How Russia Decides to Go Nuclear
Deciphering the Way Moscow Handles Its Ultimate Weapon
ISVOLSKY AND THE WORLD WAR. BY FREIDRICH STIEVE. New York: Knopf, 1926.
AU SERVICE DE LA FRANCE. BY RAYMOND POINCARÉ. Paris: Plon-Nourrit et Cie, 1926. Vols. I--III.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, 1892-1916. BY VISCOUNT GREY of Fallodon, K.G. New York: Stokes, 1925. 2 vols.
THE INTERNATIONAL ANARCHY, 1904-1914. BY G. LOWES DICKINSON. New York: Century Co., 1926.
THE SERAJEVO CRIME. BY M. EDITH DURHAM. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1925.
SARAJEVO. BY R. W. SETON-WATSON. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1926.
THE GENESIS OF THE WORLD WAR. BY HARRY ELMER BARNES. New York: Knopf, 1926.
M. POINCARÉ and Dr. Marx have discussed in recent articles the responsibility for the war.[i] From them it might be concluded that the matter, so far from being "une chose jugée" (as Mr. Lloyd George informed the Germans in 1921), was more of a question than ever. Such indeed is the case. For whereas at Versailles in May, 1919, the Germans were willing to admit a partial responsibility, the thesis of their more recent writings is that they were not at all responsible.
The present German tactics are to divert attention as far as possible from the policy of their own and the Austro-Hungarian Governments and concentrate upon the activities of their enemies, making use principally of the documents published by the Bolshevists. A good example of this is Friedrich Stieve's "Isvolsky and the World War." By extensive quotations from the secret correspondence of A. P. Isvolsky, he seeks to prove the now familiar charge that the former Russian Ambassador in Paris and M. Raymond Poincaré engineered the war in order to get Constantinople for Russia and recover Alsace-Lorraine for France. The book is extremely well written; to the uninitiated it will carry conviction, and Professor Barnes swallows it whole. There is reason for thinking that M. Isvolsky was a dangerous intriguer who probably did say, "C'est ma guerre," when the crash came; but in all his correspondence there is not one document, save a telegram of very doubtful authenticity, in which he speaks of war as meditated or desirable or quotes M. Poincaré on Alsace-Lorraine. Throughout, Herr Stieve carefully ignores any French documents -- and there are many -- which would invalidate his argument. His remark that "the introduction of three years' service [in France] gave the Franco-Russian military forces an enormous numerical preponderance over the united German and Austrian forces" (p. 139) is entirely misleading. The effect of that measure was simply to increase the number of men in the standing army, for all men of military age were conscripted in France (as was not the case in Germany or Russia), and the strength of the French army when mobilized was not affected. In general, the method of the book is to insinuate and suggest that because France and Russia were preparing for war they were intending to provoke it. No one who has read the documents will dogmatically assert that Russia had no such intentions, but on Herr Stieve's own showing, Russian policy down to 1914 was not provocative of the Central Powers; it was, in fact, so conciliatory that in 1914 Russia was not expected to offer serious resistance to Austrian action.
Suspicions that M. Poincaré had worked for war were first voiced in France in 1920, but ventilated as they were by socialists they were little heeded. But at last M. Poincaré has come forward with an elaborate defense which compels attention. As a piece of book-making "Au Service de la France" is hardly what might be expected from a member of the French Academy. The style is severely restrained, almost official, seldom relieved by any light touch; French politicians and European diplomatists flit through the pages for the most part like automata; even the author's own resolute personality is submerged under a record of cabinet-meetings, interviews, despatches and speeches. M. Poincaré lacks imagination and any sense of the dramatic; he has a passion for logic and an intense conviction of his own rightness. He exhibits enthusiasm only when denouncing the critics who have got under his skin. But the substance of the book is extraordinarily interesting and important, for he has attempted to answer each and every charge levelled against him and has drawn freely on un-unpublished documents of the Quai d'Orsay.
