Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/39

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21
EUROPE


Europe ac once took on a new aspect. In the ordinary diplomatic negotiations Germany must look forward to a situation in which she was confronted no longer by disunited and antagonistic States, but by great Powers, acting in union and cooperation. Even the Triple Alliance itself was shaken, for it was obvious that Italy could not be depended upon in any serious conflict with both France and England. It must therefore be the chief object of German diplomacy to drive a wedge between England and France. For this reason, from this time onwards, every diplo- matic incident, even of minor importance, at once reverberated throughout the whole of Europe. This is illustrated by the Moroc- co affair. Morocco was of great importance to France; it was essential to England that no hostile Power should be established on the north-western coast of Africa; apart from this, Morocco was merely of trivial importance to the rest of the world, includ- ing Germany. But Morocco was made the test of the Entente. Germany, taking advantage of the temporary crippling of Russia by her military and naval defeat in the Far East and the internal disturbances which followed, brought the full weight of her mili- tary superiority to bear upon France, and thereby forced her into a conference and brought about the resignation of Delcasse. This action defeated its own object. It cemented the union between France and Great Britain, and as soon as it became ob- vious that France, by entering into this union, exposed herself to the threat of war, it was inevitable that England should take steps, if necessary, to protect her new friend. It was the threats by Germany which gave a military side to what had at first been merely a diplomatic arrangement.

No doubt the French handling of the whole matter was open to criticism, but there was a peculiarity about the arrangement of 1904 which placed Great Britain in a delicate position. As was pointed out at the time in France, England, while she gained definite and defined rights which France surrendered to her in Egypt, gave in exchange only eventual rights in Morocco; France, in return for a definite surrender, got nothing but hopes; England acquired Egypt, France merely the prospect of acquiring Morocco. In these circumstances there was obviously an absolute obligation on Great Britain to see to it that her support of France in Morocco should not be half-hearted; had this support been withdrawn simply because some of the subsequent details of French action were open to criticism, then the worst possible construction might have been placed on the good faith of the British Government; it would have appeared that, after having secured themselves in Egypt, they had seized on a subterfuge so as to avoid carrying out their side of the agreement.

Anglo-Russian Entente. Not only did the German attempt to separate Russia from France fail, but in 1907 an arrangement was made by which the outstanding points of difference between Great Britain and Russia in Tibet, Afghanistan and Persia were settled. The approximation between the two empires, which had for so long been in a state of complete rivalry, was cemented by a meeting between King Edward VII. and the Tsar, which took place at Revel in June 1908. The chief and almost only subject of discussion was the state of affairs in the Balkans, and it was agreed that there should be common action for bringing about a reform in Macedonia. Very misleading statements with regard to these conversations have been constantly repeated by high authorities in Germany, as, for instance, that the definite understanding was arrived at that the two Powers should attack Germany together in the year 1916. There is no truth of any kind in this. The meeting was followed shortly (Aug. 12) by one between King Edward and the Austrian Emperor at Ischl. This also has been the subject of equally erroneous statements, as, for instance, that King Edward tried to persuade the Emperor to secede from the alliance with Germany. This is quite untrue, and was not in accordance with the principles of British policy. The subjects of discussion were very different. The Austrian Em- peror gave an undertaking that his Government would not take any isolated action in the Balkans without informing and con- sulting the other Powers, and the King tried to induce him to use his influence to dissuade Germany from continuing the increase of the German fleet. The whole object was the maintenance of

peace, and much would have been done to secure this if a stoppage could be put to the rivalry in shipbuilding between England and Germany, and if no surprise action was taken in the Balkans.

The Annexation Crisis, 1908. It was the contrast between the language used by the Emperor Francis Joseph on this occasion and the action of Austria in the sudden annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina eight weeks later which explains the intensity of feeling shown by the British Government and Sir Edward Grey as to the latter point. Apart from this and the general principle of the sanctity of treaties, they foresaw how dangerous would be the effect of the joint Bulgarian and Austro- Hungarian action upon public opinion in Turkey. It was the annexation which more than anything else brought to a head the passionate national feeling among Christians and Moslems to which all the wars which followed were due, and the conclusion of the crisis was reached in such a way as to leave the most intense animosity in Serbia against Austria, and to insure that the full support of Russia would be given to Serbia and that hence- forward the Balkans would once more become' the field for the activities of Russian diplomacy, which had never been scrupulous in the methods which it used.

The episode is important, for in it is to be found the explana- tion of much which happened in 1914. Just when it seemed as though the very prolonged and acrimonious controversy might be reaching a conclusion, Count Pourtales, the German am- bassador, delivered to M. Isvolsky " a peremptory demand " that Russia should without conditions agree to the abrogation of Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin, that is, should recognize the annexation. It would no doubt be wrong to speak of this as an ultimatum; there was no threat of war; it may be described rather as a diplomatic ultimatum; an immediate decision was asked for, and it was intimated that, if the answer was un- favourable, Germany would " Idcher I'Autriche sur la Serbie." It is important to understand what this threat for it was a threat implied. A war between Austria and Serbia would have placed Russia in a most disadvantageous position; weakened as she was, she could not have come to the help of Serbia, because under the system of alliances Germany would, if necessary, come to the help of Austria. It was in fact a threat that, if the demand was not complied with, Austria, depending upon the ultimate support of the German army, should be given carle blanche to free herself of Serbian opposition. It may be added that Ger- many showed some disposition to use a similar threat to England. Before this, Russian resistance collapsed; they agreed to the German demand without even consulting France and Great Britain. The success was a notable one, but it was dangerous. It was one which could not be repeated. Russia had given way to threats once; she could not afford to do so a second time. It left an intense feeling of indignation in St. Petersburg, which persisted, and became one of the most dangerous factors in the European situation. Personally M. Isvolsky, who soon resigned the post of Foreign Minister, henceforward became the active partisan of an anti-Austrian policy, and was only anxious to revenge himself for the humiliation which had been placed upon him first by Count Aehrenthal and secondly by Germany. The German Government, it is true, did their best to smooth away the impression caused by the harshness of their action, and, after having shown Russia how little the Entente was able to defend her against the Triple Alliance, attempted to win Russian friendship. But the effect of these efforts was obliterated by the German Emperor, who, in a visit to Vienna in the autumn of 1910, took occasion to recall how he had come to the help of his ally " in shining armour."

Agadir. The annexation crisis had occurred at a moment when the relations between France and Germany were com- paratively friendly; an attempt had been made at establishing economic and financial cooperation in Morocco. An awkward episode (the German consul at Casablanca was inducing soldiers of the Foreign Legion to desert and was arrested) was settled by arbitration. But this cooperation did not last long. The ambi- tions of the Colonial party in Germany could not be reconciled with the complete political control which France aimed at. A