The Triple Entente is the agreement between the Russian Empire, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the French Third Republic. The Triple Entente formed from the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894, the Entente Cordiale of 1904, and the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907.
Towards the end of the 19th century, tensions were high in Europe after the Franco-Prussian War from 1870 to 1871. The German Empire allied itself with Russia and Austria-Hungary following the war; however, Russia and Austria-Hungary’s alliance was on-edge and Russia would eventually realign itself with France. France feared the power of the German Empire and the new Central European bloc that was Italy, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Serbia and needed an ally. Great Britain would eventually be inclined to enter into a protective international alliance due to its own interests and would join Russia and France.
The Triple Entente was officially composed of Great Britain, Russia, and France, opposing the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. Unlike the Triple Alliance, the Triple Entente was not an alliance of mutual defense.
Great Britain practiced a policy called splendid isolation for most of the 19th century where it sought to keep the European balance of power without formal alliances. This changed after Europe began dividing into opposing powers and Great Britain entered into the Entente Cordiale with France in 1904. Britain would be committed to helping France with its British Expeditionary Force and Royal Navy if it entered a war with Germany, as well as intervene if German entered Belgium, to whom Britain guaranteed neutrality against aggression by any other country. On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Belgium.
Russia was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary in the League of the Three Empires from 1873-1887 until Germany allowed the Reinsurance Treaty to relapse. While Russia and France agreed to the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1894, Britain grew increasingly suspicious of the Russian Empire, especially as Russia grew closer to British India’s border. Russia viewed itself as a defender of Serbia and mobilized in support of it. Germany declared war on Russia in response on August 1, 1914, followed by Austria-Hungary on August 6.
The French Republic was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War, losing the two provinces of Alsace-Lorraine and resulting in the formation of a new regime that caused a deep political divide. After Germany broke off its alliance with Russia, France took advantage by agreeing to the Franco-Russian Alliance. In 1904, France entered the Entente Cordiale with Great Britain, whose army and Royal Navy , were committed to supporting France in the event of war with Germany. When France mobilized in response to Germany’s declaration of war on Russia, Germany declared war France on August 4, 1914, followed by France declaring war on Austria-Hungary on August 12, 1914.
In November 1914, the Triple Entente entered World War I as the Allied Powers against the Central Powers of Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and Austria-Hungary. As the war progressed, other countries joined the Entente such as Japan in 1914 and Italy in 1915 after proclaiming neutrality at the beginning of the war. Other nations joined the Entente as “associated powers” rather than official allies, including the United States, Serbia, Belgium, Romania, Greece, and Montenegro.