Российская ассоциация историков Первой мировой войны

Prof. Shatsillo V.K. German-American Relation During WWI


Prof. Shatsillo V.K.

German-American Relation During WWI


The war of 1914-1918 it rightly defined as world: most of the independent at that time states took part in it and its consequences  were also of worldwide historical significance. But WWI assumed universal character only after April 1917, when the USA and South American states joined the hostilities

Actually before the world war the United States were on the periphery of global politics. The pacifist and isolationist sentiments were potent and the military resources of the USA in that time were insufficient. All this excluded a possibility of direct participation of Washington in the military conflict in Europe at its first stage. At the same time, the United States could not be indifferent to the outcome of the war. The main tasks for Washington were to enhance the economic might of the country in the new favorable conditions and to win leading positions in world politics. The Ger­man- American relations during WWI, especially in August 1914- April 1917 are a convincing examples of such policy.

After the Spanish-American war Germany began to regard the United States as one of her main rivals in the struggle for world commodity markets. The documents from the German federal mili­tary archives in Freiburg show that in 1903 German admirals pre­pared plans for invading US territory near Boston. But later America lost its interest for Berlin, for it was preoccupied with European problems. After the beginning of WWI the main task for German diplomacy in respect to the USA was to try to prevent the White House from entering the war on the side of the Entente with a mini­mum of concessions. Two very important factors determined the German-American relations in the years of WWI: the aspiration of President Wilson to play the role of mediator in the European mili­tary conflict and the submarine war of the German fleet.

Investigations into the history of relations between the two coun­tries in that period point out that they went through several stages.

From August 1914 to May 1915 Washington tried to play with zeal the role of an "honest broker" equally distanced from all bellig­erents. In that period the prospects of the war were not finally de­termined, isolationism was very popular among the Americans, and relations with London had not yet transformed into a decisive factor of the long-term strategic line of the USA. The documents of Ger­man and American foreign ministries kept in the federal archives in Koblenz confirm this statement. On the other hand, in the situation when the German plans of Blitzkrieg and defeat of the Entente forces in a few weeks collapsed, the Reich leaders were much inter­ested in the neutral position of the greatest economic power of the world and they did not undertake any steps which might displease the White House. But even at that time the American public opinion was disposed negatively to Berlin because of the occupation of Bel­gium by the German troops.

After the failure of the first mediatory mission in Berlin of Colo­nel House who was President Wilson's special envoy and his per­sonal friend, and the sinking of Lusitania by German submarines Washington began to increasingly support the Entente. By that time Washington was in fact the biggest supplier and creditor for London and Paris. In the summer of 1915 the White House accomplished a strategic change in its foreign policy which meant that it abandoned the policy of equal distancing from all belligerents and adopted the tactics of rapprochement with Great Britain and joint pressure on Germany to secure an armistice favorable for the Entente. Berlin s policy toward the United States in that period was dual. On the one hand, the Germans began to wage an active submarine war, which seriously damaged America economy and impeded the US communications with Europe. On the other hand, as the documents from the political archives of the German foreign ministry in Bonn dem­onstrate, the German leaders tried hard to keep Washington from open hostilities on the side of the Entente and hoped to use President Wilson's peacemaking efforts to their own advantage.

February 1916 saw a new stage in German-American relations. It was characterized by final estrangement of Berlin and Washington. By that time the White House was so closely bound with London that the Allies' defeat could damage American interests throughout the world. Since that moment the USA entry into the war was only a question of time and depended on the internal political situation, for instance, on the results of presidential elections in November 1916. As to Berlin, the German ruling circles came to an adventurous conclusion that Germany was still strong enough to withstand the rest of the world practically alone and therefore was not interested in any concessions or negotiations with the enemies. Since the summer of 1916 Berlin ceased to consider the United States as an independ­ent factor in its foreign policy. The unlimited submarine war, which had for a long time been one of the main problems in the German- American relations during WWI now became the main reason of the USA joining the military operations in Europe.


In April 1917 the US Congress declared war on Germany and other Central Powers. This was the beginning of the last stage in relations between the two countries during WWI. The USA entry into the war testified to the shortsightedness and weakness of Ger­man foreign policy in respect to the United States in the period be­tween 1914 and 1917. Washington was increasing its help to the Allies with each coming day in 1917-1918. The German plans to break communications between the USA and Europe using subma­rines failed. The USA entry into the war was in fact the turning point in the history of WWI. The victory of the Entente was actually pre­determined when the leaders of the Reich supported the extremists among generals and admirals who hoped to solve all their problems using military force alone. Versailles was the result of that policy.








Автор: Prof. Shatsillo V.K. | Дата добавления: 2013-09-27 | Просмотров: 1973

Издания ассоциации

Первая мировая война, Версальская система и современность

Чичеринские чтения. «Революционный 1917 год»: поиск парадигм общественно-политического развития мира.

От противостояний идеологий к служению идеалам: российское общество в 1914-1945 гг.: Сб. ст. / под ред. М.Ю. Мягкова, К.А. Пахалюка. М., 2016.