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CHAPTER XII

ITALY ENTERS THE WAR

For more than a decade preceding the war, the ties holding Italy to the Triple Alliance had been weakening. The feeling of coolness between Italy and her allies was increased by the former's support of France against Germany in the Algeciras Conference of 1906. The Turco-Italian War of 1911-12, by which Italy gained Tripoli and Cyenaica, also loosened to some extent the bond that held her to the Triple Alliance. The effect of this war was to weaken Turkey at a time when it was Germany's policy to strengthen her. It is true that the Teutonic Governments did not protest against Italy's action except that Austria-Hungary declared that she would regard an Italian attack on European Turkey as a violation of Article VII of the Treaty of the Triple Alliance; 1 but the attitude of the press showed that the course of Italy met with disapproval in both Teutonic countries. Besides, Italy's imperialistic aspirations were encouraged by the success of this 1 1. G. B., 6.

war, and these aspirations crossed the line of Austrian ambition in the Balkans. A more cordial feeling had also grown up between Italy and France, which had found expression in political and economic understandings at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

During the negotiations preceding the outbreak of August, 1914, Italy showed herself anxious for the maintenance of peace, and readily supported the proposals made to that end. When her partners in the Triple Alliance went to war with the other powers, she remained neutral, contending that her obligations by the terms of the alliance bound her to act not in an aggressive but only in a defensive war. In her opinion, this was not only an aggressive war, but the steps leading to it had been taken without her advice or knowledge; for she had been kept in the dark as to the demands that would be made by Austria on Serbia until just before the ultimatum reached Belgrade.?

Not only did Italy excuse herself for not having aided her allies, but she went further and charged that Austria-Hungary by invading Serbia without her previous consent had violated Article VII of the Treaty of Alliance. As early as July 25, 1914, her ambassador at Vienna, acting on instructions from the foreign

2 F. Y. B., 26, 51; B. W. P., 152; R. O. B. (2), 4, 17, 22.

office, declared to the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister that Italy would have a claim to compensation under the terms of Article VII if Austria should occupy Serbian territory. A few days later the Government raised the question both at Vienna and Berlin as to whether the Italian-speaking provinces of the AustroHungarian Empire would be ceded to Italy, and threatened to withdraw from the Triple Alliance “if adequate compensation were not obtained."'3

8 I. G. B., 3; A. R. B. (2), 9. See also speech of Premier Antonio Salandra, made June 2, 1915.

The following articles of the Treaty of Triple Alliance show whether Italy was obligated under the terms of the treaty to come to the aid of Austria-Hungary and whether AustriaHungary owed Italy compensation because of the former's invasion of Serbia.

Article III. If one or two of the high contracting parties should be attacked without direct provocation on their part, and be engaged in war with two or several Great Powers not signatory to this Treaty, the casus fæderis shall apply simultaneously to all the high contracting parties.

Article IV. In the event that a Great Power not signatory to this Treaty should menace the safety of the states of one of the high contracting parties, and that the menaced party should be forced to make war on that Power, the two others bind themselves to observe toward their ally a benevolent neutrality. Each one of them in that case reserves to herself the right to participate in the war, if she should consider it appropriate to make common cause with her ally.

Article VII. Austria-Hungary and Italy, being desirous solely that the territorial status quo in the near East be maintained as much as possible, pledge themselves to exert their influence to prevent all territorial modification which may prove detrimental to one or the other of the Powers signatory to this treaty. To that end they shall communicate to one another all such information as may be suitable for their mutual enlightenment, concerning their own dispositions as well as those of other Powers. Should, however, the status quo in the regions of the Balkans, or of the Turkish coasts and

Count Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, had expected that the Italian Government would demand compensation, and as early as July 20 he advised the Austro-Hungarian ambassador at Rome as to his interpretation of Article VII. According to his view, the phrase, “in the regions of the Balkans,” referred only to Turkish possessions, and, therefore, a military occupation of Serbian territory would not give Italy a right to compensation. Italy's interpretation, however, was upheld by Germany, and by July 31 Count Berchtold was willing to accept Italy's interpretation of Article VII, provided the latter power would observe a friendly attitude toward the pending operations of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia” and would “carry out her duties as an ally in case the present conflict should lead to a general conflagration.” The Italian Government took the position that the interpretation of the treaty was not subject to conditions and declined to pledge its neutrality on such terms.4 islands in the Adriatic and Ægean seas in the course of events become impossible; and should Austria-Hungary or Italy be placed under the necessity, either by the action of a third Power or otherwise, to modify that status quo by a temporary or permanent occupation on their part, such occupation shall take place only after a previous agreement has been made between the two Powers, based on the principle of reciprocal compensation for all advantages, territorial or otherwise, which either of them may obtain beyond the present status quo, a compensation which shall satisfy the legitimate interests and aspirations of both parties. S., 335-6, 346.

4 A. R. B. (2), 2, enclosure; 15, 16, 25, 26.

Later (August 22), the German foreign office advised Austria-Hungary to accept unreservedly Italy's interpretation of Article VII. Three days later the Austrian and German ambassadors at Rome announced for their Governments an unqualified acceptance of the Italian interpretation of the phrase “in the regions of the Balkans." Count Berchtold also said that this declaration implied a willingness on his part “to enter into negotiations with Italy concerning compensation in the case of a temporary or permanent occupation of territory in the Balkans by [Austria-Hungary]."'5

Discussions relative to this point seem to have fallen into abeyance for a few months but were renewed in December, when, according to the claim of Baron Sonnino, Italian foreign minister, a new situation had been created by the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia without a previous agreement with Italy. A serious effort was now begun to induce the Teutonic powers to compensate Italy for the disturbance of the equilibrium in the Balkans occasioned by the Austrian invasion of Serbia. The Government took the position that “it could never allow the integrity and political and economical independence of Serbia to be jeopardized, as this was contrary to our [its] interests as well as to the disposition of the treaty."

5 A. R. B. (2), 42, 44, 45.
6 I. G. B., 3, 6; A. R. B. (2), 74, 75.

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