Documents britanniques, juillet-août 1914

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Documents britanniques, juillet-août 1914

(32282) No. 50.
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 16, 1914.
D. 1:50 P.M.
R. 3:15 P.M.
Tel. (No. 85.)

From language held by Minister for Foreign Affairs to a friend of mine, who has repeated it to me, I gather that situation is regarded at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in a serious light and that a kind of indictment is being prepared against the Servian Government for alleged complicity in the conspiracy which led to assassination of the Archduke. Accusation will be founded on the proceedings in the Serajevo Court. My informant states that the Servian Government will be required to adopt certain definite measures in restraint of nationalist and anarchist propaganda, and that Austro-Hungarian Government are in no mood to parley with Servia, but will insist on immediate unconditional compliance, failing which force will be used.Germany is said to be in complete agreement with this procedure, and it is thought that the rest of Europe will sympathise with Austria-Hungary in demanding that Servia shall adopt in future more submissive attitude.

My informant states that Count Forgach entirely shares these views with his chief and that they are very generally held by all classes in this country.

I asked if Russia would be expected to stand by quietly in the event of force being used against Servia.

My informant said that he presumed that Russia would not wish to protect racial assassins, but in any case Austria-Hungary would go ahead regardless of results. She would lose her position as a Great Power if she stood any further nonsense from Servia.

This language is also held by a portion of the press, including the"Neue Freie Presse," which is now in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The official "Fremdenblatt" is more moderate.

I hope to see Minister for Foreign Affairs Friday.

(Repeated to Belgrade.)

32510) No. 54.
Lord Granville to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 18.)
(No. 351.)
Paris, July 17, 1914

I have the honour to inform you that the annual congress of French Socialists has been taking place in Paris during this week. The most important question which has been discussed is that of the attitude of Socialism in the event of a European War. The proposal put forward by Messrs. Keir Hardie and Vaillant, the French Deputy, that a declaration of war should be met by a general strikeon the part of the working classes in the countries concerned was the subject of a lengthy debate, in which a considerable difference of opinion was shown among the delegates. Several of them pointed out the difficulties attending the declaration of a general strike at a time when the country was on the verge of war. It was argued that such a course might merely play the game of the enemy country, where socialist organisation might be less strong or where the war was popular, however unjust. To be effective the General Strike would have to be declared simultaneously in both countries, and it was extremely difficult to ensure this happening. It was not to be supposed, said M. Guesde, the leader of one school of French socialists, that the German working class would declare, in company with the French, a general strike that would put their country in the hands of the Russians, France's allies. The delegates were reminded of the difficulties in the way of the success of a general strike in the face of mobilisation orders, martial law and the general excitement preceding awar. M. Hervé, the well-known anti-militarist, laid stress, in this connection, on the difficulty of distinguishing between an offensive and a defensive war.

M. Marcel Sembat, speaking in favour of the General Strike, asked what was the good of any international organisation if Socialists were going to quail before every obstacle. M. Jaurès said that though he quite recognised the objections to a general strike as being a one-sided measure which might recoil on his own country, he considered that it was the best means by which the working class could combat war, it was, at least preventive,and what the Congress should consider was how to make it as efficacious a weapon as possible.

After further discussion a Committee was appointed to draw up a formula which would be in accordance with the general opinion of the Congress.

M. Jaurés as spokesman of this Committee read the following motion:

"Entre tous les moyens employés pour prevenir empêcher la guerre et pour imposer aux Gouvernements le recours à l'arbitrage, le Congrès considère comme particulièrement efficace:

"La Grève Générale Ouvrière, simultanément et internationalement organisée dans les pays intéressés, ainsi que l'agitation et l'action puopulaires sous les formes les plus actives."

This motion was carried by 1,690 votes against 1,174,eighty-three delegates abstaining.

Before separating, the Congress passed unanimously a motion approving the Franco-German inter-parliamentary unions at Bâle and Berne, and expressing the hope that autonomy would be granted to Alsace-Lorraine, as this would greatly conduce to a reconciliation between France and Germany.

I have, &c.

(33199) No. 73.
Sir H. Rumbold to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 22.)
(No. 297 )
Berlin, July 20, 1914.

