What Mobilization Means for Russia
The End of Putin’s Bargain With the People
WHEN, on the eve of the Conference of Locarno, the German Government notified the Governments of Great Britain, France and Belgium to the effect that we were entering upon negotiations with the clear conscience that Germany was not that "felon who had wronged humanity" which the Treaty of Versailles had branded her, it was generally assumed that this declaration was the work of our Nationalist Die-hards. As a matter of fact, ever since Germany was forced to subscribe to the dictates of Versailles, the entire German people have not ceased to protest against the imputation that Germany and her allies bore the exclusive responsibility for the world catastrophe of 1914. Ministers of every party have joined in the protest -- Bauer, the Social Democrat; Rathenau, the Democrat; Dr. Wirth, of the Centre Party; Stresemann, the leader of the German People's Party; and men like Baron von Rosenberg, Cuno and Luther -- all have unanimously stressed Germany's disclaimer of the terrible reproach of having disturbed the peace of the world. And in response to the wishes of the whole people, I myself, when German Chancellor, felt impelled at the time of the adoption of the Dawes Plan by the German Reichstag to give expression to our deep convictions in the following words:
"The admission in the Treaty of Versailles that Germany, by her aggression, caused the World War was wrung from us under compulsion by superior force. Such a statement is contrary to historical fact and is consequently repudiated by the German Government. The German people have a perfect right to claim release from this false charge. So long as this has not been done, so long as a member of the community of nations is stigmatized as the "Felon of Humanity," no real reconciliation and understanding between the nations can be achieved. The German Government will take an opportunity of bringing this to the knowledge of the foreign governments."
It now devolves upon me to bring forward the proofs.
What are the actual "facts of history" to which I have appealed? On the basis of documents published since 1919 I will endeavor to give here a brief description of the incidents which, in accordance with the present status of strictly scientific research, were the real causes of the catastrophe of 1914.
First, a word or two concerning the documents themselves, which must naturally be unimpeachable if they are to have any weight. Those at our disposal are the German and the Russian, since there are as yet no collections of records drawn from the archives of the other belligerent Powers which would enable the historian to complete his knowledge concerning the origins of the catastrophe. The British Government has, it is true, promised to make such a publication, but this promise still remains to be fulfilled. The French Government has issued only a selection from the records of the Balkan Wars,[i] but as this deals solely with a small section of the great course of events it permits of no conclusions as to the general policy of France prior to 1914. Moreover, the publication fails to give the original numbers of the diplomatic records reproduced, so that the historian is not in a position to tell whether even for that one period, namely the Balkan Wars, all the documents have really been made public. Hence, being deprived of all means of checking the correctness and completeness of the records published, he will always be under the necessity of treating this source of information with critical caution.
In preparing for publication the German documents concerning the World War, the aim above all was to enable the reader to obtain a complete idea of German policy. As early as 1919 there appeared, in four volumes, the "Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch," containing all records of the German Foreign Office from the murder at Sarajevo down to the Austrian declaration of war against Russia. At the instance of the Revolutionary Government, this collection of records was compiled by the socialist Karl Kautsky, working in cooperation with Count Max Montgelas and Professor Walter Schücking. In addition, the secret archives in Wilhelmstrasse were thrown open to three well-known historians, namely Dr. Friedrich Thimme, Dr. Lepsius and Professor Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who at the close of 1919 proceeded to publish the records for the years 1871 to 1914. In compiling the records they were left an entirely free hand; no attempt whatever was made to influence them; they acted according to their own best knowledge and belief. Their work already comprises 35 parts printed in 25 volumes; it will be completed in the spring of 1926 and will then consist of 50 parts in 37 volumes containing all documents referring to the last forty-three years of German policy which furnish information as to what the statesmen of Berlin desired and did. It is clear that Germany is presenting to the world an unvarnished and ungarnished view of her past and is making it possible for anyone who chooses to examine matters for himself.
