Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/46

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28
EUROPE


German support having been secured, the Austrian Govern- ment proceeded to prepare the text of the demands to be present- ed to Serbia. The great point was that they should be so drafted that they would be unacceptable; the object was not a mere diplomatic victory but war; it was held that nothing would meet the situation and restore the authority and prestige of the monarchy short of an effective display of military strength. It was agreed, however, in consequence of the strong pressure used by Count Tisza, who alone was in opposition to the policy pro- posed, that the annexation of any part of Serbia, apart from a rectification of the frontier, should be repudiated; on the other hand, it might well be that, as a result of a successful war, por- tions of Serbia should be assigned to Bulgaria and Albania. The actual drafting of the ultimatum was apparently entrusted to Count Forgach, formerly Austro-Hungarian minister at Belgrade, who had been closely concerned in the concoction and manipula- tion of the Friedjung forgeries. On July 17, the final draft, having passed the Council of State, received the approval of the Em- peror, Francis Joseph, but it was determined to postpone its presentation till July 23; it would be better to delay until M. Poincare, the French President, who was to visit the northern courts, had left St. Petersburg.

These arrangements were conducted in the greatest secrecy. All that was known outside was that Austria was contemplating some serious action against Serbia; this was naturally sufficient to cause apprehension and anxiety, but, during the days of waiting, the Austrian Government used its influence to damp down the very violent denunciations of Serbia in the Viennese press, and in other ways tried to still the vigilance of the other Powers, As late as July 19 they assured the Russian ambassador in Vienna that nothing dangerous to the peace of Europe was being under- taken, and in consequence he went on a holiday. The British Government and nation, whose attention was preoccupied at the moment with the Irish problem, were inclined to regard the local dispute between Serbia and Austria as not being one in which they were vitally concerned; and Mr. Asquith's Cabinet, which was perhaps not very well informed as to Balkan matters, was late in realizing how imminent was the danger. On July 16, the British ambassador, Sir Maurice de Bunsen, was able to give Sir Edward Grey a warning which was corroborated from unofficial sources. None the less the belief that there would be a real danger of European war was slow in maturing in Great Britain, in spite of the anxiety felt in a few well-informed quarters. This attitude was based on a belief that, after all, the German Govern- ment would not support Austria in any reckless policy.

The Austrian Nqle. The ultimatum was presented at 6 P.M. on Thursday, July 23, by Baron de Giesl to Dr. Patchou, as M. Pashitch, the Serbian prime minister, was absent from Belgrade. The note had been admirably drawn up to fulfil the avowed object that it should contain demands which could not possibly be complied with. It required that Serbia should first of all officially publish on the front page of the Official Journal a condemnation of the Serbian propaganda against Austria- Hungary, regret for the part taken by Serbian officers and officials in this propaganda, and a promise of amendment in the future. There were in addition ten requirements, which include, among others, the dissolution of " Narodna Obrana," the suppression of any publication which incited to hatred and contempt of the monarchy, the elimination from public instruction in Serbia (including the teaching body) of anything that served as propa- ganda against Austria-Hungary, the removal from the army and the administration of officers and officials guilty of such propaganda whose names might be communicated by the Austro- v Hungarian Government, the collaboration in Serbia of Austro- Hungarian representatives for the suppression of the movement against the territorial integrity of the monarchy, and that Austro-Hungarian representatives should take part in judicial proceedings against all the accessories to the plot of June 28 on Serbian territory. A reply was required by 6 o'clock on the evening of Saturday July 25.

As was immediately pointed out by everyone who read this document it would be impossible for the Serbian Government to

accept all these demands; no such requirements had ever been directed to a fully sovereign State in particular the requirement that unnamed officials should be dismissed on the request of the Austro-Hungarian Government, and that Austro-Hungarian officials should take part both in police and judicial proceedings on Serbian soil, was clearly one impossible to be granted. There could be only one conclusion, that Austria intended to force a war with Serbia and that in doing this she had deliberately prepared to meet the opposition of Russia. But it was clear that Austria could not have taken this step without the previous consent of Germany. It was therefore at once concluded that the two Germanic Powers had determined immediately to challenge Russia, and with Russia France, to a great trial of strength. This view was supported by a note which on the following day was delivered at St. Petersburg, Paris and London, in which the German Government announced that they considered the pro- cedure and demands of the Austrian Government to be both equitable and moderate. (It is now known that these words had been written at a time when the German Government did not precisely know what the demands of the Austrian Government would be. It did not occur to anyone outside that the Govern- ment of a great State could be guilty of such unparalleled levity; it was naturally assumed that they had seen and approved the text of the Austrian note beforehand, and all their disclaimers were received with incredulity.) The German Government also emphasized their opinion that the questions at issue between Austria and Serbia should be settled by these two States alone, and lastly, they intimated that interference by any other Power would be followed by incalculable consequences. This could obviously mean nothing except that Germany was backing up Austria, would support her even up to a war with Russia, and that a threat was intended to France and Great Britain that, unless they put themselves on the Austrian side and brought pressure to bear upon Russia to withdraw her support from Serbia, a European war would result.

The news reached St. Petersburg just after M. Poincare had left. The secrecy with which the ultimatum had been engendered, the misleading assurances, the absence of any warn- ing to or consultation with other States, all seemed to point to a deep-laid plot. The reaction was precisely what was to be anticipated. The greatest indignation was expressed and the indignation was genuine. M. Sazonov at once asked for assur- ance that he should have the full support of France and Great Britain against this unparalleled act of aggression; the only method of avoiding war with Germany was, he said, that Ger- many should know that she would be confronted by the united forces of the Entente. At the same time Russian military prepa- rations were at once begun; it was decided at a meeting of the Russian Council of State on July 25 that all preliminary steps should be taken and that Sjizonov should be authorized to give the signal for mobilization as soon as it seemed to him necessary. Meanwhile a public communique was issued that Russia could not remain indifferent to the fate of Serbia. Similar language was used in private and official interviews. It was from the begin- ning perfectly clear that Russia intended to resist the Austrian scheme, by war if necessary.

In these circumstances much depended on the action of Great Britain. During these days France could do little, for the Presi- dent and the Foreign Minister were at sea. Russia and France both pressed Sir Edward Grey to declare himself. The situation was a difficult one. He clearly could not, as' the Russians asked, give an unconditional promise to join with Russia if war ensued; by doing so he would incur the danger of increasing the influence of the war party which undoubtedly existed at St. Petersburg. Moreover, he would not have the full support of the Cabinet, nor apparently of the country. On the other hand he could not give the promise of neutrality which Germany asked for, nor could he even press Russia too strongly to suspend her military preparations, for, by so doing, he would in fact be giving his support to an act of aggression against a State with which he was in the closest diplomatic agreement. He therefore saw from the beginning that the only possible means of avoiding a European