I would enjoy hearing your views regarding the causes of this horrible war.
July - August 1914
The assassination of the Archduke offered Austria an opportunity to destroy its old foe Serbia. However, Russia and Serbia shared a common culture and political ties whereby Russia would come to Serbia’s defense, which prevented Austria from acting. The murder of Franz Ferdinand also afforded Austria the Kaiser’s full support in if they decided to attack Serbia. Although the European countries did not want a war, there were those in Germany that had planned for war and waited for the right time to initiate it. By mid August time and opportunity for war was ripe.
By the first week in July Serbia had identified all the conspirators involved in the assassination. The assassins were not Serbs but subjects of Austro-Hungarian Bosnia who lived in Serbia and therefore in order Austria to justify armed conflict, they had to establish a link between the Serbian government and the assassins.
If evidence could be found connecting Serbia with the assassination, Austria might have been able to convince Russia of Serbia’s guilt. If Russia sided with Austria, there would not have been a World War.
On July 6th the Kaiser gave the Austrians his commitment to support them in dealing with Serbia. By giving Austria his support, he placed the future of Europe into Austrian hands, but they had to act quickly in order to prevent Russia, France or England from getting involved.
First Austria had to convince Europe that Serbia was the one who provoked Austria into taking action. Austria’s response had to be carried out quickly in order to prevent Russia, France or England the time to get involved.
It is standard knowledge that assumptions are risky, but in July of 1914 the Kaiser and his staff made several assumptions, which would come back to haunt them. Their first assumption was Russia was not prepared to fight a war, so they believed that Russia would not stand by Serbia. They also assumed that France was not ready to fight a war and they would calm Russia. Believing his assumption were accurate, the Kaiser felt his support of Austria would not become necessary, if Austria took immediate action before the European powers caught wind of Germany’s involvement.
Both the Austrian and Hungary Premiers and their ministers formed a cabinet to deliberate over what action to take. The Hungarian Premier was that if they attacked Serbia, as suggested by Germany, there was a risk of all out war. He suggested that they draw-up an ultimatum containing a list of demands so outrageous that Serbia could not agree to them.
The ultimatum was thought to be a ‘win, win’ position for Austria because if Serbia did not agree, the European powers would believe Austria would be justified in punishing Serbia. But, if Serbia agreed to the demands, war would be circumvented.
There were two problems with this alternative plan, it would take a week before it could be acted upon, and it would forewarn countries of a possible war.
By July 14th the ultimatum had not yet reached its final form, and the final document would not be ready until July 19th.
By now time had run out, rumors of a hidden agreement between Austria and Germany were circulating. Franz Joseph read and approved the final draft; then had it delivered to Austrian’s envoy in Belgrade. The envoy would deliver it to the Serbian government on a prearranged date and they would have forty-eight-hours, July 25th, to agree to the terms. However, the ultimatum did not spell out what would happen if they did not agree to the demands.
If Germany’s assumptions were incorrect, then there would be a possible war. The only way out would be if Austria failed to act on its ultimatum or Serbia accepts all of the demands.
Russia applied pressure on Serbia to accept Austria’s demands and place its faith in European justice. Yet, Russia had made several compromises to Germany in the past in order to keep peace, and the compromises only produced more concessions. Therefore the Russian government decided to try a firm approach when dealing with Germany. They decided to order a partial mobilization of their army to give Germany the impression they would stand firm.
France secretly initiated their first steps in preparation of war by recalling its generals and bringing their troops home from Morocco.
With all of the political maneuverings between countries in hopes of evading a war, there was someone in favor of war, Germany’s Chief of Staff von Moltke. He had developed a secret war strategy that even ranking officials, including the Kaiser, were not aware of. It included a preemptive attack against both Russia and France, a two front war. In order to accomplish his plan he would need the full support of the German people. Russia’s partial mobilization would afford him the opportunity he was looking for.
Moltke’s plan mirrored that of Schlieffen’s 1906 plan; gather a large army and invade France through Belgium. A main element in Moltke’s plan involved Austria aligning its army along the Russian front; to act as a shield to protect Germany when war broke out.
Germany kept pressuring Austria to attack Serbia as soon as possible but their army would not be ready until mid August. But an unexpected event would happen which would initiate a war the European powers, including Germany, did not want, but could not stop.