The Russian contributions to the history of the pre-war period concern in the main two extensive and important subjects. There is first the book by von Siebert, formerly Secretary of the Imperial Russian Embassy in London,[ii] which reproduces chiefly documents concerning Anglo-Russian relations. The other publication is that containing the Isvolsky documents which Friedrich Stieve has compiled for the German Foreign Office.[iii] For a large part, these documents had previously appeared in Russian, published by the Soviet Government, and in French, in the so-called "Livre Noir" by Marchand. That the genuineness of these records cannot for one moment be called into question is attested by no less an authority than the former Russian Foreign Minister, Sazonov, who was responsible for the policy of St. Petersburg from the year 1910 till the outbreak of the war; in a recent preface to the English edition of the diary kept in his Ministry during the critical days of July, 1914, he writes: "Now that all the holes and corners of our archives have been ransacked and all their hidden documents have been published, it is hardly possible to say anything new about the events which preceded the European war." This gives the lie, once and for all, to any attempt to minimize the value of the Russian documents by slighting them as "Bolshevist propaganda." The Tsar's Foreign Minister himself announces that these records have emanated from his erstwhile archives and are consequently unexceptionable historical evidence.[iv]
Hence, in culling from these various publications a short survey of the events which caused the World War, I feel on absolutely solid ground. The objection might be raised that I was not directly concerned with the decisive happenings, i.e., that I took no active part in them. But this is rather an advantage than the reverse in enabling a person to form an unprejudiced judgment; for in ascertaining historical truth the personal actors in the terrible drama are more likely to be hindered by their recollections than helped by them; they saw only one side of the affair, namely, the one in which they themselves acted, the one which they were forced to present as just and unalloyed to their own people. In doing so they have tied themselves down to a certain attitude and are no longer in a position to form an unbiased judgment. They are bound to be partial and to remain so as long as they have to defend their former actions. For my part, I rely solely upon the clear evidence of the records and simply reproduce what they have to tell me and everyone who refers to them.
About the year 1910 Europe was divided into two groups of Powers. The one consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy and was known as the Triple Alliance; the other group, that called the Entente, was composed of France, Russia and Great Britain. In themselves such coalitions do not necessarily constitute a danger to peace. On the contrary, by their means a certain equilibrium may be realized which has a tranquilizing effect. It is, however, essential that the two groups really should be fairly well matched as regards power and influence and that they should both have an unquestionable interest in the maintenance of the existing situation. If the one coalition outweighs the other in power it is easily tempted to draw the sword in any disputes with its weaker rival; while if it pursues secret aims with regard to a change of the so-called status quo its bellicose tendencies will become a conscious intention. To what extent did all this fit the case of the Triple Alliance and the Entente?
Firstly, which party was the stronger? At the present day it is no longer a secret that, for a long time prior to the war, Italy had stood in very loose relationship with her allies, Germany and Austria. As early as 1902, she had come to an agreement with France outlining the aspirations of each in the Mediterranean. Paris secured Morocco; Rome claimed Tripoli.[v] In the Treaty of Racconigi, concluded in 1909, this arrangement received the assent of Russia, her object being to obtain greater influence in the Dardanelles. After this first rapprochement between Italy and the Entente, more and more intimate relations were established behind the scenes, so that by the summer of 1912 Paris and St. Petersburg regarded Italy as nothing but a "dead weight" in the Triple Alliance.[vi] In this way the position of the Central Powers was considerably weakened. As regards the relative size of the two coalitions, it is to be noted that the Entente countries and their colonies had a combined population of 800 millions, whereas the inhabitants of Germany and Austria together totalled only 120 millions. It is commonly argued, on the other side, that Germany, led by Prussia, had enormously increased her army and was, from a military point of view, almost more than a match for the whole of Europe. Let figures once more tell their tale. In 1914, the two Central Powers commanded armies totalling together 3,547,000 men, whereas Russia and France alone could place 5,360,000 troops in the field. In addition, there was the enormous British Navy with its well-known preponderance over the German. If it be remembered that the geographical position of Germany, with her two long and exposed frontiers in the East and in the West, in itself constituted a great weakness, it will be readily understood why Lloyd George could write in the Daily Chronicle in January, 1914: "The German Army is vital, not merely in the existence of the German Empire, but to the very life and independence of the nation itself, surrounded as Germany is by other nations, each of which possesses armies about as powerful as her own. We forget that, while we insist upon a 60 percent superiority (so far as our naval strength is concerned) over Germany being essential to guarantee the integrity of our own shores, Germany herself has nothing like that superiority over France alone, and she has, of course, in addition, to reckon with Russia on her eastern frontier. Germany has nothing which approximates to a two-power standard. She has, therefore, become alarmed by recent events and is spending huge sums of money on the expansion of her military resources."
Thus the Entente was so much stronger than the Central Powers that an aggressive scheme on the part of Germany and Austria would have been almost suicidal. In any case, one thing is certain: if anywhere the idea of recourse to arms had any sense, it was not in Berlin or Vienna.
Let us now turn to the second point which we indicated above as jeopardizing the equilibrium of Europe. A stronger Power and a weaker one may well live side by side in harmony if each is content with its lot. A menace to peace arises only if the stronger party contemplates definite aims which are unachievable without action being undertaken against the weaker. Hence, our investigation reduces itself to this: "Did the Entente as a whole, or did its individual members, cherish any such aims?" It is just on this point that the records give us very clear evidence.
