Today I learnt history about World War 1 and I have a question that has been bothering me.

According to what I have studied, the Triple Alliance (1882-1915) was an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. And the term of the alliance is that if Italy was attacked by a power, Austria-Hungary and Germany would assist her. And likewise, if Austria-Hungary and Germany were attacked, Italy would assist them too.

How did Italy cancel the "agreement" in the Triple Alliance? I meant there were "fights" and "agreements in advance". Why did not Italy and how did it have the right not to participate into the WWI?

1 Answer 1


The core of the Triple Alliance was Germany and Austria-Hungary who promised to protect each other against attack by any third party. Italy was an "adjunct" member, who promised and was promised protection against attack only by France. But Italy "opted out" because Austria-Hungary had violated a clause in the treaty to consult with Italy before changing the status quo in the Balkans (Austria-Hungary did not do so before attacking Serbia.)

The Achilles heel of the alliance was that Italy and Austria-Hungary basically hated each other, perhaps even more than either hated France. Each feared "retaliation" by the other; Italy in Venice, Austria-Hungary in Tyrol.

Italy "got around" to joining the Allies in 1915 when they promised her Tyrol and Trieste as spoils of war. (Ironically, Germany and Austria-Hungary even offered her South Tyrol to rejoin them.)

  • 6
    That's a little thing called "diplomacy". When the high-falutin' treaties are being signed it's "All for one, and one for all!", but after the cannons start cannonading it's, "...and every man for himself!". Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 0:13
  • France declared war on Germany, not the other way around; and French troops entered Germany long before any German troops entered France. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 12:17
  • @PieterGeerkens: Fixed end of first paragraph. Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 12:32

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