On the eve of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was in ruinous shape. As a result of successive wars fought in this period, territories were lost, the economy was in shambles and people were demoralized and tired. What the Empire needed was time to recover and to carry out reforms; however, there was no time, because the world was sliding into war and the Ottoman Empire was highly unlikely to manage to remain outside the coming conflict. Since staying neutral and focusing on recovery did not appear to be possible, the Empire had to ally with one or the other camp, because, after the Italo-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, it was completely out of resources. There were not adequate quantities of weaponry and machinery left; and neither did the Empire have the financial means to purchase new ones. The only option for the Sublime Porte was to establish an alliance with a European power; and at first it did not really matter which one that would be. As Talat Paşa, the Minister of Interior, wrote in his memoirs: “Turkey needed to join one of the country groups so that it could organize its domestic administration, strengthen and maintain its commerce and industry, expand its railroads, in short to survive and to preserve its existence.”
Most European powers were not interested in joining an alliance with the ailing Ottoman Empire. Already at the beginning of the Turco-Italian War in Northern Africa, the Grand Vizier Sait Halim Paşa had expressed the government’s desire, and the Turkish ambassadors were asked to find out whether the European capitals would be interested. Only Russia seemed to have an interest – however, under conditions that would have amounted a Russian protectorate on the Ottoman lands. It was impossible to reconcile an alliance with the French: as France’s main ally was Russia, the long-time enemy of the Ottoman Empire since the War of 1828. Great Britain declined an Ottoman request.
The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V specifically wanted the Empire to remain a non-belligerent nation. However pressure from some of Mehmed’s senior advisors led the Empire to align with the Central Powers. Whilst Great Britain was unenthusiastic about aligning with the Ottoman Empire, Germany was enthusiastic.