The inception of the Entente, i.e., the adherence of Great Britain to the Franco-Russian Alliance, took place in a period of decisive historic significance for the fate of Europe. Russia, after suffering defeat at the hands of Japan, had ceased to seek expansion in the Far East, and had turned her eyes westward. The desire for an open and ice-free seaport, which for decades had inspired the policy of the greatest Slav Power, no longer sought realization on the Pacific coast, but nearer home. The Empire of the Tsar gazed covetously towards Constantinople and the Dardanelles -- those straits which had been closed to its navies ever since the Crimean War. The man who effected this fatal change in Russian politics was no other than Alexander Petrovitch Isvolsky, who was made Foreign Minister at St. Petersburg in the year 1906. He, himself, tells us in his memoirs[vii] how he put over the helm of the gigantic vessel and turned her course from East to West, how he aimed at a rapprochement with Great Britain and Japan in order to remove all antagonism to these Powers in Asia and so obtain a free hand for his new enterprise. As early as 1907 matters were settled. In 1908 the Russian Tsar and the King of England met at Reval to set the seal upon the entente between their countries. In the same year Isvolsky endeavored to take the first step towards realizing his wishes in regard to the Black Sea. To this end he travelled to Vienna and requested the assent of Austria-Hungary to the free passage of Russian warships through the Dardanelles, offering as an equivalent the annexation of Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Sanjak. The Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Aehrenthal, agreed to the proposal; but he proceeded to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina before Isvolsky had succeeded in obtaining the consent of Rome, of Paris and -- more particularly -- of London to his scheme. The Russian Foreign Minister was bitterly disappointed, and cast about for other means of gaining his object. The means which he adopted passed over Austria, passed over Vienna and Berlin to Constantinople. In the autumn of 1908 the Serbian Minister at Berlin, Milanovitch, reported to his government regarding a conversation he had had with the Russian Foreign Minister in Berlin. The report was dated October 25 and ran thus: "Isvolsky repeatedly and severely condemned Austria-Hungary, in whom Russia and the western Powers could no longer place any confidence. He expressed his conviction and his hope of an early and sanguinary settlement with Austria-Hungary. Consequently, the Austrian question would soon become much more acute than the Turkish and his (Isvolsky's) policy was directed towards liquidating all Russian questions outside Europe in order to lead Russia back to her European aspirations."[viii] The new program aimed, in the first place, at uniting the Balkan States against the Dual Monarchy under Russian leadership. Serbia was given definite promises of future assistance by her big Slav brother; and in December, 1909, a secret treaty was concluded with Bulgaria, the fifth article of which read: "In consideration of the fact that the realization of the high ideals of the union of the Slav peoples in the Balkan Peninsula, which are so dear to the heart of Russia, is only feasible by means of a successful issue to the conflict of Russia with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria undertakes the solemn obligation," then accurately defined.[ix] This language it is impossible for anyone to misunderstand. Isvolsky's scheme was war with the Central Powers, whereby his country was to obtain the hegemony over the south-east of Europe and the possession of Constantinople.
This dangerous man became Russian Ambassador to Paris at the close of the year 1909. As to the objects which he pursued there, important witness has been borne by the Frenchman, Ernest Judet. Writing in the Paris newspaper, L'Humanité, he stated that the Russian statesman, Count Muraviev, had confided to him the aims of Isvolsky's mission in the following terms: "In order to produce the saving crisis and to bring European politics to the breaking-point, it was more effective to work in Paris than in St. Petersburg." This is a clear statement that the Tsar's new Ambassador on the Seine contemplated inveigling the allied French Republic into his scheme of a war against the Central Powers. It is extremely interesting, in a perusal of Isvolsky's diplomatic documents, to see to what extent he succeeded in his object.
In the year 1911, that is in the first year of Isvolsky's new activities, the political atmosphere of Europe was first disturbed by the so-called second Morocco crisis. France assumed the protectorate over the greater part of Morocco; and, scarcely had she succeeded in doing so, when St. Petersburg broached the question of the Dardanelles. Neratov, the assistant of Sazanov, who was at that time Russian Foreign Minister, wrote to Isvolsky on May 5 the following lines: "Far from desiring France to bind herself for a definite future time in regard to the Dardanelles by any concrete promise, we consider it opportune to secure the assent of our ally to refrain from opposing our views or any measures taken by us when we shall esteem it necessary to proceed to definite discussions and perhaps even actions in questions which concern us."[x] In this cautious and delicate way, Russia endeavored to find out whether she would receive French assent to her proceeding against the Dardanelles. After lengthy negotiations between Isvolsky and the French Foreign Office, the latter finally gave a reply which, evasive as it was, nevertheless promised a discussion of the question, "whenever fresh circumstances should render an examination of the Dardanelles question necessary." That was the first faint feeler put forth in this all-important matter.
