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Preparing the Great War: The Schlieffen Plan

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Signing of Entente Cordiale and Germany becoming the leading country in Europe.
  3. The theoretical Schlieffen plan.
  4. The risks taken by Schlieffen.
  5. Germany and Belgium.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Bibliography.

Between 1905 and 1914, due to the instability of Europe dominated by alliances, every country in Europe was preparing for the war and developing war plans and strategies, which had to suit their conceptions of the war. Germany, which was allied with Austria-Hungary (which had a poor army), feared a combined attack from France, Britain and Russia, all these countries having signed an alliance treaty, the Entente Cordiale. The position of Germany in the centre of Europe made it more vulnerable, because it was encircled by its enemies. Therefore, there was a need to deal with two fronts: an eastern front in Russia and a western front in France. The German's conception of an inevitable war was, like in the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870, a war movement, short and offensive. The Germans trusted their army (well-equipped, thanks to a successful industry) and they still had in mind Bismarck's motto ?blood in iron?: all the problems can be solved by the military strength.

[...] In order to invade France quickly and effectively, Schlieffen did not have a choice: his plan had to disregard the Belgian and Dutch neutrality. Indeed, because of the ?well-done' work of spies, Schlieffen knew the French strategy exactly and his intention was to mobilize 90% of the German military forces and artillery quickly and to make them move forward in a scythe-like motion through Belgium and Holland, and intentionally violating their neutrality. This strategy can be explained by the idea that they wanted to catch the French armies, waiting for the Germans in Alsace- Lorraine, from behind, and to encircle them with the help of smaller troops placed along the Franco-German frontier from Metz to Switzerland (where the French expected the war to take place). [...]

[...] There was another assumption of the Schlieffen Plan which turned out to be wrong: on the eastern front, it took the Russian army only ten days to mobilize, instead of the 42 days expected by the Germans. Consequently, two German divisions had to be sent rapidly to the eastern front, letting a smaller German army in France. Moltke decided not to be on the forefront of the events, his isolation from the western front was a decisive point which contributed to the failure of the application of the plan: lacking a commander, the front lines were badly led. [...]

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