War for the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine was, M. Poincaré asserts, never his aim. Should peace ever be broken, France had "a great duty to fulfil," to fight until the provinces were recovered (I, 143), but until peace was broken she would observe towards Germany "une conduite loyale, conciliante et pacifique" (I, 120). Then why his incessant concern about the relations of France with Russia and Great Britain? The sub-titles of his volumes provide the answer. "Le Lendemain d'Agadir": "much as France wished for peace, she desired, with equal ardor, that threatening gestures like those of Tangier and Agadir should not be repeated" (III, 128) -- and the attitude of Russia had not been unequivocal in 1911 (I, 194 ff.). "Les Balkans en Feu": there anything might happen. To both Austria and Russia, the status quo was "un pis aller momentané et un expédient provisoire" (II, 191). Russian recklessness might drag France into war against her interests or convenience, Austrian ambitions might disturb the equilibrium of Europe. "L'Europe sous les Armes": the German army bills of 1911, 1912 and 1913 were so many warnings to France. M. Poincaré states that the decision to restore the three years' service was taken because in October, 1912, Germany ordered the immediate application of the law of 1911 and in January, 1913, the execution of the law of 1912; "at the same time our ministry of war was informed by its secret service that a third military law was to be laid before the Reichstag . . . to increase the superiority of the German troupes de couverture to 125,000 men" (III, 145). There was no question of a demand on the part of Russia, who never raised the question (I,121; II, 78, 112, 138; III, 322).
Imperative, therefore, in the existing European situation, for France to know precisely where she stood with Russia, and hence those repeated assurances that she would fulfil the obligations of the alliance. M. Poincaré's critics regard these promises as a complete restatement of France's obligations; he insists that his aim was to restrict them to the terms of the treaty. "Do not count upon our aiding you in a military way in the Balkans if you are attacked by Austria," he told M. Sazonov the Russian Foreign Minister, (II, 117), and whenever Isvolsky broached the subject, he declared that Russia must be attacked by Germany. But you encouraged Russia to a forward policy in the Balkans, gave her a free hand. Never, replies M. Poincaré. " In my conversations with M. Isvolsky, I always declined to discuss what we should do if the Ottoman Empire were to crash" (I, 336). His policy from March 1912 on (II, 27), and that of his successors, was to demand that Russia should communicate her plans to France beforehand and receive her ally's approval. In November, when Isvolsky telegraphed to his government that M. Poincaré had said that "it was for Russia to take the initiative . . . the rôle of France is to lend her the most active assistance," the French Premier protested against this interpretation of his language; in addition he addressed to the Ambassador a note approved by the Cabinet stating that the French Government "could not define its line of action until the Russian Government had indicated its own views," that it "can agree to or discuss amicably measures proposed by Russia only when it knows what they are" (II, 337-338). In particular warnings were repeatedly addressed to St. Petersburg against isolated action at the Straits. Nor was Constantinople promised to the Russians. "Neither in 1912, nor in 1913, nor in 1914 was that promise made by France, nor, to my knowledge, was it ever asked of us" (I, 336).
In general, M. Poincaré protests against the blind acceptance of the reports of an ambassador who "was not ashamed to substitute his own ideas for those of his government." Isvolsky, " the Snob," as he was called in Russian circles, "in his official correspondence gratuitously (volontiers) ascribed to his interlocutors the language which it was to his interest that they should hold or ideas which he wished to suggest to his government without himself taking the responsibility for them" (I, 301-2).
The first gun in the campaign against M. Poincaré was fired when he was accused, back in 1920, of having replaced the pacific Georges Louis at the Embassy in St. Petersburg by the bellicose Delcassé. On this matter the Premier establishes his alibi. The recall of Louis was formally requested by Isvolsky, apparently at the order of M. Sazonov. The Ambassador was allowed to come to Paris, where he convinced M. Poincaré that neither the Tsar nor the Russian Premier desired any change; he was therefore kept at his post for another nine months. When the change was finally made, M. Poincaré was not in office, and he shows that M. Briand, the then Premier, and M. Jonnart, the Foreign Minister, acted on their own initiative because they were not satisfied with Louis' reports. M. Poincaré asserts repeatedly that there were no differences on policy between himself and Louis; but as the latter could not get on with the Russian Foreign Minister, his replacement was desirable.
