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How did the actions and personality of Kaiser Wilhelm II help bring about World War I?

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Phillip Holland eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Kaiser Wilhelm II was a strong German nationalist and a militarist. He was always snubbed by his British royal family, with his grandmother Queen Victoria going so far as to call him a brat. The Kaiser also insisted on building German imperial strength abroad as well—this was another action that Britain perceived as threatening, especially to its African and Asian territories. Wilhelm loved navies and he wanted to have one that would be a rival to Britain's; in his mind, it was the only way to gain Germany respect. This created a naval arms race between Germany and Britain that caused diplomacy to sour between the two nations and was a big step toward war. He also had a poor relationship with his cousin Czar Nicholas II. His encouragement of Austria-Hungary against Serbia only antagonized the Russian leader who thought that it was his job to protect all Slavic nations, such as Serbia. The Russian mobilization caused panic in the German military staff, so they quickly put their own war plans into action, thus launching WWI.

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Alec Cranford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One aspect of Kaiser Wilhelm's personality that contributed to the outbreak of World War One was his intense militarism. The Kaiser was particularly obsessed with naval power, and devoted a great deal of German resources to developing a navy that could eclipse that of Great Britain. Many historians claim that the spirit of militarism that pervaded Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a major factor in the onset of the war. Along these same lines, the Kaiser was obsessed with appearing strong and brave, characteristics that he and many of his contemporaries associated with masculine honor. When the crisis broke out in the Balkans in the summer of 1914, he was especially receptive to his more warlike advisers, and urged Austria-Hungary to take a hard line against Serbia. He also adopted a bellicose stance toward Russia which did little to defuse the conflict. Of course, there were larger forces at work, but the personality of Wilhelm II (and, for that matter, many of the leaders of the other nations involved) helped bring about the outbreak of WWI.