Documents britanniques, juillet-août 1914

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Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 25, 1914.
D. 12-5 P.M.
R. 1:45 P.M.
Tel. (No. 101.)

Language of press this morning leaves the impression that the surrender of Servia is neither expected nor really desired. It is officially announced that the Austrian Minister is instructed to leave Belgrade with staff of legation failing unconditional acceptance of note at 6 P.M. to-day.

Minister for Foreign Affairs goes to Ischl to-day to communicate personally to the Emperor Servian reply when it comes.

Sir Edward Grey to Sir G. Buchanan.
Foreign Office, July 25, 1914.
Tel. (No. 353.
D. 2 :15 P.M.

Your telegram No. 166 of 24th July (1): Austria and Servia.

You spoke quite rightly in very difficult circumstances as to attitude of His Majesty's Government. I entirely approve, and I cannot promise more on behalf of His Majesty's Government.

I do not consider that public opinion here would or ought to sanction our going to war in the Servian quarrel.

But if war does take place we may be drawn into it by development of other issues, and I am therefore anxious to prevent war.

The brusque, sudden, and peremptory character of the Austrian d‚marche makes it almost inevitable that in very short time Austria and Russia will both have mobilised against each other. In this event, it seems to me that the only chance of peace is for the other four Powers to join in asking Austria and Russia not to cross frontier, and to give time for the four Powers acting at Vienna and St. Petersburg to endeavour to arrange matters.

If Germany will adopt this view, I am strongly of opinion that France and ourselves should act upon it.(2) Italy no doubt would gladly co- operate.

But the co-operation of Germany would be essential. No diplomatic intervention or mediation would be tolerated by either Russia or Austria unless it was clearly impartial and included friends or allies of both.

(Repeated to Paris No. 218/19: "You should inform M.F.A.")

(34245) No. 176.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.
Foreign Office, July 27, 1914.
Tel. (No. 208.)
D. 3 P.M.

German Ambassador has informed me that German Government accept in principle mediation between Austria and Russia by the four Powers, reserving, of course, their right as an ally to help Austria if attacked. He has also been instructed to request me to use influence in St. Petersburg to localise the war and to keep up the peace of Europe.

I have replied that the Servian reply went further than could have been expected to meet the Austrian demands. German Minister for Foreign Affairs has himself said that there were some things in the Austrian note that Servia could hardly be expected to accept. I assumed that Servian reply could not have gone as far as it did unless Russia had exercised conciliatory influence at Belgrade, and it was really at Vienna that moderating influence was now required. If Austria put the Servian reply aside as being worth nothing and marched into Servia, it meant that she was determined to crush Servia at all costs, being reckless of the consequences that might be involved. Servian reply should at least be treated as a basis for discussion and pause. I said German Government should urge this at Vienna.

I recalled what German Government had said as to the gravity of the situation if the war could not be localised, and observed that if Germany assisted Austria against Russia it would be because, without any reference to the merits of the dispute, Germany could not afford to see Austria crushed. Just so other issues might be raised that would supersede the dispute between Austria and Servia, and would bring other Powers in, and the war would be the biggest ever known; but as long as Germany would work to keep the peace I would keep closely in touch. I repeated that after the Servian reply it was at Vienna that some moderation must be urged.

(Repeated to Paris No. 241/2; Vienna No. 165/6; Rome No. 202/3; and St. Petersburg No. 375/6: "You should inform M.F.A."

(34227) No. 183
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
Paris, July 27, 1914.
D. 2:45 P.M.
R. 4:45 P.M.
Tel. (No. 88.)

Your telegrams Nos. 232 and 234 of yesterday :(1) Austria and Servia.

French Government accept your proposal and have sent instructions accordingly to French Ambassador in London, who returns there this evening. French Ambassador in Berlin instructed to concert with British Ambassador as to advisability of joining him in speaking to the German Government. French representatives at Vienna, St. Petersburg and Belgrade have also received necessary instructions, but Ministry for Foreign Affairs thinks that it would be dangerous for Entente Ambassadors to speak at Vienna until it is known that Germans have done so with some success.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs gathers from German Ambassador that Austrians are particularly suspicious of words "intervention," "mediation" and "conference" and suggests therefore that care should be taken to speak of conversations, moderating advice, &c.