France having obtained Morocco, Italy, in pursuance of the agreement made in 1901, meanwhile picked a quarrel with Turkey and started a war in order to capture Tripoli. Thus the torch of war was coming nearer and nearer to Europe, one violent measure being followed by another. While Italy and Turkey were at strife, a third event of most decisive importance occurred: in the spring of 1912 the Balkan states, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece, concluded a secret aggressive alliance against Turkey. The sordid part played in this affair by Russia has never been better characterized than it was by the then French Premier and Foreign Minister, Poincaré. Writing to Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador to the Court of St. James, under date of October 15, 1912, Poincaré stated that the treaty between Serbia and Bulgaria, shown to him during his visit to St. Petersburg in August, 1912, had greatly perturbed him. "M. Sazonov and M. Isvolsky," we read in his despatch, "have, for some weeks, taken pains to pacify the agitation caused in my mind by the perusal of this treaty. They have assured me that Russia is not bound by it, that she is at liberty to decline the arbitership offered her, etc. But, nevertheless, it is certain that she knew everything and that, instead of protesting against this diplomatic document, she espied in it a means of securing her hegemony in the Balkans."[xi]
This verdict is indisputably correct, and the incident proves how consistently Russian statesmen continued to labor at the scheme evolved by Isvolsky, for the secret treaties of the Balkan states were not aimed solely at Turkey but also at Austria-Hungary.
At the outset France shrank from entering upon the perilous path taken by her eastern ally. Poincaré declared in St. Petersburg "that public opinion in France would not permit the French Government to take military action in connection with purely Balkan affairs unless Germany were concerned and had created a casus foederis by her own initiative." But we shall shortly see that, disastrously for Europe, he did not stick to his point, but very soon adopted a totally different attitude. Moreover, France just previously had attached herself more closely than ever to Russia. The military convention concluded between the two countries in the year 1892 had been supplemented by a naval convention on July 16, 1912; and, in pursuance of this latter, the French fleet had been stationed in the Mediterranean. This had led to a further fatal step, namely, the conclusion in August, 1912, of a secret naval convention between France and Great Britain, whereby in the event of a war Great Britain undertook the protection of the north coast of France from which the French vessels had been withdrawn. On the outbreak of the war, Lord Grey in a speech to Parliament called attention to this obligation entered into by Great Britain and gave it as one of the reasons for the armed interference of his country. A third extremely questionable proceeding was Poincaré's urging Russia, during his visit, to accelerate the construction of her strategic railways leading to the German frontier.
Thus, on the Entente side prior to the outbreak of the Balkan Campaign the public mind dwelt continually on preparations for war. But Russia's friends had not, in any way, tied themselves to her scheme. On the contrary, when the Balkan states took up arms to assail Turkey, Poincaré did all he could to prevent the collision. But the military successes of the allied Balkan states soon caused him to veer round. In October, 1912, the troops of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro rushed upon Turkey and, in rapid succession, won battle after battle. Hence the Russian enterprise promised the very best results, so that the mood in Paris is vividly depicted in Isvolsky's letters as taking quite a new turn. The scruples of the French Premier were completely allayed and he directed his whole attention to preventing Austria-Hungary from reaping any benefits from the Balkan embroilment. On November 4, 1912, he despatched a letter to Isvolsky containing the following passage: "In agreement with the Ministry, I consider it wise to fix in advance a general policy to be followed in the event of Austria wishing to attempt territorial expansion . . . . The French Government (like the Russian) is of opinion that such a proceeding would pave the way for all sorts of contentions. I should be glad to know whether the Imperial (Russian) Government, like ourselves, is opposed to any annexation of Turkish territory by a Great Power and whether you would be inclined to discuss with France and also with Great Britain the means to be adopted for averting this danger." The same man who, a few weeks before, had admitted that the Balkan War was an enterprise of Russia's "intended to establish her hegemony in the Balkans" -- which, of course, meant a distinct threat to the Dual Monarchy -- that man, now that the enterprise had proved a success, proceeded to deprive Austria-Hungary of the possibility of taking any counter-measures. But there was more to follow. In November, 1912, news reached Paris that Austria was planning an attack upon Serbia. This report, which came from Belgrade, was not in accordance with fact. But as it was given credence in French official circles, it led to a decisive incident. On November 17, 1912, Isvolsky cabled to his government, quoting Poincaré: "It is for Russia," said he (Poincaré), "to take the initiative in an affair in which it is the most interested party. It is the task of France to give her effective support." "Broadly speaking," added Poincaré, "it all comes to this: if Russia goes to war, France will do the same. . . . "
