After the Balkan wars, Austria grew fearful of Serbia’s growing military strength and considered attacking it before it got stronger. However, Russia had an interest in Serbia, as well as a protection agreement.
Archduke Ferdinand had met with Kaiser to ask for Germany’s full support if Austria attacked Serbia. He hoped by obtaining the Kaiser’s support it would prevent Russia from supporting Serbia. However, Wilhelm refused to offer his unconditional support and therefore the status queue of power was unchanged.
Upon hearing of the Archduke’s assassination, Wilhelm went into one of his tirades and thought Austria should settle this matter militarily and gave them a blank check regarding support.
Several of Germany’s high ranking officers were in favor of a preemptive first strike against Russia or France. If Austria attacked Serbia and Russia came to their support, Germany would have an excuse to start a war with Russia.
Austria wanted to destroy Serbia even before the assassination but now it had an excuse to do so, along with Germany’s full support. This chain of events sat well with Fritz Joseph because Ferdinand would not become Austria’s monarch, and he was given the green light from Germany to deal with Serbia.
All the ducks were in a row, the only question was how to proceed. In order for the world powers to accept Austria’s military strike on Serbia, Austria would have to do it soon in order for the world to think it was an act of passion. However, Austria could not organize their military soon enough in order for the passion plan work.
Another alternative was to prove the Serbian government had a hand in the assassination. If they were involved, it could be considered an act of war. But a thorough investigation found no evidence linking the government to the assassins.
Since other plans fell through, it was decided that the Austrian government would draw up demands that Serbia had to agree to within 48 hours to prevent a war. The demands would be so unreasonable it would be impossible for them to accept.
The problem they faced was to plan for a war without appearing to do so. To accomplish this they sent their military officers on vacation while the politicians tried to agree on the wording of the ultimatum.
The Austrian governmental process was consuming precious time offering opportunities for information to leak-out through diplomatic channels. Eventually Serbia did catch wind of Austria’s plan and met with the Russian ambassador to seek guidance and support.
Russia was not prepared to engage an enemy as powerful as Germany so they encourage Serbia to aqueous to Austrian demands in order to keep the peace. The suggestion did not set well, but there was little they could do.
In the end Serbia agreed to all the demands except they did alter some of the wording which would give them an out later. When Serbia submitted their response at the last minute, Austria thought their plan failed until they read the altered elements.
Austria rejected the Serbian counter offer and it would be just a matter of time before Austria would gather their army, as did the other major powers.
It is interesting to reflect on the events that created a horrific war which cost so dearly in human lives. It was Austria’s desire to destroy Serbia that presented the spark to ignite the flames of war. The major European powers did not want war, except for Germany’s military, yet politicians and military leaders allowed vanity to cloud rational thought as they led their countries to war.