(Repeated to Embassies and Nish.)

(34231) No. 185.
Sir E. Goschen to Sir Edward Grey.
Berlin, July 27, 1914.
D. 6:17 P.M.
R. 9 P.M.
Tel. (No. 96.)

Your telegram No. 232 of 26th July to Paris.(1)

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says that conference you suggest would practically amount to a court of arbitration and could not, in his opinion, be called together except at the request of Austria and Russia. He could not therefore, desirous though he was to co-operate for the maintenance of peace, fall in with your suggestion. I said I was sure that your idea had nothing to do with arbitration, but meant that representatives of the four nations not directly interested should discuss and suggest means for avoiding a dangerous situation. He maintained, however, that such a conference as you proposed was not practicable. He added that news he had just received from St. Petersburg showed that there was an intention on the part of M. Sazonof to exchange views with Count Berchtold. He thought that this method of procedure might lead to a satisfactory result, and that it would be best, before doing anything else, to await outcome of the exchange of views between the Austrian and Russian Governments.

In the course of a short conversation Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that as yet Austria was only partially mobilising, but that if Russia mobilised against Germany latter would have to follow suit. I asked him what he meant by "mobilising against Germany." He said that if Russia only mobilised in south Germany would not mobilise, but if she mobilised in north Germany would have to do so too, and Russian system of mobilisation was so complicated that it might be difficult exactly to locate her mobilisation. Germany would therefore have to be very careful not to be taken by surprise.

Finally, Secretary of State said that news from St. Petersburg had caused him to take more hopeful view of the general situation.

(Repeated to Embassies and Nish.)


So far as we know, the German Government has up to now said not a single word at Vienna in the direction of restraint or moderation. If a word had been said, we may be certain that the German Government would claim credit for having spoken at all. The inference is not reassuring as to Germany's goodwill.

At the same time the rapid succession of fresh proposals and suggestions coming from St. Petersburg made it easier for Germany to find fresh excuses for her inactivity. E. A. C. July 28.

No. 192.
Sir F. Bertie to Sir Edward Grey.
British Embassy, Paris, July 27, 1914.

My dear Grey.

I am sure that the French Government do not want to fight and they should be encouraged to put pressure on the Russian Government not to assume the absurd and obsolete attitude of Russia being the protectress of all Slav States whatever their conduct, for this will lead to war.

I do not believe that the German Emperor and Government were accessories before the fact to the terms of the Austrian note. If they had been the Emperor would not have been away yachting.

The demonstrations in the streets here are nothing compared with those at Berlin where the attitude of the populace is not reassuring.

Iswolsky is expected back here to-day or to-morrow and he is not an element of peace.

If you get together meetings between yourself and the French; German and Italian Ambassadors call them consultations for the Austrians would resent a sort of repetition of the London reunions which ended in being dubbed the London Conference. They would consider that they were being treated as a Balkan Minor State.

The Quai d'Orsay represented by M. Berthelot is not sufficiently coulant with the German Ambassador. It might well have consented to announce in the Press as suggested by him that his d‚marches had been very friendly and that some mention should be made of solidarité.

Yours sincerely,

(34465) No. 230.
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 28, 1914.
D. 4:10 P.M.
Tel. (No. 115.)
R. 9 40 P.M.