M. Poincaré is less successful in dealing with the corruption of the French press. He says that he did not approve of this and tried to dissuade Isvolsky from it; but finding him determined to try it, thought it wise to associate the French Minister of Finance with the enterprise in order to exercise some control over it (III, 98 ff). It may be that only insignificant papers were involved. At best, the episode is sorry enough. But it is not for Germans to protest, for in July, 1914, their government was equally anxious to bribe the press in many capitals.
After the Premier became President, he ceased to direct foreign policy. He was consulted, as was proper, but responsibility rested with the Ministry; indeed it is difficult to imagine men like MM. Pichon and Jonnart accepting dictation from the Elysée. The notion that Isvolsky continued to be M. Poincaré's prompter has no foundation, for after January, 1913, the ambassador, whatever he may have expected, rarely saw the President (III, 96).
By and large, the French statesman makes out a strong case for himself, and his next volume, on the year 1914, will be awaited with the greatest eagerness. Unless he is an unconscionable liar, he did not desire war. He did expect it and therefore prepared for it; but he strove to avoid it. He has no difficulty in showing that contemporary European opinion credited him with the best intentions. "Obstinately faithful to the idea of a European understanding" (II, 9), he refrained from setting the Triple Entente in opposition to the Triple Alliance, pace Herr Stieve, and worked for the Concert of Europe; at all times he was scrupulously courteous to Germany and co-operated with her when possible, in spite of an incurable suspicion of her intentions. One can fairly acquit M. Poincaré of warlike ambitions; nor can he be blamed for taking every possible precaution against an attack by Germany which, whatever Germans may say, could not, in the light of the events of 1911--1913, be considered by the French as an impossibility.
With the wisdom of hindsight, we can now see that by committing France to an active Balkan policy, M. Poincaré increased the risk of a conflict with Germany, for if France felt it necessary, in order to maintain the balance of power, to support Russia, no matter with how many reservations, Germany was equally bound to stand by Austria. Again, his efforts to strengthen the Triple Entente, however defensive their purpose might seem to him, compelled closer relations between the powers of the Triple Alliance, and helped to intensify the schism of Europe. To put it in another way, M. Poincaré strove simultaneously for peace and for the balance of power, two objects which have been repeatedly shown to be in the long run incompatible. If the issue were large enough, he was quite disposed to make war to maintain the "honor and dignity" (II, 89) of his country as a Great Power; in which he was at one with the other statesmen of Europe.
Unlike M. Poincaré's book, Lord Grey's "Twenty-Five Years" does not add greatly to our knowledge, and it has been sharply criticized because it does not deal with certain questions raised by post-war discussions. It is none the less indispensable, for Lord Grey lets us see the workings of his mind and explains why he acted as he did. Whether he was always correctly or adequately informed, may be doubted, as for example in the matter of the exact relations obtaining between France and Russia. But if he may be judged by his despatches, he attached less importance to diplomatic technique than to common sense and good will. He aspired to conduct international relations by the same principles that obtain in business, and he had the saving grace of being able to recognize the legitimate interests of other nations and to compromise. Of all the statesmen who have written on the war, Lord Grey most easily and most successfully inspires confidence in his readers. His book, incomplete as it is on many points, will remain the classic exposition of British policy.
He took office in 1905 with "a feeling of simple pleasure and relief" that thanks to the agreement of 1904 "the menace of war with France had disappeared" (I, 49-50). In spite of, or perhaps because of, unpleasant recollections of the diplomatic methods of Germany when he was Under-Secretary (1892-1895), he desired good relations with that country; but "good relations with Germany could not be founded upon bad relations with France" (I, 51). That, right down to 1914, was a cardinal point; that, the Germans long refused to understand, with the result that they converted a tenuous friendship into a diplomatic entente. On the other hand, "the entente with France was not to be used against German policy or German interests" (I, 117). It did not prevent agreements about Africa or the Bagdad Railway. Lord Grey "accepted the Triple Alliance and made no attempt, however covert, to weaken it" (II, 45). The one thing he would not do was to promise Germany unconditional neutrality in the event of a European war.
