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A leak in time…..

Published on 22 December 2010
Updated on 19 March 2024

While we are discussing the thousands of diplomatic telegrams revealed by WikiLeaks, it is important to review the leaking (intentional or otherwise) of a few other telegrams that have shaped diplomatic history.  The Ems telegram, leaked by Prussia’s Prince Otto Von  Bismarck, led to war between France and Prussia and ultimately to the unification of Germany in 1871. The Kruger telegram, sent by Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II to Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic, leader of the Afrikaner movement, in 1896, led to strategic Anglo-German antagonism and, later on, to a naval race between the two powers.  It is considered an important factor behind the outbreak of the First World War.

More recently, the  Zimmerman telegram, sent in 1917 by German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, to the German Minister to Mexico, in which Zimmermann instructed the Ambassador to offer the control of the US states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, to Mexico, in exchange for Mexico entering the First World War on Germany’s side. The telegram was intercepted by British intelligence and revealed to the American public at a time when the American public was still neutral and not yet ready to join the War. The telegram was a tipping point for the US decision to enter the First World War.

All three telegrams decisively influenced modern history. Are the WikiLeaks revelations going to have the same impact or will they prove that in some cases ‘more is less’?



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