As directed by your circular telegram No. 242 of 27th July (1) to Paris, I spoke to Minister for Foreign Affairs to-day in the sense of your telegram No. 208 of 27th July to Berlin.(1) I avoided the word "mediation," but said that, as mentioned in your speech, which he had just read to me, you had hopes that conversations in London between the four Powers less interested might yet lead to an arrangement which Austro-Hungarian Government would accept as satisfactory and as rendering actual hostilities unnecessary. I added that you had regarded Servian reply as having gone far to meet just demands of Austria-Hungary; that you thought it constituted a fair base of discussion during which warlike operations might remain in abeyance, and that Austrian (sic) Ambassador at Berlin was speaking in this sense. Minister for Foreign Affairs said quietly, but firmly, that no discussion could be accepted on basis of Servian note; that war would be declared to-day, and that well-known pacific character of Emperor, as well as, he might add, his own, might be accepted as a guarantee that war was both just and inevitable. This was a matter that must be settled directly between the two parties immediately concerned. I said that you would hear with regret that hostilities could not now be arrested, as you feared that they might lead to complications threatening the peace of Europe.

In taking leave of his Excellency, I begged him to believe that if in the course of present grave crisis our point of view should sometimes differ from his, this would arise, not from want of sympathy with the many just complaints which Austria-Hungary had against Servia, but from the fact that whereas Austria-Hungary put first her quarrel with Servia, you were anxious in the first instance for peace of Europe. I trusted this larger aspect of the question would appeal with equal force to his Excellency. He said he had it also in mind, but thought that Russia ought not to oppose operations like those impending, which did not aim at territorial aggrandisement and which could no longer be postponed.

(Repeated to Embassies.)

No. 239.
Sir Arthur Nicolson to Sir G. Buchanan.
Foreign Office, July 28, 1914.

My dear Buchanan,

I am much obliged to you for your letter received by the last Messenger, which was written before the crisis had assumed such a very acute stage. I hope that we have kept you fully informed by repeating to you the telegrams which we have received and sent, so it is unnecessary for me to go into details. What has puzzled me a little have been the fresh proposals which Sazonof makes almost daily.(1) One day he said that if Servia would agree, Russia would be ready to stand aside and leave the question in the hands of ourselves, France, Germany and Italy. On receipt of your telegram mentioning this we put forward the suggestion that a small conference of the four Powers should be held here, and that the other Powers should engage to abstain from active military operations pending the results of this conference. However, Germany declined to entertain the idea, so the matter has fallen through. Then came next day the proposal which Sazonof had made to your Austrian colleague that Italy and ourselves should collaborate with Austria in finding an issue. We had not time to digest this new idea when another telegram arrived saying that he was going to open up conversations direct with Vienna. I must say that this seems the best procedure, but I do not know whether Austria will be ready to fall in with it. The great hope that we have of course is that Austria will abstain from actually entering Servian territory, as I rather gather from what you tell us and from what we hear from others that an actual invasion of Servia by Austria could not possibly be regarded with indifference by Russia. Of course in that case all hope of a peaceful solution will vanish.

I can quite understand Russia not being able to permit Austria to crush Servia. I think the talk about localising the war merely means that all the Powers are to hold the ring while Austria quietly strangles Servia. This to my mind is quite preposterous, not to say iniquitous. I do not understand after the very satisfactory way in which Servia has met the Austrian requests how Austria can with any justification proceed to hostile measures against her. If she deliberately provokes war with Servia with the intention of giving her what she calls a lesson, she is, I ,think, acting most wrongly, for she must know very well that such action on her part would in all probability lead to a general European conflagration, with all its untold disastrous consequences. Germany has not played a very straight game at least so far as we are concerned in all this business. On two occasions we asked her to use moderating language at Vienna and we promised to support her if she did so. She contented herself with simply passing on our proposal as our proposal, which of course was not what we desired or requested, and again she brushed on one side the idea of a small conference here a being an impractical suggestion. Then Lichnowsky says that he is so pleased that Anglo-German co- operation seems likely to be successful. His interpretation of the word "co-operation" must be totally different from that which is usually accepted.

It is no use indulging in surmises as to how much Germany knew of Austria's move before it was actually made. I know for the past two or three weeks the German Ambassador here has been exceedingly anxious and perturbed, and on more than one occasion has said to some of his colleagues that if they knew all that he did they would be equally disquieted. Moreover I cannot believe that Austria would have gone so far as she has done without having informed Germany, her ally, of her proposed procedure, and secured her promise of co-operation.