Neither would he promise France unconditional support. Lord Grey remains convinced that "there was such a thing as Prussian militarism" (II, 278), which in the last analysis controlled German policy and aimed at the domination of Europe. He remarks that he never used the phrase "balance of power." "I have often deliberately avoided the use of it, and I have never consciously set it before me as something to be pursued, attained or preserved" (I, 5). But unconsciously, one suspects, the idea governed his attitude towards France, for he was firmly persuaded that British interests required the maintenance of France as a Great Power. If German ambition led to an attack on France, Britain must intervene. But no pledge was ever given. The military and naval conversations of the General Staffs were so little binding that he did not keep himself informed of their course; and he states that the Grey-Cambon letters of November, 1912, were exchanged because some members of the Cabinet demanded that "the fact of the military conversations being non-committal should be put in writing" (I, 94). M. Poincaré agrees. "For my part I should have been happy if England were bound. But she was not, and if we hoped that she would assist us in the event of a German aggression, we were not sure of it" ("Au Service de la France," I, 184). Lord Grey, it may be noted, believed that "France dreaded war" ("Twenty-Five Years," II, 22); "the idea of the revanche . . . though not publicly disowned, had been tacitly given up" (I, 275).
Passionately and sincerely devoted to peace, Lord Grey hoped to preserve it through the Concert of Europe. "The intention and the hope were that the Entente and the Triple Alliance might go on side by side and preserve peace by settling diplomatically each difficulty as it arose" (II, 45). Vain hope, because the German military party had chosen its time for war (II, 26-27). Lord Grey cannot forgive Germany for wrecking the Concert in 1914. His proposal for a conference was "hopeful and attractive:"
It would be on the lines of the Conference of Ambassadors in 1912--13. That was of good augury, and it could be set to work at a day's notice. The same personnel was still in London; . . . we were all loyal colleagues, who not only knew, but trusted each other. If our respective governments would only use us and trust us and give us the chance, we could keep the peace of Europe in any crisis. And it would be an honourable peace, there would be no diplomatic scares; no vaunting on one side and humiliation on another.
That judgment may be too sanguine, but at least it may be said that a conference was the one expedient for keeping peace which was not tried in July, 1914.
As an antidote to polemics and apologiae, Mr. Lowes Dickinson's "The International Anarchy, 1904--1914" may be recommended. According to him, the war was the result not so much of the policies of individual nations as of the system, or rather the lack of it, by which the affairs of Europe were managed. So long as states armed and independent confront each other, there will be war, for in their lust for territory and their worship of the balance of power, which is not a balance but "a perpetual effort to get the better of the balance" (p. 6), they will be driven sooner or later to resort to arms. It has always been so, he argues, and the catastrophe of 1914 was an unescapable experience. This Mr. Dickinson essays to prove by an analysis of the alliance system and a study of the diplomatic incidents of the decade before the war, and he has produced an admirable piece of historical writing. He has read, and what is more important, digested the voluminous materials published since 1918; he distinguishes unerringly between important facts and irrelevant details; he is not led astray by the propagandists. If allowance is made for the avowed pacifist bias of the author, his book must be voted the best account of pre-war diplomacy yet written.
To Mr. Dickinson the "Kriegsschuldfrage," so far as it affects any one nation, is of small consequence, for all were guilty, and he cannot find many shades in the blackness. He thinks, to be sure, that France and Russia were rather more aggressive than Germany and Austria, that the latter were less heavily armed than the former; but he points out that the Austrian plan to absorb Serbia (p. 181) was just as dependent on "European complications" as the Russian designs on the Straits, and he observes that the Kaiser was a "real menace" to peace, "not because he wanted war but because he so constantly thought and spoke in terms of it" (p. 129). "Germany seems to have been as innocent as any Great Power can be in the European anarchy" (p. 255), but she repeatedly made it clear that if the European war broke out, she would support Austria-Hungary. "Her attitude on this point is precisely analogous to M. Poincaré's about Russia, and as much, or as little, blame is to be attached to the one as to the other" (p. 327). Writing before the appearance of M. Poincaré's memoirs, he accepts the case against the French minister.
But we need not make too much of it. For we know that the European anarchy make war inevitable sooner or later, and that the part played by this or that statesman in postponing or accelerating it is a matter of secondary importance (p. 325).
Proof of this he finds in the policy of his own country. England "had a Government and a Foreign Secretary more pacific, perhaps, than has ever before been vouchsafed to any state in history" (p. 466), but she was dragged into the war as unavoidably as if she had deliberately plotted it.
