The Ottoman–German Alliance was an alliance between the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire that was ratified on August 2, 1914, shortly following the outbreak of World War I. The alliance was created as part of a joint-cooperative effort that would strengthen and modernize the failing Ottoman military, as well as provide Germany safe passage into neighboring British colonies.
On the eve of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was in ruinous shape. As a result of successive wars fought in this period, territories were lost, the economy was in shambles and people were demoralized and tired. What the Empire needed was time to recover and to carry out reforms; however, there was no time, because the world was sliding into war and the Ottoman Empire was highly unlikely to manage to remain outside the coming conflict. Since staying neutral and focusing on recovery did not appear to be possible, the Empire had to ally with one or the other camp, because, after the Italo-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, it was completely out of resources. There were not adequate quantities of weaponry and machinery left; and neither did the Empire have the financial means to purchase new ones. The only option for the Sublime Porte was to establish an alliance with a European power; and at first it did not really matter which one that would be. As Talat Paşa, the Minister of Interior, wrote in his memoirs: “Turkey needed to join one of the country groups so that it could organize its domestic administration, strengthen and maintain its commerce and industry, expand its railroads, in short to survive and to preserve its existence.”
Most European powers were not interested in joining an alliance with the ailing Ottoman Empire. Already at the beginning of the Turco-Italian War in Northern Africa, the Grand Vizier Sait Halim Paşa had expressed the government’s desire, and the Turkish ambassadors were asked to find out whether the European capitals would be interested. Only Russia seemed to have an interest – however, under conditions that would have amounted a Russian protectorate on the Ottoman lands. It was impossible to reconcile an alliance with the French: as France’s main ally was Russia, the long-time enemy of the Ottoman Empire since the War of 1828. Great Britain declined an Ottoman request.
The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V specifically wanted the Empire to remain a non-belligerent nation. However pressure from some of Mehmed’s senior advisors led the Empire to align with the Central Powers. Whilst Great Britain was unenthusiastic about aligning with the Ottoman Empire, Germany was enthusiastic.
Treaty with Germany
Germany needed the Ottoman Empire on its side. The Orient Express had run directly to Constantinople since 1889, and prior to the First World War the Sultan had consented to a plan to extend it through Anatolia to Baghdad under German auspices. This would strengthen the Ottoman Empire's link with industrialized Europe, while also giving Germany easier access to its African colonies and to trade markets in India. To keep the Ottoman Empire from joining the Triple Entente, Germany encouraged Romania and Bulgaria to enter the Central Powers.
A secret treaty was concluded between the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire on August 2, 1914. The Ottoman Empire was to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers one day after the German Empire declared war on Russia. The alliance was ratified on 2 August by many high-ranking Ottoman officials, including Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha, the Minister of War Enver Pasha, the Interior Minister Talat Pasha, and Head of Parliament Halil Bey.
However, there was no signature from the House of Osman as the Sultan Mehmed V did not sign it. According to the Constitution, the Sultan was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and this made the legitimacy of the Alliance questionable. This meant that the army was not able to fight on behalf of the Sultan. The Sultan himself had wanted the Empire to remain neutral and avoid further conflict so shortly after a series of catastrophic wars (the Italo-Turkish War followed by the Balkan Wars) that had already cost the Empire much of its territory. He did not wish to command a war himself and as such left the Cabinet to do much of his bidding. The third member of the cabinet of the Three Pashas Djemal Pasha also did not sign the treaty as he had tried to form an alliance with France. Not all parts of the Ottoman government accepted the Alliance.
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- Diplomatic history of World War I
- Germany–Turkey relations
- Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau
- Ottoman–Bulgarian alliance
- Middle Eastern theatre of World War I
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