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Therefore, Germany and Austria must unquestionably bear the blame for the Austro-Serbian war. This fact alone would fix upon them the main responsibility for the European war. For a Balkan war is always liable to bring on a general conflict and the danger was particularly great in 1914, owing to the tangled condition of European relations at that time.
We cannot at this time say with absolute certainty whether the Teutonic powers wanted a war with Russia in 1914 or preferred to make a successful stroke in the Balkans at small cost. Some evidence points to the former theory and some to the latter. Prince Lichnowsky, for example, in one place represents the German foreign office as assuming that Russia was not able to strike and therefore that the Central powers could get away with the Balkan loot without being chased. In another place, however, he speaks as if Wilhelmstrasse felt that the sooner the Teutons and the Russians had it out the better it would be for the former. One thing, however, is certain that the Central powers were willing to take a chance on starting a general war rather than forego their designs on Serbia. Now, a nation that would risk a universal conflict at a time like that is guilty of the results that follow, even though it did not desire them. If the Teutonic Governments really thought that they could bluff Rus
sia into acquiescence in their Balkan policy, this belief would, to a slight degree, extenuate, though by no means excuse, the guilt of the crime 34
84 Lichnowsky Mem. Inter. Conciliation, No. 127, pp. 325, 341, 327.
EFFORTS TO ISOLATE THE WAR
THE effort to prevent war having failed, the policy of “isolation” now offered the only hope for peace. Efforts in this direction had already been made. These had no chance of success unless Russia could be induced to stand aside and acquiesce in the punishment of Serbia, or Austria-Hungary could be persuaded to stop hostilities against Serbia and moderate her demands. Therefore, the great problem still was how to bring Austria-Hungary and Russia to an agreement.
Despite Russia's determination to stand by her protégé, there was still a possibility that the war between Austria and Serbia would not drag in the other European nations. Both Russia and the Teutonic powers seemed anxious to avoid a general war. The German chancellor said, as late as the evening of July 29, that he was still " pressing the button' as hard as he could” at Vienna.1 The French minister at St. Petersburg more than once spoke of the anxiety
1 B. W. P., 71, 97, 107.
of the Russian Government for peace. According to the British White Paper, Russia wanted a period of peace to develop her internal resources. It is true that the Russian ambassador at Vienna had declared officially (July 27) to the Austro-Hungarian Government that in case war broke out between the Dual Monarchy and Serbia “it would be impossible to localize it, for Russia was not prepared to give way again, as she had done on previous occasions." 4 The Teutonic authorities, however, seemed to think that Russia would not go to war at this time. She was having revolutionary troubles at home, and her military preparedness, it was thought, was not adequate, despite assurances to the contrary given out by the Russian Government. Britain and France had no interest in the Austro-Serbian dispute unless it grew into a Russo-Austrian quarrel.
The German Emperor felt that Russia ought not to interfere with Austria's purpose to chastise Serbia. His position was that the trouble between Serbia and Austria-Hungary was local and that the latter was justified in securing such guarantees as would force Serbia to turn her promises into deeds. Inasmuch as
2 F. Y. B., 31, 38, 54. 3 B. W. P.,
viii. 4 B. W. P., 56. 5 B. G. B. (2), 12; B. W. P., 32; F. Y. B., 96. 8 B. W. P., 48; A. R. B., 38.
Austria-Hungary had promised to annex no territory from Serbia, Russia could afford to stand aside as a disinterested spectator.
Russia, however, took an entirely different view of her obligations to Serbia. Both sentimental and political considerations urged her to protect Serbia. Public sentiment, therefore, would not allow the Government to stand aside and see the little Slavic state humiliated. The feeling in Russia was that Russians could not desert their brethren in Serbia.8 Besides, the Russian Government felt that the real cause of the trouble was Austria's desire to be supreme in the Balkan peninsula. If Russia allowed Serbia's independence to be compromised, she considered that she would lose her position in the Balkans, and the hegemony of these states would in the future belong to Austria-Hungary. Therefore, she had, as has been seen, announced in the very beginning that if France would support her, she would intervene in case Serbia were attacked.9 It seems that AustriaHungary, too, felt that her future with reference to the Balkan states was at stake, for Count Mensdorff, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador at London, told Sir Edward Grey on July 29 that “Serbia had always been consid
7 G. W. B., annex 22. 8 Ibid., annex 18. 9 F. Y. B., 103; B. W. P., 17; R. O. B., 10; G. W. B., annex 4.