The weak point in Mr. Dickinson's argument is that the peace of Europe, if Balkan wars be left out, was not disturbed for more than forty years; at least it does not altogether explain why the war which had been avoided in 1905, 1909, 1911, and 1913 should have come in 1914. The immediate explanation is, of course, as he shows, that after the collapse of Turkey the Balkans had acquired a new importance in the European balance, and that in 1914 an issue was raised which gravely affected the balance. It may also be true that certain Powers, France and Russia according to some, Germany and Austria in the opinion of others, had decided the moment at hand for the realization of long-cherished ambitions. But there is something more. Mr. Dickinson mentions from time to time the various irredentist movements but only to condemn them, for he has a bitter hatred of nationalism, and he fails to make clear that at bottom it was the conflict between submerged nationalities and autocratic governments which produced the system of alliances and the rivalry in armaments. Adjustments that had become necessary were postponed, and the longer they were postponed, the greater was the danger of an explosion. Mr. Dickinson has scant patience with Serbia because her aspirations threatened the peace of Europe: he fails to see that it was precisely the refusal of Austria to make concessions to the Jugoslav national movement which made Serbia a danger.
The Austro-Serbian quarrel was brought to a head by the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in June, 1914. At the time it was known that the murderers were Austrian subjects of Serb race who secured their arms in Belgrade. Beyond that little could be established, though much was suspected or imagined. Since the war, however, a flood of sensational revelations, chiefly from Serbian sources, has gone far to clarify the mystery. What is now known is put together by Miss Edith Durham in "The Serajevo Crime" and by Professor R. W. Seton-Watson in "Sarajevo."
Miss Durham despises the Serbs. In her eyes the "Great Serbian Idea" was a criminal ambition, for Serbia owed everything to Austria and was too barbarous a country to lead any liberating movement. The crime at Sarajevo was plotted by a secret society called "Union or Death," or in popular parlance the "Black Hand," a terroristic organization founded by officers who had murdered the Serbian sovereigns in 1903. At its head was a Colonel Dimitrievich, who in 1914 was chief of the Intelligence Section of the Serbian General Staff; he it was who provided the assassins with weapons, from the government arsenal, and arranged for them to be smuggled across the frontier into Bosnia. From evidence that was produced at the trial of Dimitrievich at Salonica in 1917 (on another matter), Miss Durham argues that the Serbian Government was kept informed of the activities of the "Black Hand," and she accepts unreservedly a compromising statement made in 1924 by Ljuba Jovanovich, who was Minister of Education in 1914. According to him, Premier Pashich informed him and the Minister of the Interior several weeks before the tragedy of what was in preparation. As Jovanovich goes on to say that his colleague ordered the conspirators to be stopped at the frontier, Miss Durham does not charge the Serbian Government with arranging the assassination, but she insists that it was guilty of criminal negligence in not warning Austria and in not ordering a thorough investigation and punishment of the guilty persons.
All this has been very uncomfortable for Mr. Seton-Watson, who has long been the exponent of the Jugoslav cause and who during the war championed the view that official Serbia was innocent of the crime. So he recently spent some months in Jugoslavia investigating the problem. He admits that it was Dimitrievich who fitted out the conspirators and sent them on their way, but insists that the "Black Hand" was at daggers drawn with the government and that, as Miss Durham unconsciously admits, its field of activity was primarily Macedonia, not Bosnia. When Dimitrievich informed his associates of what he had arranged, they were aghast and demanded that the enterprise be stopped. In other words, Dimitrievich was acting on his own responsibility and his conduct cannot be held to implicate the Serbian Government, which had every reason for avoiding a conflict with Austria at that time.
On the question whether it knew of the plot before hand, Mr. Seton-Watson thinks that Ljuba Jovanovich "has misrepresented the true facts" (p. 157). The ground for this opinion is the complicated situation of Jugoslav internal politics since the war. M. Jovanovich is catering to the revolutionary element in Bosnia which glorifies the assassins as heroes; M. Pashich, who privately denied the truth of M. Jovanovich's assertion, instead of vindicating the honor of his country, preferred to use the incident as a means of discrediting his rival. The argument is ingenious, but not altogether convincing. Since Mr. Seton-Watson wrote, M. Pashich has publicly given the lie direct to M. Jovanovich, who replied by reaffirming his original statement and offering to prove it by documents, which the government refused to permit. Since that verbal duel a new version, from other sources, has been aired, according to which M. Pashich spoke about the matter to M. Jovanovich, not in the Cabinet, but privately. At the moment it would be rash to say what the truth is. Mr. Seton-Watson agrees with Miss Durham in condemning the indifference and laxity of the Serbian Government after the crime.
