Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/45

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EUROPE


leagues now determined immediately to use this new opportunity so as to rid themselves once and for all of the menace to the mon- archy caused by the Yugoslav propaganda; by doing so they would be bringing to an issue, on an occasion favourable to them- selves, the great rivalry in the Balkans with Russia.

The policy of Count Berchtold was apparently influenced by three motives: (i) the quite justifiable determination for the punishment of the murderers and their accomplices, together with the prevention of similar acts in the future; (2) the desire to show that the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was not effete, helpless and incapable of action; (3) to gain a great and perma- nent political advantage as against Russia. Of these the second seems to have been the most important. There was a general feeling throughout the empire that the Government must show its strength by some strong act, a feeling which was encouraged by the language used by the German ambassador in Vienna: " What Germany looked for was a firm and definite plan of action; if this was forthcoming she would be completely on the side of Austria." But Austria could not take action unless sure beforehand of German support. Count Hoyos was therefore despatched on a special mission to Berlin. He took with him both the memorandum written before the murder and also an auto- graph letter of the Emperor to the Kaiser of July 2, in which the dangers to Austria of the Serbian agitation for the union of all Southern Slavs under Serbia was pointed out. In view of this the policy of Austria must be the isolation and diminution of Serbia and the suppression of Serbia as a political factor in the Balkans; it was necessary for the peace of Europe that the criminal agitation in Belgrade should not continue with impunity.

The Decision in Berlin. This letter was delivered personally by Count Szogyeny, the Austrian ambassador, on July 5 to the German Emperor, who was due to leave for his annual holiday in the North Sea on July 7. It was during these two days that the decision on which so much was to depend was made. The information available up to the end of 1921 as to the actual course of events in this respect still left much obscure. During the war it was circumstantially reported that a joint council was held between Austrian and German statesmen and soldiers at which a plan of political and military action was decided. It now seems clear, however, that no such formal meeting took place, an omission which has naturally been the subject of hostile criticism in Germany; the very serious diplomatic steps which were to follow ought undoubtedly to have been preceded by a thorough sifting of the whole situation political, military, naval and eco- nomic. The Kaiser, after receiving Count Szogyeny and Count Hoyos before he left for Norway, had, as he could not well avoid having, separate conversations with representatives of the army and navy. It is beyond doubt that the final decision was one for which he was immediately and personally responsible. While explaining that he must, of course, consult the Chancellor on a matter of serious European importance, the Count was author- ized to inform the Austrian Emperor that in this question he could " depend on the complete support of Germany." " This especially applied to Austrian action against Serbia." " In the Kaiser's opinion there must be no delay. Russia's attitude would certainly be hostile, but he had for years past been prepared for this; if it was to come to a war between Austria-Hungary and Russia she could be convinced that Germany would stand at her side with her usual fidelity. Moreover, Russia, as matters stood, was in no way ready for war, and would certainly consider before appealing to arms." This is confirmed by the diary of Herr Muhlon and the comments on it by Herr Helfferich, from which we can gather that those who had been brought into contact with the Kaiser understood that he was determined that on this occasion there should be no drawing back; his support would be given to Austria, and Austria would be sure that he would con- tinue it to the end; he was especially urgent that Austria should act quickly; delay would increase the risk of a European war.

The Kaiser left Berlin for his visit to Norway, as arranged, on July 7. The official German answer, though more guarded, was in accordance with his language. In it the Chancellor explained that the view of the German Government was that the

relations between Austria and Serbia were a matter within the competence of Austria alone ; Germany therefore did not propose to claim any right to interfere. What this, of course, meant was that Austria received a free hand to couch her demands on Serbia in such terms as she chose; Germany already knew that they would be such as to make war very probable. But Austria had already been assured that, if this action led to war with Russia, Germany would be at her side. It is noticeable that no advice or warning was given that the demands on Serbia should be so modified as to avoid this danger. On the other hand great attention was given to the diplomatic preparation; everything was to be done to secure for a war with Serbia the support or neutrality of the neighbouring states. With this object the Kaiser, though strongly against his own personal inclination, agreed that the King of Bulgaria should be asked to join the Triple Alliance, and, in view of the great German interests in Turkey, negotiations with the same object should be entered into with the Porte. What above all interested them was the position of Rumania and Italy. The situation in Rumania caused much anxiety, for King Charles let it be known that he would probably not be able to bring the country with him into a war with Russia on the side of the Germanic Powers ; all, however, was to be done to strengthen German influences in that country. As to Italy it was agreed that its Government should not be informed beforehand as to the blow which was impending against Serbia, but Germany pressed very strongly that Austria should be prepared to offer to Italy suitable compensation for any gain in territory or political influence in the Balkans which might accrue to her.

Analysis of the objects and motives of the German Government is all the more difficult because, in its political composition, it had no powerful personality such as Bismarck had once been, and its actions were the result of many conflicting influences, while decisions were always liable to be deflected by the impulsive and vacillating character of the Kaiser himself. There was in the first place genuine indignation at the crime of Serajevo, an indignation which in the Kaiser's mind took the characteristic form that there must be cooperation between all monarchical States against ele- ments of disorder. This motive was one which, no doubt, it was hoped when the time came he would use with effect upon the Tsar. Politically there had long been dissatisfaction at Berlin with the conduct of affairs in Austria; the force and decision which were needed in an ally were wanting. It was hoped, therefore, that the opportunity would be used to remedy this defect. But there were further and greater objects which would follow automatically; if Russia could be persuaded to stand aside while Serbia was over- run by the Austrian army, it would become evident that Russian protection was of no avail to Serbia; Serbia would be pushed out of the way, and thereby the Germanic Powers would gain in fact the control of the Balkans and the road to the East. It was an essential part of the scheme that Great Britain and France should be urged to use their influence to keep Russia quiet; if they did not do so then the responsibility for any extension of the war which , ensued would seem to attach to them; if they did then the internal harmony of the Triple Entente would be weakened; Russia would feel that she had been deserted by her allies. It was possible that these results might be obtained without a European war. If, how- ever, Russia was determined to meet the challenge and war resulted, it was hoped that matters could be so arranged that the responsibility for the war should appear to fall on Russia and the Entente. The general condition of Europe was very threatening; it seemed probable that under any circumstances the " great war " must ensue shortly; it was believed that Russia would be ready in about two years. If there was to be a . war the summer of 1914 seemed on the whole to be favourable to Germany. The Kiel Canal had been enlarged; the army was at the height of efficiency; the diplomatic situation seemed favour- able; there were very serious labour troubles in Russia, serious parliamentary disputes in France, and it appeared as if there might soon be open rebellion in Ireland, with possibly something approaching mutiny in the British army. It was indeed impos- sible to depend on Italy; but if Bulgaria and Turkey could be won over this would counteract the uncertainty of Rumania's action.