When Diplomacy Fails

By Zack Twamley

On Going since May 2012 • Updated weekly

A weekly podcast covering the build up to, breakout of and consequences of various conflicts in history.

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  Direct Link   Download 108 Minutes 21 May 2020

Want to skip the queue and access all episodes of BismarckRise right NOW? OF COURSE YOU DO! Click here for moreThe Bismarck Party rolls on...As he soon discovered upon returning to Berlin in early 1859, he was not bound for a ministerial post, but a new role as the Prussian ambassador to Russia. It was still a great promotion for a man who had only a slim record of diplomatic training – now he was to be head of the Prussian embassy! But Bismarck was less than thrilled. He was not only disappointed in not grabbing the brass ring of a ministerial post, he was also irritated that he would have to leave Frankfurt in less capable hands. This surely made no sense, and what was he to do in St Petersburg that someone else could not do instead? Was this simply an effort by the new King Wilhelm to be rid of him? It was hard to argue against that theory, but in the spring of 1859, Bismarck simply had to accept his new post and move on, into the next eventful chapter of his life. Leaving Frankfurt behind him forever, Bismarck trudged through the snow and ice to reach his new post in the Russian capital.It was just as he left that a new war erupted between Austria and France. As Bismarck choked with rage that he should miss such an opportunity, he was given additional reasons to despair when he learned how timid the Prussian policy had been in that war, even mobilising six army corps to aid the Austrians. Prussia could never be empowered with a policy like this! But what could Bismarck do so far from the action? He would at least be able to assess Russian attitudes – it cheered him up that the Russians, of all ranks, seemed to hate the Austrians with a burning passion. The potential for a Russo-Prussian understanding seemed guaranteed, and Bismarck got along famously with the Russian Imperial family, who seemed to regard this Junker as a rising star. Perhaps they were believing Bismarck’s own hype about himself?Yet another development began to build in the background during the period, which would soon explode in Bismarck’s favour. Prussia, through its attempt to mobilise its army, had aimed to get on Austria’s good side, but the disorganised and ragtag Prussian units brought shame, rather than pride. Cue the arrival of a man determined to fix the army and prepare it for the future. Albrecht von Roon became minister of war in late 1859, and from that point onward, became consumed by the sole mission of getting a military reform bill passed the Landtag. The problem was, those liberal deputies would never consent to the bill, because they feared the King might use this army against them, and also because it cost a bomb. This disagreement, inconsequential though it seemed, would build in the background for the next few years, until it reached such a fever pitch by autumn 1862, that Bismarck seemed the only man capable of solving it. That was all to come, but first Bismarck had to make his name on the world stage, starting with Russia. 
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