Isvolsky was right in exulting, for France had now unreservedly declared for the schemes which her Slav ally had planned against the Central Powers. On December 18, 1912, he reported: "During the last few days, I have no longer had to combat the idea that France might see herself involved in a war for other people's account, but rather the fear that we (the Russians) remained too passive in an affair which affected the position and the prestige of the entire Entente." At the same time, the French Minister of War, M. Millerand, in a conversation with the Russian Military Attaché in Paris, reproached the Russian Government with hesitating to strike the first blow. "We," he said, "are ready, and that must be recorded."[xii] The wave of excitement in Paris at that time ran so high that it greatly influenced the attitude of France during the conference of the Great Powers held in London at the close of 1912 for the purpose of putting an end to the Balkan War. It may not be out of place to quote here the verdict passed upon this conference by Count Benckendorff, Russian Ambassador in London, in his concluding report, in which he wrote: "In briefly reviewing the conversations I have had with the French Ambassador, the remarks which passed between us and the attitude adopted by Poincaré, there arises in my mind a thought, tantamount to a conviction, that, of all the Powers, France is the only one which, I will not say wants war, but at any rate would not regret the outbreak of war. In any case, nothing indicated that France is actively contributing to bring about a compromise. Now compromise means peace; no compromise means war."[xiii]
We have reached here a critical turning-point in the history antecedent to the catastrophe of 1914. The greatest Slav Power had received from her western ally plein pouvoir in regard to her Balkan schemes even if they meant a world war. Russia now knew that France would coöperate with her if she proceeded to extreme measures, i.e., to war with Austria and Germany. If the Empire of the Tsar refrained on that occasion from resorting to arms, it was only because, in the first place, Austria-Hungary, with the exercise of the greatest self-restraint, avoided every imprudent measure which might jeopardize peace, and, secondly, because Russian armaments were not yet adequate to ensure success in such a gigantic enterprise as a European conflict. In 1913 everything was done that could be done to make good what was lacking in this respect.
Right at the beginning of that year the French Ambassador to St. Petersburg, Georges Louis, was recalled from his post. He was the victim of an intrigue whereby Isvolsky induced the Russian Foreign Minister, Sazonov, to request the French Government to replace this man, who had so ardently striven for peace, by another ambassador. In regard to the whole affair, which has recently been most clearly dealt with in a book by the French writer, Ernest Judet, the most important point is the choice of George Louis' successor. That successor was Delcassé, the pronounced enemy of Germany. This new French Ambassador, now so significantly chosen, was entrusted with a very special mission, as may be gathered from the telegram sent by Isvolsky to Sazonov on March 13, 1913, which reads: "As you are aware, M. Delcassé is peculiarly competent, not merely in questions relating to foreign politics, but also in all that concerns military and, more particularly, naval affairs. According to the information received by our Military Attaché, he has been specially instructed to persuade our Military Administration of the necessity of increasing the number of our strategic roads in order that the concentration of our army on the west frontier may be accelerated. M. Delcassé is so familiar with this question and with the views of the French General Staff that he can discuss matters with our military authorities quite personally. He is, withal, authorized to offer Russia, in the form of railway loans, all the funds which may possibly be required for the purpose." Thus the Empire of the Tsar was now to be urged on to most energetic efforts.
Somewhat later the Act introducing the three-years' service system for the French Army was passed. Concerning the effect of this Act the Belgian Minister in Paris wrote to his Ministry under date June 12, 1913: "This new law will weigh so heavily upon the population and the expenditure which it will involve will be so enormous that the country will soon protest, and France will see herself faced with the alternative of abandoning what it cannot bear or, in a short time, waging war."[xiv] Delcassé's negotiations concerning the strengthening of the strategic railways of Russia soon yielded results. The Russian Premier and Finance Minister, Kokovtzov, concluded on December 16, 1913, the following treaty with the French Government:
1. The Imperial (Russian) Government may, in the course of five successive years, take up annually on the Paris money market a maximum of 500 millions in the shape of State Loans or of State-guaranteed Loans for the purpose of carrying out a railway program.
