The beginnings of a conflict
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the upscaling of the German Empire began to shake up the interplay of the great European powers. Emperor Wilhelm II sought to strengthen Germany’s influence on the international scene. He abandoned the non-aggression pact concluded with Russia and made clear his support for the Austrian Empire.
In 1894, the pact concluded between France and Russia had caused Germany to be a little more isolated in diplomatic terms. Count Alfred Von Schlieffen, the German Chief of Staff, realised that this alliance was a direct threat to his nation which, if war came, would be surrounded by these two countries. He drew up a plan aimed at wiping out the French army before confronting the Russians on the Eastern front. Russia did indeed have a very large army at its disposal, but the vast size of the country meant that its troops could not be operational in less than six weeks. Schlieffen therefore proposed that the German troops should first concentrate on the Western front in order to destroy the French army quickly so that they would then only have to fight on the Eastern front.
The trigger which unleashed the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. To avenge this murder, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, strongly encouraged by Germany, decided to embark on the road to war.