The following semi-official statement appeared in the "North German Gazette" of yesterday's date:

"In the utterances of the European press in regard to the existing tension between Austria-Hungary and Servia it is increasingly recognised that Austria Hungary's desire to clear up her relations with Servia is justified. In this connection we share the hope expressed in more than one quarter that a serious crisis will be avoided by the Servian Government giving way in time. In any event the solidarity of Europe, which made itself felt during the long Balkan crisis in maintaining peace among the great Powers, demands and requires that the discussions ("Austinandersetzungen") which may arise between Austria Hungary and Servia should remain localised."

I have, &c.


(33322) No. 77.

Sir. H. Rumbold to Sir Edward Grey
Berlin, July 22, 1914.
D. 2:20 P.M.
Tel. (No. 88.) Confidential. R. 4 P.M.

Austria-Hungary and Servia.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs spoke to me last night about forthcoming Austro-Hungarian démarche at Belgrade, which he evidently expected would have been made before now. He said that attitude of German Government was as described in semi-official statement published in "North German Gazette" of 19th July, and admitted that he had practically drafted this statement himself.(1) He insisted that question at issue between Austria and Servia was one for discussion and settlement by those two countries alone without interference from outside. That being his view, he had not considered it opportune to say anything to Austro-Hungarian Government. He added, however, that he had repeatedly impressed on Servian Minister (2) necessity of putting Servia's relations with Austria-Hungary on a proper footing. Servian Minister had said that his Government could not control Servian press, which was free to publish what it liked.

Secretary for Foreign Affairs observed, with regard to this point, that if a person would or could do nothing to put a st op to a nuisance the complainant must take remedy into his own hands. He said that, in his opinion, Austro-Hungarian Government had shown great forbearance towards Servia for a long time past.

Published in BB No. 2 (paraphrased -- parts omitted).
Cf. despatch No. 158.

I is difficult to understand the attitude of the German Government. On the face of it, it does not bear the stamp of straightforwardness. If they really are anxious to see Austria kept reasonably in check, they are in the best position to speak at Vienna. All they are doing is to inflame the passions at Belgrade and it looks very much like egging on the Austrians when they openly and persistently threaten the Servian Government through their official newspapers.

It may be presumed that the German Government do not believe that there is any real danger of war. They appear to rely on the British Government to reinforce the German and Austrian threats at Belgrade- it is clear that if the British Government did intervene in this sense, or by addressing admonitions to St. Petersburg, the much desired breach between England and Russia would be brought one step nearer realisation.

But I admit that all this is speculation. We do not know the facts. The German Government clearly do know. They know what the Austrian Government is going to demand, they are aware that those demands will raise a grave issue, and I think we may say with some assurance that they have expressed approval of those demands and promised support, should dangerous complications ensue. So much can, I think, be read in the present telegram.

Prince Lichnowsky's vague hints and apprehensions do not quite correspond to the actual situation which his Government is helping to create. -- E. A. C. July 22.

I will answer this telegram to-morrow after I have seen Count Mensdorff. (3) -- E. G. July 22, 1914.

This telegram is now not worth answering separately. -- E. G. July 24, 1914.

(3781) No. 86.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.
(No. 121.)
Foreign Office}, July 23, 1914.

Count Mensdorff told me to-day that he would be able to-morrow morning to let me have officially the communication that he understood was being made to Servia to-day by Austria. He then explained privately what the nature of the demand would be. As he told me that the facts would all be set out in the paper that he would give me to-morrow, it is unnecessary to record them now. I gathered that they would include proof of the complicity of some Servian officials in the plot to murder the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and a long list of demands consequently made by Austria on Servia.

A regards all this, I said that it was not a matter on which I would make any comment until I received an official communication, and it seemed to me probably a matter on which I should not be able to make any comment at first sight.

But, when Count Mensdorff told me that he supposed there would be something in the nature of a time-limit, which was in effect akin to an ultimatum, I said that I regretted this very much. To begin with a time-limit might inflame opinion in Russia, and it would make it difficult, if not impossible, to give more time, even if after a few days it appeared that by giving more time there would be a prospect of securing a peaceful settlement and getting a satisfactory reply from Servia. I admitted that if there was no time-limit, the proceedings might be unduly protracted, but I urged that a time-limit could always be introduced afterwards; that if the demands were made without a time-limit m the first instance, Russian public opinion might be less excited, after a week it might have cooled down, and if the Austrian case was very strong it might be apparent that the Russian Government would be in a position to use their influence in favour of a satisfactory reply from Servia. A time-limit was generally a thing to be used only in the last resort, after other means had been tried and failed.

