Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/41

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EUROPE


really mattered. Germany would quite well be able to acquiesce in an interference of Great Britain at a later stage, for, though this might be used to moderate the claims of the victors, it would not eliminate the fact of the victory. It was the consciousness of this which made it absolutely necessary that every advance to Germany should be accompanied by the clearest and most public intimation that the union of the Entente was not thereby weak- ened. So we get the key to British policy: the maintenance of the two alliances, but the frank and friendly discussion between Great Britain and Germany on each point of difference as it arose.

This was a policy which required great skill, firmness and a cool head. For this reason, in the very critical circumstances, the direction of British policy was kept to a large extent in the hands of a small group Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith and Lord Haldane; just as it had been recognized that foreign policy should be kept out of the ordinary party conflict, so it became necessary not to allow vacillation to arise from the conflict of opposed groups in the Cabinet. It was, as subsequent events were to show, a misfortune that some of the other countries concerned were not guided with equal skill and firmness.

Austria and the Balkans. It is not in the stronger but in the weaker states that the occasions for war arise not in Germany, France and England, but in Russia, Turkey and Austria-Hun- gary; for when a Government is weak, popular passions have .their way, and the best plans of the wisest statesmen may be frustrated. As the long reign of the aged Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria was nearing its end, the whole internal fabric of his empire was growing out of joint, and there was neither purpose, skill, nor foresight to remedy this. As will often happen in such circumstances, there were many who hoped to find in a spirited foreign policy an escape from internal difficulties, One party, reverting to the older Austrian traditions, looked to a war with Italy, for it was a peculiarity of the situation that, while Italy and Austria were allies, they were always arming and in- triguing against one another, and the Government of Trieste, by its strongly anti-Italian acts, fomented the spirit of irredentism which had only for a time been suppressed during the first years of the Triple Alliance. But it was the Slav problem which presented the greatest difficulty, and this had both its internal and its external aspect. At home the settlement of 1868 had given to Germans and Magyars constitutional predominance in the Dual Monarchy which was not justified by their numerical proportion. The strong Slav spirit found expression in the grow- ing ambitions of the Czechs, while the southern Slavs, Croats and Serbs alike were in open opposition to the misgovernment of Budapest. At the same time the Magyars, with singular blind- ness, refused to take any steps to remedy the just grievances of the Rumans of Transylvania. This national discontent when suppressed at home naturally turned for help abroad, and the internal dislocation of the Habsburg Monarchy became involved in the Balkan troubles. From 1804 there had been a cessation of the secular rivalry of Austria and Russia; Russia was occupied with her Far Eastern schemes, and the two empires had agreed on the maintenance of the status quo, an agreement which was cemented and continued at Miirzteg in 1897. The Austrian position in the Balkans depended upon the alliance with Rumania and an important understanding with Serbia, which had become almost a client state of Austria. The mutual hostility between Serbia and Bulgaria, Bulgaria and Greece, ensured the continued equilibrium. In order to maintain this state of things, the Aus- trian Government did not scruple to condone, if it did not ac- tually encourage, the assassination of King Alexander of Serbia. But .this instrument they lost by the foolish attack upon Ser- bian commercial prosperity, the beginning of a definite and final rupture, which, as we have seen, led to and was aggravated by the annexations. From this time it was the one object of the Serbian nation to achieve its expansion at the expense of Austria. To Russia the discontent of the southern Slavs of the monarchy was a welcome weapon. In the rivalry of the two empires a new stage had been introduced. Russia, by fomenting Serbian intrigues, might hope to strike a blow at the very existence of the Habsburg Monarchy itself. There was only one method of

meeting this, and that was internal reconstruction. This was said to be the object of the heir to the throne, but, in view of the obstinate resistance to be expected from Hungary, nothing could be done during the lifetime of the old Emperor.

This was the state of things when a new and quite unforeseen evolution began in the Balkans.

The Balkan Wars. It had long been agreed that to Italy should fall the reversion of Tripoli. The increasing disorder of the Turkish Empire, the obvious failure of the Young Turks to establish an orderly and civilized government, made it appear that the time for action had come. In Sept. 1911, at the very crisis of the Agadir incident, without previous warning the Italian Government presented an ultimatum to Turkey, and three days later, on Sept. 29, declared war. On Oct. 4 an Italian force landed in Tripoli, which, during the next months, was occupied with the very difficult task of subduing the resistance both of the Arab population and of the Turkish troops. A full year was in fact to pass before, by the victory of Sidi Bibal, the kernel of the resistance was overcome. Meanwhile, in order to force the Turkish Government to agree to a cession of the province, the Italian fleet in Feb. 1912 appeared before Beirut, and in May occupied Rhodes and the islands of the Dodecanese. It was clear that an Italian attack on Turkey in the Aegean would arouse the hopes and ambitions of the Balkan States themselves. There were abundant causes of trouble. The Young Turks had no more succeeded in bringing peace and order into Thrace and Macedonia than had the Government of 'Abdul Hamid; the religious rivalry, the exploits of the Comitadji, the massacres and ravages by the Turks, continued in this unhappy country, and it seemed as though it were becoming the declared policy of the Turkish Government to remove the Macedonian difficulty by the extermination of the inhabitants. Experience had shown them that no serious help would come from the Great Powers, who, fearful of the consequences of Balkan troubles, adhered with what we may call unintelligent obstinacy to the doctrine of the status quo. If anything was to be done, the Christian States must do it themselves. In Feb. 1912 negotiations were begun under the deepest secrecy between Serbia and Bulgaria, and on March 13 there was signed a treaty of friendship and alliance, by which the two kingdoms mutually guaranteed to one another their political independence and the integrity of their territory, and a:greed to support one another with all their forces if either were attacked by one or more states. More than this, they agreed to support one another if any of the Great Powers attempted to occupy any part of the Balkans which was at present under Turkish dominion, a clause which was obviously directed against Austria. This treaty was accompanied by a secret additional treaty and a military convention; the first of these was in fact in the nature of an offensive alliance against Turkey and was followed by detailed arrangements as to the disposal of any Turkish territory which might be acquired. The treaty was to be communicated to Russia, and all matters undetermined in the treaty were to be settled by the arbitrament of Russia. The military convention determined precisely the nature and charac- ter of the help to be given in the case of a war with Turkey or with Austria or Rumania. This treaty was in accordance with the agreement submitted to the Russian Government, but they did not communicate it to their allies. It was followed in May by a similar treaty between Greece and Bulgaria, the initiative to which was to a large extent given by Mr. J. D. Bourchier, the well-known correspondent of The Times. The whole scheme was one unparalleled in recent years; the Balkan States, so long the clients and the playthings of the Great Powers, had at last agreed on that which no one who knew their mutual animosities had believed possible: they had joined together to free their co- religionists from the Turks and if necessary to protect the Balkans against the external aggression of any Great Power.

The action prefigured in the treaties was hastened by the con- clusion of the war between Turkey- and Italy; negotiations were entered into during the month of August and were brought to a conclusion by the Treaty of Lausanne signed on Oct. 18, by which Turkey surrendered Tripoli to Italy, the future of the Aegean