2. The railway construction, the need of which has been recognized by the French and Russian chiefs of General Staff during the consultations of August, 1913, will be begun as soon as possible so that they may be completed within four years; the expenses will be met either out of the funds obtained by way of the loans or out of the surplus of the Russian budget, according as it suits the Imperial Government.[xv]
The fatal development was progressing rapidly. Meantime the Balkan entanglements, which continued throughout almost the whole of 1913, contributed in their turn to increase the inclination of St. Petersburg for a world war. Russia twice attempted to gain her goal of Constantinople by her own unaided efforts. On the first occasion, namely during the Second Balkan War, when the Bulgarians were threatening to move upon the Turkish capital, a direct attack was contemplated but had to be given up on account of the military difficulties. The second occasion was during the Third Balkan War, when an advance through Asia Minor was meditated; but energetic opposition being met with, especially from Great Britain, this plan, too, had to be abandoned. On December 8, 1913, therefore, Sazonov presented a memorial to the Tsar dealing with the means by which Russia could obtain Constantinople. The memorial closes with the words: "Moreover I must repeat that the solution of the Dardanelles question can scarcely make any progress save by way of European complications. To judge by the present state of affairs, these complications would find us allied with France and possibly also with England; the latter country would at least maintain benevolent neutrality. In the event of European complications, we should be able to count upon Serbia and possibly also upon Rumania. Clearly it is the task of our diplomacy to create favorable conditions for establishing the most intimate relations with Rumania."[xvi] These significant words prove that St. Petersburg had been converted to Isvolsky's programmatic view that "The way to Constantinople runs via Vienna and Berlin."
Evidently the political atmosphere of Europe at the close of 1913 was dangerously charged with electricity. The secret collusion between Russia and France went so far that Delcassé discussed with Sazonov the aims to be pursued by the two countries in an approaching world war. This we learn from two very instructive telegrams despatched by Isvolsky on October 13, 1914, in which, two and a half months after the outbreak of the war, he reported concerning his conversations with the French Foreign Minister, Delcassé, touching the war aims of the Entente. These telegrams were of the following tenor.[xvii]
No. 497. Bordeaux, September 30/October 13, 1914.
Re your telegram No. 2935.
I have had an opportunity of personally talking over with Delcassé the questions raised. Delcassé made the reservation that, at present, it was too early " to sell the bear's skin " and that he had hitherto avoided discussing this subject with his colleagues; but he admitted that it would not be unprofitable to define clearly and in good time the mutual views and wishes of the Allies. He is convinced that no differences of opinion on the question could arise between Russia, France and Great Britain. He himself (Delcassé) has very often talked quite openly with you (Sazonov) and has been able to convince himself of the identity of the objects pursued by France and Russia. For herself, France aims at no sort of territorial acquisition in Europe, with the exception of the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine. In Africa, too, it purposes no new conquests and will be satisfied with the elimination of the last remnants of the Algeciras Act and the regulation of certain colonial frontiers. Further, the main object of France -- and in this all three allied Powers are absolutely at one -- is the destruction of the German Empire and the weakening of the military and political power of Prussia as far as possible. It is essential to arrange matters in such a way that the various German States will themselves be interested in this question. It is, at present, too early to discuss the future configuration of Germany.
Great Britain would probably demand the restitution of Hanoverian independence, to which Russia and France would naturally raise no objection. Schleswig and Holstein would have to go to Denmark notwithstanding the ambiguous attitude of the Danish Government. Great Britain likewise desired no conquests in Europe, but would demand colonial extension at the expense of Germany, which France would not oppose. So far as Russia was concerned, her territorial claims would, in general, determine themselves, and France had of course agreed to them from the very first. In addition, Russia would naturally demand free passage through the Dardanelles with efficient guarantees therefor; in this, Russia would receive ample support from France, who, in regard to this question, would be able to exert influence upon Great Britain which would be useful to us.
(Will be continued.)
No. 497. (Continuation.) Bordeaux, September 30/October 13, 1914.
Personal. Highly confidential.
Referring to the negotiations which took place in St. Petersburg in 1913, Delcassé urgently requested me to direct your attention to the fact that the demands and wishes of France have remained the same save for the unshakable desire to destroy the political and economic power of Germany. The necessity for this is dictated by the present conjuncture, especially by Great Britain's participation in the war; and France insists upon the attainment of this aim, because she is of opinion that it is important, not only for France, but likewise for the other States and, indeed, for the whole world.
