1880s to 1914.
A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence, which may cause middle or small powers to consider the great powers' opinions before taking actions of their own. International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.
The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in the autumn of 1818, was a high-level diplomatic meeting of France and the four allied powers Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia which had defeated it in 1814. The purpose was to decide the withdrawal of the army of occupation from France and renegotiate the reparations it owed. It produced an amicable settlement, whereby France refinanced its reparations debt, and the Allies in a few weeks withdrew all of their troops.
A non-aggression pact or neutrality pact is a treaty between two or more states/countries that includes a promise by the signatories not to engage in military action against each other. Such treaties may be described by other names, such as a treaty of friendship or non-belligerency, etc.
In diplomatic history, the "Eastern Question" refers to the strategic competition and political considerations of the European Great Powers in light of the political and economic instability in the Ottoman Empire from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. Characterized as the "sick man of Europe", the relative weakening of the empire's military strength in the second half of the eighteenth century threatened to undermine the fragile balance of power system largely shaped by the Concert of Europe. The Eastern Question encompassed myriad interrelated elements: Ottoman military defeats, Ottoman institutional insolvency, the ongoing Ottoman political and economic modernization programme, the rise of ethno-religious nationalism in its provinces, and Great Power rivalries.
Germany–Russia relations display cyclical patterns, moving back and forth from cooperation and alliance to strain and to total warfare. Historian John Wheeler-Bennett says that since the 1740s:
A defense pact is a type of treaty or military alliance in which the signatories promise to support each other militarily and to defend each other. In general, the signatories point out the threats in the treaty and concretely prepare to respond to it together.
The military history of Europe refers to the history of warfare on the European continent. From the beginning of the modern era to the second half of the 20th century, European militaries possessed a significant technological advantage, allowing its states to pursue policies of expansionism and colonization until the Cold War period. European militaries in between the fifteenth century and the modern period were able to conquer or subjugate almost every other nation in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, the European security environment has been characterized by structural dominance of the United States through its NATO commitments to the defense of Europe, as European states have sought to reap the 'peace dividend' occasioned by the end of the Cold War and reduce defense expenditures. European militaries now mostly undertake power projection missions outside the European continent. Recent military conflicts involving European nations include the 2001 War in Afghanistan, the 2003 War in Iraq, the 2011 NATO Campaign in Libya, and various other engagements in the Balkan and on the African continent. After 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea and ongoing crisis in Ukraine prompted renewed scholarly interest into European military affairs.
The Treaty of Chaumont was a series of separately signed but identically worded agreements between the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom dated 1 March 1814, although the actual signings took place on 9 or 19 March. The treaty was intended to draw the powers of the Sixth Coalition into a closer alliance in the event that France rejected the peace terms they had recently offered. Each agreed to put 150,000 soldiers in the field against France and to guarantee the European peace against French aggression for twenty years.
The Franco-American alliance was the 1778 alliance between the Kingdom of France and the United States during the American Revolutionary War. Formalized in the 1778 Treaty of Alliance, it was a military pact in which the French provided many supplies for the Americans. The Netherlands and Spain later joined as allies of France; Britain had no European allies. The French alliance was possible once the Americans captured a British invasion army at Saratoga in October 1777, demonstrating the viability of the American cause. The alliance became controversial after 1793 when Britain and Revolutionary France again went to war and the U.S. declared itself neutral. Relations between France and the United States worsened as the latter became closer to Britain in the Jay Treaty of 1795, leading to an undeclared Quasi War. The alliance was defunct by 1794 and formally ended in 1800.
This article covers worldwide diplomacy and, more generally, the international relations of the major powers from 1814 to 1919. The international relations of minor countries are covered in their own history articles. This era covers the period from the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), to the end of the First World War and the Paris Peace Conference. For the previous era see International relations, 1648–1814. For the 1920s and 1930s see International relations (1919–1939).
Diplomatic timeline for 1815
An entente is a type of treaty or military alliance in which the signatories promise to consult each other or to co-operate in the event of a crisis or military action. An example is the Entente Cordiale between France and the United Kingdom.