International tensions led to alliances that, in turn, made tensions more dangerous. Quarrels between two countries could easily expand to involve all of the Great Powers. The Franco-Russian alliance and the link between Germany and Austria-Hungary were both products of the late nineteenth century; the twentieth century brought Britain out of isolation into a web of agreements. British leaders had been shocked by the country's lack of friends during the Boer War, when most of its naval power had been tied up with the conflict in South Africa. Two crises over Venezuela—one in 1895 and a second in 1902—had reminded British leaders of the dangers of a conflict with the United States, and there followed a rapprochement between the two English-speaking Atlantic powers that eased the concerns of the authorities in London. In 1908 American president Theodore Roosevelt expressed the sentiment of friendship and mutual interest to an English friend: "Do you know, I think I have become almost as anxious as you are to have the British fleet kept up to the highest point of efficiency." The warmed relationship with the United States was to pay huge dividends after the outbreak of World War I. But earlier still, Britain found it possible to close out other old quarrels and to make new friends. Between 1904 and 1907, Britain's new ties, first with France, then with Russia, let the island nation concentrate its attentions on the burgeoning power of Germany. In the formation (and dissolution) of alliances, the wishes of civilian officials—prime ministers, foreign ministers—were paramount. Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck had been the architect of Germany's longstanding tie with Austria-Hungary at the close of the 1870s. Foreign Minister Theophile Delcasse of France had been the dominant voice in his country in favor of a rapprochement with Great Britain. But the actions of mihtary leaders strengthened and sometimes reshaped aUiances. Messages from the leader of the German general staff, Helmuth von Moltke, to his Austrian counterpart, Conrad von Hotzendorf, during the Balkan crisis of 1908-1909 promoted the idea that Vienna could count on German help against Russia even if armed conflict came at Austria-Hungary's instigation. And the arrangements for cooperation between the armies and navies of Great Britain and France bolstered the commitment the men in frock coats had made.