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Relations between the French and Germans were also troubled, while France and Russia also had their differences.

Alliances provided European states with a measure of protection; they served as a deterrent to larger states who might make war on smaller ones.

For centuries Europe had been a melting pot of ethnic and territorial rivalries, political intrigues and paranoia.

France and England were ancient antagonists whose rivalry erupted into open warfare several times between the 14th and early 19th centuries.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries European nations formed, annulled and restructured alliances on a regular basis.

By 1914, the Great Powers of Europe had shuffled themselves into two alliance blocs.

During the Cold War and the division of the world into two, there was a tendency to view inter-national relations before 1914 as bipolar, and divided between two rigidly separated and rival blocs in which power, prestige and security were key determinants; and in which emphasis was placed on the alliance system in the war’s causes…

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Some collapsed when new leaders emerged; others were nullified or replaced by new alliances.

The Three Emperors’ League, without Russia, formed the basis of the Triple Alliance. This was a binding military alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, that required each signatory to support the other if one was attacked by Russia.

It was signed after the collapse of the Three Emperors’ League and during a period of Austro-Russian tension in the Balkans.

Belgium had earned statehood in the 1830s after separating from southern Holland.

The Treaty of London was still in effect in 1914, so when German troops invaded Belgium in August 1914, the British considered it a violation of the treaty. This league was a three way alliance between the ruling monarchs of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia.

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