Count Mensdorff said that if Servia, in the interval that had elapsed since the murder of the Archduke, had voluntarily instituted an enquiry on her own territory, all this might have been avoided. In 1909 Servia had said in a note that she intended to live on terms of good neighbourhood with Austria; but she had never kept her promise, she had stirred up agitation the object of which was to disintegrate Austria and it was absolutely necessary for Austria to protect herself.

I said that I would not comment upon or criticise what Count Mensdorff had told me this afternoon, but I could not help dwelling upon the awful consequences involved in the situation. Great apprehension had been expressed to me, not specially by M. Cambon and Count Benckendorff, but also by others, as to what might happen, and it had been represented to me that it would be very desirable that those who had influence in St. Petersburg should use it on behalf of patience and moderation. I had replied that the amount of influence that could be used in this sense would depend upon how reasonable were the Austrian demands and how strong the justification that Austria might have discovered for making her demands. The possible consequences of the present situation were terrible. If as many as four Great Powers of Europe -- let us say Austria, France, Russia, and Germany -- were engaged in war, it seemed to me that it must involve the expenditure of so vast a sum of money and such an interference with trade, that a war would be accompanied or followed by a complete collapse of European credit and industry. In these days, in great industrial States, this would mean a state of things worse than that of 1848, and, irrespective of who were victors in the war, many things might be completely swept away.

Count Mensdorff did not demur to this statement of the possible consequences of the present situation, but he said that all would depend upon Russia.

I made the remark that in a time of difficulties such as this, it was just as true to say that it required two to keep the peace as it was to say, ordinarily, that it took two to make a quarrel. I hoped very much that if there were difficulties, Austria and Russia would be able in the first instance to discuss them directly with each other.

Count Mensdorff said that he hoped this would be possible, but he was under the impression that the attitude in St. Petersburg had not been very favourable recently.

I am, &c

(33652) No. 91.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir M. de Bunsen.
Foreign Office, July 24, 1914.
Tel. (No. 148.) D. 1:30 P.M.

Austro-Hungarian Ambassador has communicated to me the note addressed to Servia with the explanation of the Austro-Hungarian Government upon it.(1)

I said that the murder of the Archduke and some of the circumstances stated in the Austro-Hungarian note with regard to Servia naturally aroused sympathy with Austria, but I thought it a great pity that a time-limit, and such a short time-limit, had been introduced at this stage, and the note seemed to me the most formidable document I had ever seen addressed by one State to another that was independent. Demand No. 5 might mean that the Austro-Hungarian Government were to be entitled to appoint officials who should have authority in Servian territory and this would hardly be consistent with maintenance ofindependent sovereignty of Servia.

I was not, however, making these comments in order to discuss the merits of the dispute between Austria-Hungary and Servia; that was not our concern. It was solely from the point of view of the peace of Europe that I should concern myself with the matter, and I felt great apprehension.

I must wait to hear the views of other Powers and no doubt we should consult with them to see what could be done to mitigate difficulties.

The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador observed that there had been so much procrastination on the part of Servia that a time-limit was essential. Some weeks had passed since the murder of the Archduke and Servia had made no sign of sympathy or help; if she had held out a hand after the murder the present situation might have been prevented.

I observed that a time-limit could have been introduced at any later stage if Servia had procrastinated about a reply; as it was, the Austro-Hungarian Government not only demanded a reply within forty-eight hours, but dictated the terms of the reply.

(Repeated to Paris No. 206/7 J Berlin No. 198/4; Rome No. 186/7; and St. Petersburg No. 342/3: "For information only.")

(33736) No. 100.

Communication by the German Ambassador, July 24, 1914.

The publications of the Austro-Hungarian Government concerning the circumstances under which the assassination of the Austrian heir presumptive and his consort has taken place disclose unmistakably the aims which the great Servian propaganda has set itself and the means it employs to realise them. The facts now made known must also do away with the last doubts that the centre of activity of all those tendencies which are directed towards the detachment of the southern Slav provinces from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and their incorporation into the Servian Kingdom is to be found in Belgrade, and is at work there with at least the connivance of members of Government and army.

