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England and the German Fleet: Alfred von Tirpitz looks back on the Naval Race (1920)
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Based on these negotiations, which were initially conducted by private negotiators and severely delayed on several occasions by the English, I slowly but surely realized that the English did not take a naval agreement seriously. Rather, they were bent on convincing the Foreign Office that the German fleet was to blame for all their woes and that, without it, Germans would have paradise on earth. The English worked toward this goal with undeniable cleverness, as anyone will confirm who is familiar with the thinking of our Foreign Office at the time or who witnessed the chancellor’s misjudgment of the British political psyche. V. Kühlmann, a German diplomat in London, was one of the main proponents of the view that the horrible German fleet was all that stood in the way of a German Weltpolitik pursued arm-in-arm with England.

The English government’s lack of commitment to a mutual naval agreement first became evident when our approval of their individual demands brought no tangible results. Most significantly, it was not until 1913 that they approved the very core of the agreement—a bilateral reduction in the navy based on a predetermined ratio—even though Lloyd George had hinted at such a prospect earlier, in 1908. It was felt, accepted, and even expressed by all participants that there was no need to fear a war with England on account of the fleet construction program. With each passing year, the risk of a war with England diminished at the same rate that respect for the German navy grew and war became unprofitable even for the jingoistic segment of the English population. The voices of hard-liners such as the Saturday Review or the Civil Lord Lee grew fainter. In London there was an increased tendency toward a more businesslike treatment of German relations. The Anglo-German treaty that was ready to be signed in 1914 appears to be one of various bits of evidence of this. At the very least, it was understood by its German drafters as a serious affair.

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Source: Alfred von Tirpitz, Erinnerungen [Recollections]. Leipzig, 1920, pp. 93-100.

Translation: Adam Blauhut

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