The most important feature of Mr. Seton-Watson's volume is the account of the revolutionary movement in Bosnia, about which little has hitherto been known. This, and not the intrigues of Serbian politicians, he believes, was responsible for the murder of the Archduke. The harsh Austrian régime had bred a feeling of despair among the young generation in Bosnia, who responded readily to agitators who were in touch with Russian revolutionaries. Discipline in the schools was undermined, secret societies were established, plots sketched, attempts made on the lives of government officials. The Austro-Hungarian authorities grew alarmed but were helpless because the dual system of the monarchy prevented any political concessions. In this connection, Mr. Seton-Watson emphasizes that twice, in December, 1912, and again in October, 1913, Serbia made overtures for a rapprochement with Austria, only to be met with studied rebuffs.
The revolutionaries were unquestionably in touch with the "Black Hand" at Belgrade; indeed the man who controlled their organization, a school teacher in Sarajevo, took care of the assassins when they arrived from Belgrade. But a number of other youths had prepared, quite independently, to shoot the Archduke, who was regarded as the symbol of the hated Hapsburg rule. Whatever the exact responsibility of the Serbian Government, the inspiration for the crime came from Bosnia, and it was executed by Bosnians. Mr. Seton-Watson proves the negligence of the Austrian authorities in the arrangements for the protection of Francis Ferdinand; he dismisses, however, as absurd the stories once circulated and sometimes believed that they had connived at the murder in order to get rid of its victim. In the handling of the conflicting evidence, Mr. Seton-Watson exhibits far greater skill than Miss Durham. His book is a real contribution to our knowledge of an obscure subject.
Since the publication of Professor Fay's well-known articles some years ago, no American scholar has attempted to deal on a large scale with the tragic events of July, 1914. There was real need of a book which should take account of the more recent revelations and discussions. If, in the hope of finding balanced judgment and well-ordered presentation of the facts, one turns to Harry Elmer Barnes' "The Genesis of the World War," the result will be grievous disappointment, for Mr. Barnes is nothing if not a controversialist and anything but dispassionate. To say this is not to question either his courage or his sincerity. He seeks the truth and is fearless in stating what he thinks it to be. But if his purpose is highly honorable, his performance leaves much to be desired.
To begin with, Mr. Barnes does not present an orderly account of what happened. After carrying the reader up to July, 1914, in three introductory chapters, he treats the events of that month by country, devoting one chapter to each of the five Great Powers. Such a method makes it impossible to follow the development of the crisis, for the attention is focussed on the conduct of a particular state and diverted from happenings elsewhere which, at a given moment, may be all-important. Foreign offices maneuvre in the light of information coming in from many sources; the situation is constantly changing; the policy of one day is often overtaken by events before it can be applied. This was never more true than in July, 1914, when Ministers were being almost hourly disconcerted by telegrams from half a dozen capitals. Thus, Mr. Barnes' account of the Russian mobilization does not mention the refusal of Austria to open conversations, her declaration of war against Serbia, or the bombardment of Belgrade; yet it was those events which precipitated the mobilization.
Another serious criticism is that Mr. Barnes too often prefers to rely on the writings of others instead of letting the documents speak for themselves. One cannot avoid the impression that he has not blazed his own trail through the documents, for there are many of great importance to which he does not refer at all. Nor does he apply much critical faculty to his secondary authorities, unless they run counter to his argument. Thus he lays great store by Mathias Morhardt, whose parti-pris is evident (see the quotation on pp. 324-6) and by Hon. John S. Ewart, whose reasoning, as it seems to the present writer, is sometimes specious. Similarly he accepts the story of an Austrian publicist that the Russian Military Attaché in Belgrade was privy to the Sarajevo plot; perhaps he was, but Mr. Barnes does not note that Mr. Seton-Watson has challenged the reliability of the witness. Mr. Barnes follows Miss Durham's version of the plot, and states that Mr. Seton-Watson's review of her book "does not upset or disprove a single vital assertion" (p. 174); he then remarks, "the critical reader will probably conclude that the truth lies in the ground intermediate between the versions of Miss Durham and Seton-Watson" -- and lets his own account stand!