The Servian intrigues have been going on for many years. In an especially marked form the great Servian chauvinism manifested itself during the Bosnian crisis. It was only owing to the far-reaching self-restraint and moderation of the Austro-Hungarian Government and to the energetic interference of the Great Powers that the Servian provocations to which Austria-Hungary was then exposed did not lead to a conflict. The assurance of good conduct in future which was given by the Servian Government at that time has not been kept. Under the eyes, at least with the tacit permission of official Servia, the great Servian propaganda has continuously increased in extension and intensity; to its account must be set the recent crime, the threads of which lead to Belgrade. It has become clearly evident that it would not be consistent either with the dignity or with the self-preservation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy still longer to remain inactive in face of this movement on the other side of the frontier, by which the security and the integrity of her territories are constantly menaced. Under these circumstances the course of procedure and demands of the Austro-Hungarian Government can only be regarded as equitable and moderate. In spite of that, the attitude which public opinion as well as the Government in Servia have recently adopted does not exclude the apprehension that the Servian Government might refuse to comply with those demands and might allow themselves to be carried away into a provocative attitude against Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Government, if it does not wish definitely to abandon Austria's position as a Great Power, would then have no choice but to obtain the fulfilment of their demands from the Servian Government by strong pressure and, if necessary, by using military measures, the choice of the means having to be left to them.

The Imperial Government want to emphasise their opinion that in the present case there is only question of a matter to be settled exclusively between Austria-Hungary and Servia, and that the Great Powers ought seriously to endeavour to reserve it to those two immediately concerned. The Imperial Government desire urgently the localisation of the conflict because every interference of another Power would, owing to the different treaty obligations, be followed by incalculable consequences.

German Embassy, London.

Published in BB No. 9.

For the German original see DD No. 100. The translation here printed is that of the type-written copy in English left by the German Ambassador.

Very strong support. -- G. R. C. July 25, 1914.

The answer is that owing to the extreme nature of the Austrian demands and the time limit imposed, the localisation of the conflict has been made exceedingly difficult. Because the Austrian terms bear on their face the character of a design to provoke a war. The statements made by Austria and now reasserted by Germany concerning Servia's misdeeds rest for the present on no evidence that is available for the Powers whom the Austrian Government has invited to accept those statements. Time ought to be given to allow the Powers to satisfy themselves as to the facts which they are asked to endorse. -- E. A. C. July 25.
(33673) No. 101.
Sir G. Buchanan to Sir Edward Grey.
St. Petersburg, July 24, 1914.
D. 5:40 P.M.
Tel. (No. 166.) Urgent. R. 8 P.M.

My immediately preceding telegram.(1)

Minister for Foreign Affairs telephoned to me this morning saying that he had just received text of ultimatum presented by Austria at Belgrade yesterday that demands a reply in forty-eight hours. Step thus taken by Austria meant war, and he begged me to meet him at the French Embassy.

*Minister for Foreign Affairs and French Ambassador told me confidentially that result of the visit of the President of the French Republic had been to establish the following points: --

1. Perfect community of views on the various problems with which the Powers are confronted as regards the maintenance of general peace and balance of power in Europe, more especially in the East.

2. Decision to take action at Vienna with a view to the prevention of a demand for explanation or any summons equivalent to an intervention in the internal affairs of Servia which the latter would be justified in regarding as an attack on her so vereignty and independence.

3. Solemn affirmation of obligations imposed by the alliance of the two countries.*

Minister for Foreign Affairs expressed the hope that His Majesty's Government would proclaim their solidarity with France and Russia. He characterised Austria's conduct as immoral and provocative. Some of the demands which she had presented were absolutely inacceptable, and she would never have acted as she had done without having first consulted Germany. The French Ambassador gave me to understand that France would not only give Russia strong diplomatic support, but would, if necessary, fulfil all the obligations imposed on her by the alliance.

I said that I could not speak in the name of His Majesty's Government, but that I would telegraph all that they had said. I could personally hold out no hope that His Majesty's Government would make any declaration of solidarity that would entail engagement to support France and Russia by force of arms. We had no direct interests in Servia, and public opinion in England would never sanction a war on her behalf. Minister for Foreign Affairs replied that the Servian question was but part of general European question and that we could not efface ourselves.

I said that I gathered that His Excellency wished us to join in telling Austria that we could not tolerate her active intervention in Servian internal affairs. If she paid no attention to our representations and took military action against Servia, did Russia propose to declare war upon her? Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the whole question would be considered by a Council of Ministers to be held this afternoon, but that no decision would be taken till a further Council of Ministers had been held under the presidency of the Emperor, probably to-morrow. He personally thought that Russia would at any rate have to mobilise.