If, keeping these matters in mind, we glance at the general situation, we shall without difficulty come to the conclusion that the position of the Central Powers was endangered to a degree. Despite the quarrels which ultimately arose among the Balkan states, the Balkan Wars ended with a victory for Russia. Above all, Serbia, the special protege of the great Slav brother, came out of the struggles with Turkey enormously strengthened and drew from them fresh energy and fresh hopes of a further extension of her territory, a thing which was only feasible at the expense of Austria. The "expansion" propaganda started with great vigor, its chief object being to prepare the way for linking Serbia up with the Croats, Slovenes, Dalmatians and Bosnians living in the Dual Monarchy. A secret society of national officers, known as the "Black Hand," perpetrated systematic attacks upon Austrian politicians. Official Serbian circles quietly allowed this to go on, because they knew that Serbia was supported by Russia. After an audience granted to the Serbian Minister, Pashitch, on February 2, the Tsar took leave of his visitor with the words: "Greet the King and tell him we will do anything for Serbia."[xviii]
In the year 1914 the ring of fire was closed around the Central Powers by the conclusion of a Naval Convention between Great Britain and Russia. This convention, which owed its origin to the Tsar's initiative and the intermediation of Isvolsky, was intended to draw closer the bonds of union between Great Britain and the two members of the Entente.
Europe now resembled a powder-cask in which the smallest spark would suffice to cause an explosion. And the spark soon fell in the shape of the murder at Sarajevo. On June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Heir Apparent and his consort were assassinated by Serbians belonging to the Dual Monarchy. The Chief of the Intelligence Department of the Serbian General Staff, Colonel Dimitrijevitch, had prepared and provoked the deed. But more than this; according to the recently published evidence of the then Serbian Minister of Education, Ljuba Jovanovitch,[xix] the Serbian Government had been previously informed of the scheme. Other disclosures suggest that the Russian Military Attaché in Belgrade was in the secret and had reported to the military authorities in Russia concerning what was to take place. The circle of accessories and accomplices grows larger and larger in the light of the latest research. It seems absolutely clear that Viennese diplomacy was indisputably justified in regarding the assassination as a direct attack upon the status of the Dual Monarchy. Nevertheless, Austria-Hungary did not proceed to immediate action, but instituted first an enquiry as to the murder. At the same time, the Emperor Francis Joseph wrote personally to William II; and, in consequence, a consultation between the German Kaiser and several of his ministers took place on July 5, 1914, which led to Germany expressing her assent to a possible campaign of the Dual Monarchy against Serbia, i.e., to a purely local war between the two states concerned. It would be utterly false to assert that an Austrian punitive expedition against Serbia would eo ipso have involved Russia in war. Russia was not bound by any alliance to assist Serbia, and we have seen, in dealing with the events of the year 1912, that France at that time even complained of St. Petersburg's too passive attitude towards the alleged menacement of Serbia by Austria. Accordingly, the responsibility for the participation of other Powers in the quarrel between Vienna and Belgrade rests, not upon Berlin, but, as we shall presently see, upon St. Petersburg.
While Austria-Hungary, after a protracted consideration of the pros and cons, was drafting her ultimatum to Serbia, M. Poincaré, the President of the French Republic, went to St. Petersburg. That city was in a thoroughly bellicose mood. The French Ambassador, M. Paléologue, who was an eye-witness of the events, reports that the Grand-Duke Nikolai Nikolaievitch, the leader of the Russian military party, gave a banquet in honor of the French visitors, during which the Grand-Duke's consort, Anastasia, the daughter of the King of Montenegro, joined her sister in calling out to M. Paléologue: "The war is coming. Not a trace will remain of Austria. Our armies will meet in Berlin." That was on July 22, i.e., before the Austrian ultimatum had been handed over to Serbia. And Poincaré himself, who left St. Petersburg on July 23, namely on the same day that the Austrian ultimatum was presented, had also, prior to his departure, confirmed the plein pouvoir given to Russia for the event of a world war. A telegram despatched on July 24, by the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, Sir George Buchanan, in dealing with the results of the conversations between the French President and the Russian statesmen, mentions as the third point: "Solemn confirmation of the obligations laid upon the two countries by the Alliance."[xx] Hence, before Austria's first move against Serbia had been made, France and Russia had contemplated a general conflict. This changed absolutely the local character of the struggle; it became thereby a European question.
