"The international relations of Germany between 1870 - 1914 were influenced solely by the need to preserve the new nation state of Germany." How far do you agree with this statement?
During the 44 year period between 1870 and 1914 Germany pursued one
set of foreign policies under Bismarck and another under William II.
Bismarck, the man who shaped the newly united Germany, controlled
German foreign policy until 1890 and was heavily influenced in his
decisions on foreign policy to keep the peace in Europe and thereby
guarantee the security of Germany.
For example one of the main thrust of Bismarck's foreign policy was to
ensure that France had no allies and was kept isolated. Bismarck
evidently pursued this goal to prevent a repeat of the Franco - Prussian
war (something Bismarck believed was contrary to German interests) and
did his best to try to divert ."..
the fiery steed of French ambition... ." away from their territorial losses in Alsace and Lorraine. Bismarck's desire to keep the peace in Europe was also part of his attempt to keep France isolated; A crisis could polaris e the Great Powers and France could gain an ally. In constructing a complex web of secret agreements and alliances Bismarck bound virtually the whole of Europe together, - excluding France and Germany - another way of securing European peace and therefore Germany's security.
Bismarck's foreign policy was never 100% consistent; he was perfectly prepared to change his mind to suit the circumstances or a change in his power base at home. By 1890 Bismarck's system of alliances and agreements was falling apart and Bismarck fell from office. He succeeded in keeping Germany free from conflict that would threaten her newly established unity. This was his main motivating force in terms of German foreign policy. After Bismarck left Germany political scene the power vacuum was filled, not by his successor as chancellor but by William II, who was determined to take a much greater part in the governing of Germany. The Kaiser saw himself as an international statesman, something he wasn't, and his diplomatic blunderings often produced an effect opposite to the one intended.
William II did not seem to recognise the importance of keeping on good terms with Russia and only 2 years after Bismarck's departure from office, Germany had turned down a Russian offer to renew the re-insurance treaty and this resulted in an alliance between Russia and France, something blatantly contrary to German interests. Although there was a brief improvement in relations with Britain on the whole the Kaiser seemed to have a knack for creating international tension and souring relations with the other European powers - bar those in the Triple alliance. The Kaiser seemed incapable of recognising any threat to Germany and his foreign policy appears to have been mainly motivated by a desire to see Germany (and himself) as a leading figure on the world stage. The Kaiser's mistakes were largely unintentional and he did try to rectify the mistake of abandoning Russia as an ally in 1905, but in general the Kaiser was a shadow of Bismarck as a statesman and could not halt Germany's slide into a pan-European war. Under Bismarck it can be said that Germany's foreign policy was motivated almost entirely by a the need to preserve the new nation state of Germany. However under William II Germany made more enemies than friends in Europe and he led Germany into a war that was disastrous for her.
So it can be said that Germany's foreign policy between 1870 - 1914 was not influenced solely by the need to preserve the new nation state.