I suggested that the first thing to be done was to try to gain time by bringing our influence to bear to induce Austria to ex tend term of delay accorded to Servia. The French Ambassador replied that time did not permit of this; either Austria was bluffing or had made up her mind to act at once. In either case a firm and united attitude was our only chance of averting war. I then asked whether it would not be advisable to urge Servian Government to state precisely how far they were prepared to go to meet Austria's wishes. Minister for Foreign Affairs said that some of the demands contained in ultimatum might no doubt be accepted, but that he must first consult his colleagues.

As they both continued to press me to declare our complete solidarity with them, I said that I thought you might be prepared to represent strongly at Vienna and Berlin danger to European peace of an Austrian attack on Serbia. You might perhaps point out that it would in all probability force Russia to intervene, that this would bring Germany and (?France) into the field, and that if war became general, it would be difficult for England to remain neutral. Minister for Foreign Affairs said that he hoped that we would in any case express strong reprobation of Austria's action. If war did break out, we would sooner or later be dragged into it, but if we did not make common cause with France and Russia from the outset we should have rendered war more likely, and should not have played a "beau ro1e."

From French Ambassador's language it almost looked as if France and Russia were determined to make a strong stand even if we declined to join them. Language of Minister for Foreign Affairs, however, was not so (?decided) on this subject.

Austrian Government seemed purposely to have presented their ultimatum at moment when President of the French Republic and President of the Council were leaving Russia on their return to France, where they cannot arrive for four or five days.

Towards the close of our interview we were joined by Roumanian Minister, with whom Minister for Foreign Affairs had a private conversation in which is Excellency invited also Roumanian Government to make representations at Vienna.

(Repeated to Paris, 1:20 P.M., No. 217.)

(1) No. 84

Published in BB No. 6 (paraphrased and parts omitted).


The moment has passed when it might have been possible to enlist French support in an effort to hold back Russia.

It is clear that France and Russia are decided to accept the challenge thrown out to them. Whatever we may think of the merits of the Austrian charges against Servia, France and Russia consider that these are the pretexts, and that the bigger cause of Triple Alliance versus Triple Entente is definitely engaged.

I think it would be impolitic, not to say dangerous, for England to attempt to controvert this opinion, or to endeavour to obscure the plain issue, by any representation at St. Petersburg and Paris.

The point that matters is whether Germany is or is not absolutely determined to have this war now.

There is still the chance that she can be made to hesitate, if she can be induced to apprehend that the war will find England by the side of France and Russia.

I can suggest only one effective way of bringing this home to the German Government without absolutely committing us definitely at this stage. If, the moment either Austria or Russia begin to mobilise, His Majesty's Government give orders to put our whole fleet on an immediate war footing, this may conceivably make Germany realise the seriousness of the danger to which she would be exposed if England took part in the war.

It would be right, supposing this decision could be taken now, to inform the French and Russian Governments of it, and this again would be the best thing we could do to prevent a very grave situation arising as between England and Russia.

It is difficult not to agree with Sazonof that sooner or later England will be dragged into the war if it does come. We shall gain nothing by not making up our minds what we can do in circumstances that may arise to-morrow.

Should the war come, and England stand aside, one of two things must happen: --

(a.) Either Germany and Austria win, crush France, and humiliate Russia. With the French fleet gone, Germany in occupation of the Channel, with the willing or unwilling cooperation of Holland and Belgium, what will be the position of a friendless England?

(b.) Or France and Russia win. What would then be their attitude towards England? What about India and the Mediterranean?

Our interests are tied up with those of France and Russia in this struggle, which is not for the possession of Servia, but one between Germany aiming at a political dictatorship in Europe and the Powers who desire to retain individual free dom. If we can help to avoid the conflict by showing our naval strength, ready to be instantly used, it would be wrong not to make the effort.

Whatever therefore our ultimate decision, I consider we should decide now to mobilise the fleet as soon as any other Great Power mobilises, and that we should announce this decision without delay to the French and Russian Governments. -- E. A. C. July 25.

The points raised by Sir Eyre Crowe merit serious consideration, and doubtless the Cabinet will review the situation. Our attitude during the crisis will be regarded by Russia as a test and we must be most careful not to alienate her. -- A. N.

Mr. Churchill told me to-day that the fleet can be mobilised in twenty-four hours, but I think it is premature to make any statement to France and Russia yet. -- E. G.

* [NOTE. -- In the Blue Book this passage was omitted (see Introduction, p. vii. By an oversight, however, a reference to it was left in the table of contents. The attention of the Office having been drawn to this fact by a German scholar in the spring of 1924, the text of the missing passage was communicated to him with the permission of the Secretary of State. The passage has therefore since then been published in Germany.]

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