Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/51

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31
EUROPE


Ing Austria to occupy the whole of Serbian territory. There is indeed no indication that, so far as Austria was concerned, the postponement of the Russian general mobilization would have had any effect upon the final issue. The order for general mobilization was determined on the afternoon of July 30, and issued on July 31, before Russian mobilization was known.

France and Germany. In accordance with the terms of the Franco-Russian Alliance, an aggressive war declared by Ger- many against Russia inevitably entailed war with France. The French President, M. Poincare, and the premier, M. Viviani, reached Paris on the evening of July 29 ; they at once telegraphed to Russia that France would fulfil the obligations of her alliance, while continuing her efforts to preserve peace. From the begin- ning of the crisis France had, like all other nations on the con- tinent of Europe, immediately begun all the necessary military preparations. Even the smaller States, such as Holland, had from the beginning of the week been doing the same thing. It is not necessary to enter into the discussion which took place at the time as to the particular stage of military preparations reached in each country on each day. The Austrian ultimatum to Serbia was an act of such a nature that, followed as it was by the rupture of diplomatic relations and the declaration of war, no responsible Government could afford to lose a moment in carry- ing through every measure short of the final act of calling up the reserves, to which the name of " mobilization " is generally given. Suffice it to say that by July 31 the French and German covering troops on the frontier were both in position. The French, however, in order to avoid any untoward incident, took the precaution of keeping their troops 10 km. from the frontier. This was not imitated by the Germans, and in fact could not be, for the great fortress of Metz was actually on the frontier, and there seems no doubt that before July 31, on several occasions, German troops had crossed the French frontier. The Russian mobilization, the consequent German mobilization, and the declaration of war against Russia, made it imperatively necessary for the German Government without any delay to settle the issue with France. As has already been pointed out, the basis of their whole plan of operations was an instantaneous invasion of France. They therefore could not allow a day to pass unused; if there was to be war with France, it must come at once. Ac- cordingly at 7 o'clock on July 31, Herr von Schoen, the German ambassador in Paris, called on M. Viviani and announced that he would come again the next day to learn what the attitude of France would be in case of a war between Germany and Russia. He came in consequence on Aug. i, and was informed merely that " France would do that which her interest dictated." French general mobilization was ordered on Aug. i, at almost exactly the same time as that of Germany. It would have been, natural that the actual declaration of war by Germany should immediately have followed; it was, however, delayed for two days, partly in consequence apparently of a misunderstanding which arose in London. Lichnowsky telegraphed that he had received an inquiry whether Germany would stand out if England secured the neutrality of France. What seems to have been meant was an idea that both France and Germany should remain neutral, leaving Austria and Russia alone at war; this was misinterpreted as a suggestion that France should remain neutral in a war between Germany and Russia. Nothing could have been more favourable to Germany than this, but subsequent revelations have shown that even French neutrality alone would not have been accepted by Germany. Herr von Schoen was instructed, if France promised to remain neutral, to demand that she should hand over the fortified cities of Toul and Verdun to Germany as a guarantee. That such a proposal should ever have been seriously entertained shows how abnormal was the men- tality of Berlin. There was never the slightest doubt that France could not leave Russia unprotected against a combined attack from both Germany and Austria.

The situation at the end of the week was a very anxious one in Paris. War with Germany was now certain, and France might anticipate that within a few days the whole force of the German army would be thrown against the frontier. The future of

France seemed to depend upon the action of Great Britain. But in London all seemed uncertain. The strongest representations , were made by M. Cambon to Sir Edward Grey, and the President of the French Republic addressed an autograph letter to King George urging the vital necessity for help from England. No promise could be given. The British Cabinet were then divided. Neither they nor, as was thought, the country would have approved of the interference of Great Britain in a continental war in which her interests and honour were not immediately involved. 1 Though Great Britain could not stand by and passively watch the defeat and dismemberment of France, this might be a reason for preparing to intervene if at any time it became necessary, but not for taking part as a principal from the beginning. There was indeed one point in which, admittedly, both British interests and British honour were closely concerned, viz.: the neutrality of Belgium. Great Britain was bound by the Treaties of 1839 to intervene if either party to a war violated that neutrality. Fol- lowing, therefore, the precedent of 1870 Sir Edward Grey, on July 30, addressed a message both to the French and the German Governments, drawing their attention to this point and asking for assurance that Belgian neutrality would be respected. The answer from France was quite satisfactory. The German Government, on the other hand, said that they were unable to give any answer to the question. On Sunday, Aug. 2, Sir Edward Grey, on his own responsibility, without obtaining the consent of the Cabinet, took another step. He informed the French that if a German fleet attacked France in the Channel or the Atlantic, Great Britain would immediately intervene with her fleet. Apart from the Belgian question, it would still have been possible for Germany to keep Great Britain neutral by limiting the war against France to land operations, and it would clearly have been in her interests to do so.

All then seemed to depend on the Belgian question. On Monday, Aug. 3, the German Government formally declared war against France. The actual reasons given were statements that the French had violated German territory by dropping bombs from aeroplanes, and in other ways. The German Government has since acknowledged that these statements were untrue. Meanwhile it became known in London (Aug. 2) that German forces had crossed the Luxemburg frontier and occupied the Grand Duchy, the neutrality of which was guaranteed by the Great Powers, Germany herself included; and also that the Ger- man minister at Brussels (as Sir E. Grey told the House of Com- mons on Aug. 3) had delivered a note to the Belgian Government demanding free passage for their troops across Belgian territory; if this was granted they undertook to leave Belgium at the end of the war with her independence and territory unimpaired, and in fact held out hopes of increase of territory at the expense of France, either in Europe or in the colonies. If the request was refused, Belgium would be treated as an enemy. An answer was required within 12 hours. This action was excused by the statement that the German Government had reliable information that French forces intended to enter Belgium. But it is now known that the whole note, including this statement, had been drafted more than a week before by the general staff. After a midnight sitting of the Belgian Council of State, presided over by the King, a refusal was handed to Herr von Below. Before this happened German troops had already crossed the frontier, and in con- sequence Herr von Below receiyed his passport and was requested to leave the country immediately.

These events were decisive for Great Britain. All the doubts by which the Cabinet and large sections of the country had been assailed during the previous week were at once swept aside. On the afternoon of Aug. 3, Sir Edward Grey explained the menacing nature of the situation to the House of Commons, and on the next day (after a further statement in Parliament by the Prime Minister) an ultimatum was dispatched to Berlin requiring the German Government to respect Belgian neutrality. This was

1 Nevertheless, it was being vigorously contended by The Times during this juncture that British interests and honour were involved, though the " pacifist " section of the London Press as vigorously denied it. . (Ed. E.B.)