If in the era of the Neue Kurs the division of the Europeanpowers into two broad groupings, with the ‘conservative’ Triple Alliance supported by Great Britain enjoying a preponderance over the ‘revisionist’ Franco-Russian partnership, had given a certain stability to the European states system, the shift in the mid-1890s to a more complex, tripartite grouping of the powers proved equally compatible with the maintenance of peace. On the one hand, most powers were becoming increasingly preoccupied with extra-European developments that were of less than vital importance to their status as great powers, and this helped to divert tensions away from the centre to the periphery of the international scene. On the other, the risk of a confrontation between the two continental blocs was diminished when the Germans moved over to the policy of the Freie Hand, in a determined effort to restore good relations with St Petersburg while distancing themselves from the British. The resultant ‘unstable equilibrium’, with Germany adopting an intermediate, balancing, position between the British Empire and the Franco-Russian bloc, lent a degree of flexibility to the states system that served to reduce the risk of polarization and conflict in these years.