Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/43

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EUROPE


element in the situation was that, more and more, the old rivalry between Austria and Russia, which had always been found manageable, was giving place to a direct conflict of interests between Russia and Germany herself. So long as Austria alone was concerned, it could be hoped that Germany, who had no desire to embark on a European war merely in defence of the local Austrian interests, would intervene in some way or another and join with England in keeping the peace. So soon as the direct ambitions of Germany herself were involved, this security was removed. Moreover, the commercial treaty made between Russia and Germany in 1892 was running out; Germany had succeeded in imposing upon Russia conditions whicji subordi- nated Russian interests to those of Germany. Any negotiations for the renewal of the treaty must certainly react on the political situation. Already the very anticipation of this had aroused all the strong national spirit in both empires. The Russians in particular were determined not to anticipate a renewal of the humiliating position in which they had so long been placed.

The preceding narrative will have shown how complex was the diplomatic situation. But after all, this was nothing new in the history of Europe, and the points at issue in almost every case concerned not the vital security of any one of the Great Powers, but rather the external extension of their power and influence. It might therefore well have been hoped that, with prudence and self-restraint on the part of the leading statesmen, peace might be kept. Experience showed that a solution could be found for each particular problem as it came up, either by separate negotiations between the interested Powers, or by substituting for the mutual rivalry of two hostile groups common action of the Concert of Europe. This was the principle by which Sir Edward Grey was always guided, and it was his hope that in it he might have the support of the German Government. It was a policy which could only be successful if it was accom- panied by a frank recognition of the existing facts, with the avoidance of subterranean intrigues.

The Rivalry in Armaments. So long then as England could depend on German cooperation, war might well have been avoided had the trouble been merely diplomatic. There were, however, other elements. Diplomatic controversy was accom- panied by the rivalry in armaments. European Ministers of War were ceaselessly occupied in perfecting the armies. The con- tinued expansion of German population enabled this to be done within the limits of the Law of 1871, which determined that the strength of the army on its peace footing should be i % of the population. In 1893, by reducing the term of service from three to two years, the number of trained men was increased by nearly 50% without any increase in the peace establishment. Further increases in the peace establishment were made in 1899, in 1905 and in 1911. In 1912, after Agadir, the establishment was raised to 723,000. The Balkan wars, ending as they did in the collapse of Turkey and the increased power of Serbia, were made the reason for a still further addition. The peace strength was raised to 870,000 men, and to meet the extraordinary charges involved in this the Government had recourse to the dangerous expedient of a capital levy of 50,000,000. Each of these laws was of course answered in France and in Russia, and in 1913 France, always confronted by the fundamental disadvantage of her smaller population, had no resource except to raise the period of compulsory service with the colours from two to three years. It was obvious that this state of things could not continue. The strain on the finances and on the manhood of the nations was becoming overwhelming. But when it was proposed that the limitation of armaments should be discussed at the Hague Con- ference in 1907, it was Germany who answered that she could take no part in any conference where this matter was on the agenda. At the same time the general staffs were planning in detail every step in the campaign. To Germany the " war on two fronts " had become a household conception. All the details were worked out by Schlieffen the instantaneous blow on France which must be delivered and carried through before the more slow-moving Russian battalions were on their way. But if this blow was to be successful it must be delivered not on the

guarded frontier to the east, but across Belgium. And so all the preparations were made, the lines were built, military camps established, the dislocation plans worked out. This could not be hidden. France had to devise her counter-moves to the opening gambit. If the war began with an unprovoked attack by Ger- many, then the French hoped they would not be alone; they could depend on the cooperation of Great Britain and Russia. But this cooperation would be futile unless it had been planned in advance. The safety of France would depend upon the promptitude of her allies. The mobilization of Germany would be almost instantaneous. That of Russia must be accelerated, and every detail be prepared for placing the army on the frontier at the earliest moment. Hence we get the building of strategic railways in Poland and a great reorganization of the army. But this again was represented in Germany as a menace, which was made a reason for further increases in the German army. The effect was felt even in the most unmilitary of nations. Belgium, whose security was once more threatened, had to introduce com- pulsory military service, and Great Britain could not stand out. The war when it came would not move with the deliberation of the great collisions of earlier days when it was sufficient for Great Britain to begin to collect an army after the first shot had been fired. Whatever the course of events might be, one thing was clear to everyone the result would be determined to a large extent during the first six weeks. If, as seemed probable, the war began with the German invasion of Belgium, then British troops must be there to protect the soil of Belgium and of France. Therefore, as early as 1906, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman approved the conception of conversations between the general staffs to discuss the forms of cooperation in the event of war. But if this cooperation was to be effective, the British army must be ready. And so a great reorganization took place, carried through by Lord Haldane as Minister of War, the result of which was that, for the first time in her history, England would at the outbreak of the war be able, if necessity required and the occasion justified it, to place some 150,000 men in the north of France before the first contact took jUlace; in 1912 the agreement as to military conventions was embodied in an interchange of notes between England and France.

German Militarism. The rivalry in armaments and the inordinate growth of the armies had a double effect. It directly influenced the diplomatic discussions. Neither side could avoid the apprehension that their opponents might be deliberately intending to force the issue; as soon as this apprehension arose, then military preparations must begin, even while diplomatic discussion was continuing; but the very suggestion of this would at once bring the general staffs into the discussion. They, intent only on ensuring that, if there was to be war, nothing should be left undone which would secure victory, might easily divert the negotiations which normally had as their object the avoidance of war, and substitute the object of bringing about war at a favour- able moment and under favourable auspices. Much therefore depended on the submission of the military to the political element. This was completely secured in those western demo- cratic states in which the control over the Government lay in the hands of Parliament; the situation was less favourable in the three eastern monarchies in Russia, where a weak ruler and an incompetent and dishonest bureaucracy were struggling against the rising forces of revolution; in Austria, where conflict of nationalities threatened the very existence of the state; in Germany, where it was the official doctrine taught by Bismarck, the theme of every speech of the Kaiser, that the power, the influence and the existence of the nation were based upon the army. The world was never allowed to forget that if Germany was now the greatest Power in Europe, it was because the German army had marched to Paris in 1870, and, if necessity arose, could do so again; and the German people were never allowed to forget that it was the Prussian army by which German unity had been achieved, and it was on the army, carried out with the spirit of and trained by Prussian officers, that the exist- ing constitution depended. The influence of the German Em- peror ultimately depended on the prestige which he had inherited,