When Vienna, having declared the Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum to be unsatisfactory -- a view also held by the French savant Renouvin[xxi] -- commenced hostilities against Serbia, Berlin continued to work hard for the localization of the conflict. Almost all the mediatory proposals received from London were sent on to Vienna by Germany -- the proposals being often accompanied by supplementary recommendations. Nevertheless, all efforts to prevent the great conflagration failed, for, in the afternoon of July 30, the Tsar took the decisive step of issuing orders for the general mobilization of Russia. This was a menace, not only to the Dual Monarchy, but also to Germany; and from this time onwards it was impossible to call a halt. In Paris, where not one attempt was made to admonish France's eastern ally to moderation, matters developed with fatal rapidity. True, in order to inspire Great Britain with the belief that France desired peace, the feint was made of withdrawing the French troops 10 kilometres from the German frontier. But on July 31st, France decided in favor of war, for by 1 o'clock a. m. on August 1 the Russian Military Attaché was able to wire home: "The French Minister of War informed me, in a tone of exultation and cordiality, that the (French) Government was firmly resolved upon war."[xxii] That was 16 hours before Germany's declaration of war upon Russia and two and one-half days before her declaration to France. Thus the dice determining the outbreak of the World War had already fallen in St. Petersburg and Paris when Germany, threatened on both flanks, openly took up arms to defend herself against the deadly embrace.
In all the foregoing I have cited only such facts as can be proved with absolute certainty. Whoever is familiar with these facts will easily comprehend the deep moral indignation felt throughout Germany at the reproaches still thrown at her that her aggression, with that of her allies, caused the World War. Surely truth must triumph in these days of progress and democracy. In the face of the documents antecedent to the war, is it possible to shelve a revision of the verdict, simply because that verdict was over-hastily pronounced by the victors in 1919? All that the German people demand is fair play. Reconciliation among the nations is only possible if spite and hatred yield to calmness and discernment. Are the events of the past to act as a barrier to a better future? Is a nation to remain eternally branded as the "Felon of Humanity," when impartial research has clearly proved the falseness of such a stigma? Quite lately the English historian, G. Gooch, who has been entrusted by the British Government with the editorship and publication of the British records antecedent to the war, has declared in his work entitled "Germany" that "no evidence, however, has appeared to indicate that the German Government or the German people desired and plotted a world war. Both before and after the murder of the Archduke, the intentions of the Wilhelmstrasse were as pacific as its policy was maladroit."
This is one of the several steps recently taken in the right direction. It is a step which will help forward moral disarmament. That military disarmament is essential to alleviating the distress of the over-burdened peoples of Europe has long been recognized. But this military disarmament will only become possible when moral disarmament has made sufficient headway, above all only when the moral condemnation of Versailles has been cancelled, when that mutual hatred has subsided which, though seven years have passed since the World War ended, still cankers the minds of men. To this end a knowledge of the truth must be spread among mankind; and the fight for truth concerning the past is therefore a fight for the future happiness of humanity.
[i] Ministère des Affaires Etrangères: "Documents Diplomatiques. Les Affaires Balkaniques, 1912-1914."
[ii] "Entente Diplomacy and the World." Edited, arranged and annotated by George Abe Schneider. New York and London: The Knickerbocker Press, 1921.
[iii] "Der Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Iswolskis," Band I-VI, Berlin, 1924.
[iv] Mention must also be made of the documents found in Belgium by the German troops and published by the German Foreign Office as "Belgische Aktenstiicke, 1905-1914"; also the Serbian documents published by Bogitchevitch in "The Causes of the War" (Larghuysen: Amsterdam, 1919).
[v] See, in the French "Yellow Book," "Les accords Franco-Italiens, 1900-1902."
[vi] See "Der Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Iswolskis," Vol. II, p. 221.
[vii] "Mémoires d'Alexandre Isvolski, Ancien Ambassadeur de Russie à Paris." Paris: Payot.
[viii] Bogitchevitch: "The Causes of the War," p. 171.
[ix]Ibid., p. 180.
[x] For this and subsequent quotations from Isvolsky's correspondence see "Der Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Iswolskis."
[xi] Documents Diplomatiques. Les Affaires Balkaniques," Vol. I, pp. 111, et seq.
[xii] E. Adamov: Izvestia, July 29, 1924, No. 171.
[xiii] "Deutsches Weissbuch über die Verantwortlichkeit der Urheber des Krieges," p. 156. Also see "Livre Noir," II, p. 306.
[xiv] "Belgische Aktenstücke 1905-14," p. 124.
[xv] "Der Diplomatische Schriftwechsel Isvolskis," Doc. 1177.
[xvi]Ibid., Doc. 1157.
[xvii] Stieve: "Iswolski im Weltkrieg," Doc. 224 and 225.
[xviii] Bogitchevitch: "The Causes of the War," p. 217.
[xix] "Krv Slovenstva," Belgrade, 1924.
[xx] Stieve: "Iswolski im Weltkreig," p. 213.
[xxi] Renouvin: "Les Origines immédiates de la Guerre." Paris: Costes, p. 64.
[xxii] Romberg: "The Falsifications of the Russian Orange Book." London: G. Allen & Unwin, p. 54.