What has preoccupied, and I confess has troubled, me very much, is satisfying Russia's very natural request as to what we should do in certain eventualities. I foresaw as well as you did that this crisis might be taken by Russia as a test of our friendship, and that were we to disappoint her all hope of a friendly and permanent understanding with her would disappear. We, of course, living under such conditions as we do here, when no Government practically can take any decided line without feeling that public opinion amply supports them, are unable to give any decided engagements as to what we should or should not do in any future emergencies; but I think; we have made it perfectly clear that in any case neither Germany nor Austria could possibly rely with any certainty upon our remaining neutral, and I think this fact has been much impressed upon them by one or two incidents which have occurred within the last two or three days. The decision to keep our battle fleet together instead of allowing it to disperse in order to give leave to its crews was officially notified and given prominence in the papers, and has been immediately taken as a sign by Germany and others that we are prepared to take our share in hostilities if circumstances arose to make it necessary for us to do so. Moreover you will see that the tone of our press, after the first shock which was occasioned by the Austrian ultimatum, has come round to the fact that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to stand outside a general European conflagration. There is no doubt whatsoever that were we drawn into this conflagration we should be on the side of our friends. Although therefore we were unable to give Sazonof a definite undertaking as to what our attitude would be, I think you will see that there is very little doubt, supposing we were called upon to take a share, that we should not hesitate to do our duty.

You have certainly handled a most difficult situation in your usual skilful and tactful manner, and you can be quite sure that your action and language have been thoroughly appreciated and approved here. I am sorry that I cannot write further to-day, but you will understand that one is quite overwhelmed with work at this moment.

(34466) No. 250.
Sir M. de Bunsen to Sir Edward Grey.
Vienna, July 28, 1914.
Tel. (No. 116.)
R. July 29.

I have received note verbale from Ministry for Foreign Affairs, stating that the Servian Government, not having replied to note of 23rd July in a satisfactory manner, Imperial and Royal Government is compelled itself to provide for protection of its rights and to have recourse for that object to force of arms. Austria-Hungary has addressed to Servia formal declaration according to article 1 of convention of 18th October, 1907, relative to opening of hostilities and considers herself from to-day in state of war with Servia. Austria-Hungary will conform, provided Servia does so, to stipulations of Hague Conventions of 18th October, 1907, and to Declaration of London of 26th February, 1909.

Published in BB No. 73.
Confirmed by despatch, see BB No. 50.


I think we should not, in present circumstances, issue the otherwise usual declaration of neutrality. . A . C . July 29.

I agree, better wait as to neutrality declaration. A. N.

(34699) No. 263.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.
Foreign Office, July 29, 1914.
Tel. (No. 226.)
D. 4:45 P.M.

The German Ambassador has been instructed by the German Chancellor to inform me that he is endeavouring to mediate between Vienna and St. Petersburg, and he hopes with good success. Austria and Russia seem to be in constant touch and he is endeavouring to make Vienna explain in a satisfactory form at St. Petersburg the scope and extension of Austrian proceedings in Servia. I told the German Ambassador that an agreement arrived at direct between Austria and Russia would be the best possible solution. I would press no proposal as long as there was a prospect of that, but my information this morning was that the Austrian Government have declined the suggestion of the Russian Government that the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg should be authorised to discuss directly with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs the means of settling the Austro-Servian conflict. The press correspondent at St. Petersburg had been told that Russian Government would mobilise. The German Government had said that they were favourable in principle to mediation between Russia and Austria if necessary. They seemed to think the particular method of conference, consultation or discussion, or even conversations à quatre in London too formal a method. I urged that the German Government should suggest any method by which the influence of the four Powers could be used together to prevent war between Austria and Russia. France agreed, Italy agreed. The whole idea of mediation or mediating influence was ready to be put into operation by any method that Germany could suggest if mine was not acceptable. In fact, mediation was ready to come into operation by any method that Germany thought possible if only Germany would "press the button" in the interests of peace.