Mr. Barnes makes a number of statements for which he does not adduce proof, for instance, "Before June, 1914, it was practically assured that Great Britain would enter any war on the side of France and Russia against Germany" (p. 90). Again: "France had not erected any significant defenses on the Belgian frontier, thus indicating her intention to enter Belgium to meet the German advance" (p. 290). Often he distorts or stretches the evidence. A telegram sent by M. Sazonov to Vienna on the day before the ultimatum was dispatched is represented as a threat (p. 328), whereas by any fair reading it must be construed as a warning. It is stated several times that M. Poincaré gave Russia a blank cheque on the occasion of his visit to St. Petersburg at the beginning of the crisis: all that the evidence warrants is that France agreed to act with Russia in making a strong stand. "The Russian Chief of Staff, Janushkevich, urged Sazonov to promise him at this time that the Russians would make war solely on Austria, and refrain from hostilities against Germany. Sazonov refused" (p. 338). Actually, Janushkevich, who was opposed to a partial mobilization, asked M. Sazonov if he could guarantee that war with Austria would not be followed by war with Germany, and M. Sazonov replied that he could not, for he assumed that Germany stood behind Austria. It is an exaggeration to say that "on August 2nd, long before the German invasion, Grey promised Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador in London, that England would enter the war on the side of France" (p. 288): Sir Edward Grey made the conditional promise that if the German fleet came down the Channel to attack the northern coasts of France, Great Britain would lend assistance. More than once Mr. Barnes alleges that "even before she sent Belgium an ultimatum, Grey refused the German offer to respect Belgian neutrality on condition that England remain neutral" (p. 452). Germany never made any such offer; the most that can be said is that her Ambassador personally suggested this possibility to Sir Edward Grey.
There are errors of fact. To say that Germany "unwillingly tolerated" Austria's local war against Serbia (p. 220), "did nothing to incite Germany beyond giving her the blank cheque" (p. 251), and "opposed the Austrian declaration of war on Serbia" (p. 223), is simply to fly in the face of documentary evidence to the contrary. To declare that Russia declined Grey's proposal for a conference (pp. 261, 500) is misleading, to say the least; for while M. Sazonov preferred to negotiate directly with Vienna, he did finally accept the proposal. It is incorrect to say that "the French did not of course wait for the German general mobilization, but ordered mobilization as soon as they were informed of the German proclamation of a state of imminent war" (p. 414): the French waited twenty-four hours after learning of the proclamation.
There are serious omissions. In demolishing the myth of the Potsdam conference of July 5, Mr. Barnes fails to mention the conferences of the Kaiser with various officials. Herr von Jagow's lies about his ignorance of the ultimatum are not told, M. Sazonov's "formulae" are ignored. Much is made of M. Sazonov's pressure on the Tsar to secure mobilization, but nothing is said of the false report of a Serbian attack by which Count Berchtold induced Francis Joseph to sign the declaration of war on Serbia. The compromising telegrams of General von Moltke to Field Marshal Conrad are indeed mentioned (pp. 234, 720), but rather casually, without any indication that these telegrams determined Count Berchtold to make no concessions. In harping on the fact that the French decision for war was announced to Isvolsky sixteen hours before the German declaration of war on Russia (pp. 288, 415), Mr. Barnes does not mention that Germany had six hours before presented an ultimatum requiring France to state her intentions in the impending war between Germany and Russia.
This long criticism is not offered in any captious spirit, for mistakes can hardly be avoided in the handling of the voluminous evidence; nor is it intended to whitewash Germany's enemies by implications or insinuations. But the errors of Mr. Barnes are numerous and serious enough to suggest that he has not mastered his sources and that his writing is often highly tendenziöz.
