Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/50

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warning directed against Austria, or whether an immediate war against both empires was imminent. To change from partial mobilization to general mobilization would be an extremely difficult and complicated task. If partial mobilization would, as seemed to be the case, bring about war with Germany, Russia might find herself in an extremely dangerous situation.

Meanwhile there was great anxiety in Berlin. The Govern- ment were not well informed as to the intentions of Austria, and answers to telegrams were long delayed. There was also a serious divergence between the political and military authorities. The general staff were becoming very nervous. If there was to be war it was essential that it must begin at once in order that they might gain the advantage which came from their higher stage of military preparation. Every day that elapsed would have the result of enabling Russia to enter the campaign sooner than had been anticipated. On the other hand, from the political point of view, especially having regard to the effect on public opinion in Germany and in Great Britain, it was most important to avoid action which might appear provocative. Matters must be so arranged that the appearance of aggression would fall upon Russia. The whole situation appears to have been discussed in a council which met at the palace at Potsdam that evening. There is no authentic record of the discussion, but from subsequent revelations it is clear that a demand was made by the general staff for immediate mobilization, and was refused. It was, however, determined to make a strong effort to avoid the danger, which was becoming more apparent, of active -British intervention in the war; with this object, that very evening between 9 and 10 o'clock, the German chancellor sent for Sir Edward Goschen, the British ambassador, and made him a strong offer for British neutrality. In return for this Germany would be prepared to promise that in the event of a successful war no part of France would be annexed by Germany. This suggestion was, of course, the next day indignantly refused. Scarcely, however, was the interview over when a fresh telegram from Prince Lichnowsky was received, containing a friendly warning from Sir Edward Grey that, if war resulted, England would probably not be able to keep out of it. This produced something like consternation. The negotiations with Austria as to Italy had not been proceeding favourably, and all the in- formation seemed to show that Italian support would not be forthcoming. The very same night three additional telegrams were dispatched to Vienna couched in the most pressing and urgent terms, exhorting the Austrian Government not to con- tinue their refusal against all projects of mediation; if they did so they would be dragging Germany into a European war, in which Italy would not be on the side of the Triple Alliance and in which Great Britain would be among the enemies, a war, therefore, which would be fought under the most unfavourable conditions. It was only by using the last measure, the threat of war, that British influence for peace began to be effective but too late.

Russian and German Mobilization. Among the numerous other telegrams sent out from Berlin on this evening was one from the Kaiser to the Tsar, again impressing on him in the strongest terms the danger of mobilization. In consequence the Tsar, shortly before midnight, telephoned both to the chief of the Russian general staff and to the Minister for War, instructing them to alter the determination already arrived at; there is some conflict in the evidence as to whether he ordered the cessation of all measures of mobilization, or merely that partial mobilization should be substituted for general. However this may be, the Minister for War, General Sukhomlinov, who was much im- pressed by the dangerous position into which Russia was drifting, and by the inextricable confusion which would be created if the mobilization orders which had already been sent out were counter- manded, determined on his own responsibility to disobey the orders which he had received and to leave things as they were; and he told the chief of the staff, General Januskevitch, to ignore the Tsar's instructions. In consequence the order for general mobilization was maintained. M. Sazonov does not appear to have known this; anyhow he told the French ambassa- dor that the order for general mobilization had been issued, but

subsequently revoked. At a meeting which took place the follow- ing morning, July 30, the situation was again discussed, and on this occasion Sukhomlinov, according to his own evidence given at his subsequent trial, " lied to the Tsar " and allowed him to believe that his orders had been exe'cuted. During the same morning a further interview between Sazonov and Pourtales had resulted in the drafting of a formula by which it was hoped that a way out of the difficulty would be found. This had been sent to Berlin. The answer to it came in the late afternoon and was an uncompromising refusal. During the day there was telegraphed from Berlin news of a false press announcement that German mobilization had been ordered; this was contradicted very shortly afterwards. As a result of these events and the information that the Austrian bombardment of Belgrade was continuing, the Tsar in the afternoon reconfirmed the decision of the previous evening that general mobilization should be pro- ceeded with. He seems never to have been informed of the disobedience to his orders. The notices were put up throughout the Russian Empire during the course of the night, and on the following morning the fact was public. There was, however, s"ome delay in communicating it abroad; the news does not seem to have reached either Paris or London until very late in the afternoon. It reached Berlin shortly after midday. The Kaiser at once left Potsdam for Berlin and ordered the proclamation of Kriegszustand, the first step before mobilization; a telegram was also sent to Pourtales that he should immediately call on Sazonov and! inform him that unless the order for general mobilization was recalled within 24 hours Germany would consider herself at war with Russia. No answer was given; German mobilization was proclaimed the next day, Saturday, Aug. i, and war was declared at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

The Russian order for general mobilization seems on all grounds to have been ill-advised; from the military point of view delay was advantageous to Russia. Politically it provided the German Government with the pretext which was essential to them: for the moment it appeared as if Germany was de- fending herself against a Russian invasion ; the solidarity of the nation was secured and even the Socialists ceased their criticism and opposition. It was this which made the Reichstag, which assembled on Aug. 3, almost unanimous in its support of the war measures laid before it. It also destroyed any slender possibility of still avoiding war. The decision seems to have been due not so much to any deliberate desire for war, as to the state'of nervous panic which prevailed in the sinister situation by which Russia was suddenly confronted; owing to the provocative and menacing action of Austria and Germany there was no cool and balanced judgment or strong hand to exercise control. All accounts agree that even Sukhomlinov was overwhelmed by the crisis, and the Tsar throughout was in a state of pitiable indecision.

The extreme rapidity with which these events took place frustrated all the efforts at mediation which were in progress. Sir Edward Grey had put forward a new plan, very similar to the German Emperor's proposal that Austria should issue her terms from Belgrade, but he had accompanied it by conditions which, if accepted, would have got over the mobilization difficulty. This had been communicated by Berlin to Vienna, but no answer had been received when Germany, by her ultimatum, broke through all the negotiations. None the less, even as late as Saturday, Aug. i, this and other suggestions continued to be the subject of an interchange of telegrams. While they ceased to have any prac- tical importance it may be noted that, in a telegram of July 31, the Austrian Government so far deviated from their previous attitude as to accept the idea of mediation by the four Powers between Austria and Serbia. This was a considerable concession, ljut it was in fact superseded by a personal telegram from the Austrian Emperor sent almost at the same time, and its value was diminished because it was accompanied by the condition that Austrian military action against Serbia should continue, but that Russia should discontinue all her military preparations. It need not be said that on these lines no arrangement could have been made, for this would have implied that Russia should stand passively by, watching the defeat of the Serbian army and allow-