(Repeated to Paris No. 263/4, St. Petersburg No. 402/3: "You should inform M.F.A"; also to Vienna No. 183/4, Rome No. 222/3: "For information only.")

35000) No. 283.
Sir Edward Grey to Sir F. Bertie.
(No. 509.)
Foreign Office, July 29, 1914.

After telling M. Cambon to-day how grave the situation seemed to be, I told him that I meant to tell the German Ambassador to-day that he must not be misled by the friendly tone of our conversations into any sense of false security that we should stand aside if all the efforts to preserve the peace, which we were now making in common with Germany, failed.(1) But I went on to say to M. Cambon that I thought it necessary to tell him also that public opinion here approached the present difficulty from a quite different point of view from that taken during the difficulty as to Morocco a few years ago. In the case of Morocco the dispute was one in which France was primarily interested and in which it appeared that Germany, in an attempt to crush France, was fastening a quarrel on France on a question that was the subject of a special agreement between France and us. In the present case the dispute between Austria and Servia was not one in which we felt called to take a hand. Even if the question became one between Austria and Russia we should not feel called upon to take a hand in it. It would then be a question of the supremacy of Teuton or Slav a struggle for supremacy in the Balkans; and our idea had always been to avoid being drawn into a war over a Balkan question. If Germany became involved and France became involved, we had not made up our minds what we should do; it was a case that we should have to consider. France would then have been drawn into a quarrel which was not hers, but in which, owing to her alliance, her honour and interest obliged her to engage. We were free from engagements, and we should have to decide what British interests required us to do. I thought it necessary to say that, because, as he knew, we were taking all precautions with regard to our fleet, and I was about to warn Prince Lichnowsky not to count on our standing aside, but it would not be fair that I should let M. Cambon be misled into supposing that this meant that we had decided what to do in a contingency that I still hoped might not arise.

M. Cambon said that I had explained the situation very clearly. He understood it to be that in a Balkan quarrel and in a struggle for supremacy between Teuton and Slav, we should not feel called to intervene; should other issues be raised, and Germany and France become involved so that the question became one of the hegemony of Europe, we should then decide what it was necessary for us to do. He seemed quite prepared for this announcement and made no criticism upon it.

He said French opinion was calm, but decided. He anticipated a demand from Germany that France would be neutral while Germany attacked Russia. This assurance France, of course, could not give; she was bound to help Russia if Russia was attacked.

I am, &c.

(36819) No. 294.
Viviani à M. Paul Cambon. (Communicated by French Embassy.) (No date.)
Paris, le 30 juillet, 1914.

L'Ambassadeur de Russie me fait savoir cette nuit que l'Ambassadeur d'Allemagne a notifié à M. Sazonof la décision de son Gouvernement de mobiliser ses forces arm‚es si la Russie ne cesse pas ses préparatifs militaires. Le Ministre des Affaires Étrangères du Gouvernement du Tsar fait remarquer que ces préparatifs n'ont été commencés quà la suite de la mobilisation par l'Autriche de huit corps d'armée et du refus de cette Puissance de régler pacifiquement son différend avec la Serbie. M. Sazonof déclare que, dans ces conditions, la Russie ne peut que hâter ses armements et envisager l'imminence de la guerre, qu'elle compte sur le secours d'une alliée, la France et qu'elle considère comme désirable que l'Angleterre se joigne sans perte de temps à la Russie et à la France. Comme je vous l'ai indiqué dans mon télégramme du 27 de ce mois, le Gouvernement de la République est décidé a ne négliger aucun effort en vue d'une solution du conflit et à seconder l'action du Gouvernement impérial dans l'intérêt de la paix générale. La France est d'autre part résolue à remplir toutes ses obligations d'alliance.

Mais dans l'intér&eacirc;t même de la paix générale et étant donné qu'une conversation est engagée entre les Puissances moins intéressées je crois qu'il serait opportun que, dans les mesures de précaution et de défense auxquelles la Russie croit devoir procéder elle ne prenne immédiatement aucune disposition qui offrît à l'Allemagne un prétexte pour une mobilisation totale ou partiale de ses forces.

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