Mr. Barnes' point of departure is seen in the title of Chapter III, "The Franco-Russian Plot That Produced the War." His next step is to assert that in July, 1914, M. Poincaré "gave [the Russian extremists] to understand that the prospective Austro-Serbian crisis would be satisfactory to him as the 'incident in the Balkans' over which the Russians might kindle a European war" (p. 372). Well, there is not a document which warrants any such assertion. Continuing, Mr. Barnes discounts all the peace proposals of M. Sazonov as a "diplomatic barrage" (p. 654) behind which to prepare secretly the measures necessary for war, i.e. mobilization, citing as proof statements of certain Russian officials to the effect that M. Sazonov exclaimed, on hearing of the ultimatum, "C'est la guerre européenne," and that the military group likewise assumed the war to be "on" (p. 200). It was generally understood, he says, not merely by Germany, but by Russia, France and England (p. 356), that mobilization meant war. Therefore, when Russia resorted to that measure, it was with the deliberate intent of war; the French knew its consequences equally well, yet they urged their ally to proceed secretly to it.
That mobilization was likely to produce war, was indeed generally understood; still, Mr. Barnes might have referred to M. Sazonov's repeated statements that this was not a necessary consequence. It may also be observed that the language of M. Sazonov and the soldiers may be interpreted to signify only their expectation or their conviction that war would come. They were bound to assume that Austria was determined on war and that she was sure of German support; probably they did not expect Russian mobilization to deter Austria and they had been warned that Germany would make it a casus belli. But it does not follow that Russia deliberately seized the chance to precipitate war. She waited six days for her mobilization, during which she gave diplomacy every chance. That she might, perhaps should, have waited another day or two, may be granted; but all the German talk about pressure on Austria had produced no results, and we know that Austria intended to yield nothing. That from a strictly military point of view, the German position was sound, may also be conceded. But strategy was not the only factor. Gen. von Moltke and Von Bethmann-Hollweg both declared that it was intolerable to German dignity to have to negotiate under the pressure of Russian mobilization; in other words, they preferred war to the diplomatic defeat which would stare them in the face if they allowed Russia to complete her preparations -- just as, one hastens to add, Russia and France preferred war to the diplomatic humiliation of allowing Austria to have her way.
Of course Mr. Barnes contends that Russia had no right, moral or other, to support Serbia, and that Russia should have been satisfied with Austrian promises to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Serbia. Whether these promises were sincere, is more than doubtful; in any case, Count Berchtold refused to give them in binding form. The weakness of the argument is that both Germany and Austria fully expected Russia to object: only they thought that she would not resort to arms. Similarly Mr. Barnes' reiterations that Germany and Austria desired only a local war (which is true) have to be discounted by the admissions of their statesmen that a conflict with Russia might develop. Russia can be fairly criticised for precipitate mobilization, France for undue encouragement of her ally; but the Central Powers must be charged with deliberately and recklessly embarking on a policy which contained the possibility of a European war.
Mr. Barnes rightly emphasizes the efforts of Germany to restrain Austria when she perceived the danger of a general war, but he fails to point out that Von Bethmann-Hollweg's telegrams were concerned as much with throwing upon Russia the responsibility for a rupture as with advising Austria to make concessions. The long chapter on Sir Edward Grey is far from convincing. That "England in 1914 was determined to go to war if France did" (p. 575), is an assertion refuted by what is known of the dissensions in the Cabinet and the uncertainty of public opinion. And one must really protest against the statements that "Grey felt very comfortable" when Germany declined to answer his question about Belgian neutrality (p. 511), and that he "light-heartedly" despatched his ultimatum to Berlin (p. 554).
To sum up, it must be said that Mr. Barnes' book falls far short of being that objective and scientific analysis of the great problem which is so urgently needed. As a protest against the old notion of unique German responsibility for the war, it will be welcomed by all honest men, but as an attempt to set up a new doctrine of unique Franco-Russian responsibility, it must be unhesitatingly rejected. The war was the consequence, perhaps inevitable, of the whole system of alliances and armaments, and in the origin, development and working of that system, the Central Powers, more particularly Germany, played a conspicuous part. Indeed, it was Germany who put the system to the test in July, 1914. Because the test failed, she is not entitled to claim that no responsibility attaches to her.
[i] FOREIGN AFFAIRS, October, 1925, and January, 1926.