Russia’s Repeat Failures
Moscow’s New Strategy in Ukraine Is Just as Bad as the Old One
IS IT possible that the power of a lie is even greater than it is pictured as being in the fine book of the Norwegian novelist, Johan Bojer? Its power sometimes disheartens those who seek to defend and bear witness to the truth. Those who have been closely connected with great events and who remember them in their minutest details feel that the truth must be obvious to any fair-minded person. But when they see the imagination of some and the dishonesty of others distorting facts out of all semblance to reality, they feel inclined to withdraw into themselves, to give up counting upon any man to refute such calumnies and to wait for time in its wisdom to reëstablish the balance.
This is a mistake. For falsehood is thus given an opportunity to outdistance truth and legend is allowed to take the place of history. In a recent book, Mr. Richard Grelling, an honest German who acknowledges the wrongs committed by his country, draws attention to the Reich's recent attempts to clear Germany of all responsibility for the World War, and at the same time makes short shrift of the assertions that have been given out in support of so astounding a thesis. It is unfortunately true that in friendly countries, and especially in the United States, the combined propaganda of Germany and the Soviets has sown confusion in the minds even of well-meaning men of high standing.[i] They have actually forgotten that it was Germany who in 1914 made the decisive and irreparable decision by declaring war on Russia and on France, that it was Germany who violated Belgian neutrality, invaded France and devastated ten departments in the north and northeast, and that it was Germany who exhibited such barbarity on land and sea that the United States of America felt called upon to enter the lists against her.
On July 6, 1922, in the French Chamber of Deputies, M. Herriot, then chief of the Opposition, answering a communist deputy who had expressed himself as in accord with Soviet accusations against me, said: "The point at issue is whether the Republic (and I am thinking both of the country and the governmental régime) could be held in any way, through the acts of its ministers or through its President, responsible in the very slightest degree for the abominable crime of 1914. I for my part answer unhesitatingly, No! This question, I confess, troubled my conscience, as it has doubtless troubled the conscience of others. I now have read all the documents that there are to read, I have gone through, page by page, the "Livre Noir" which has so often been quoted in debates here in the Chamber, and I may say that the conclusions which I have drawn from its perusal are not those of my communist interlocutor. Germany so far has not produced a single authentic document with any real proof against us." M. Herriot then referred to the categorical avowal in regard to France's pacific intentions made by the German Ambassador at Paris, Baron von Schoen, who in a telegram dated July 29, 1914, reported that in the view of M. Viviani, President of the Council, the best expedient would be "prompt and immediate recourse to mediation, no matter in what form." "Viviani," added Baron von Schoen, "refuses to give up hope for the maintenance of peace, which is honestly desired here (Paris)." In conclusion M. Herriot pointed out that it was inconceivable that so many free countries, and in particular the United States, should have been so extravagantly deceived when they threw in their lot with France in the struggle for an idea, for justice. "The American democracy," he cried, "was under the guidance of one of the most conscientious and clear-minded of the world's leaders, a man who for many months had been searching for the truth, weighing the evidence and ripening his great decision. Can we forget that he stood here on our French tribune, forget that from this tribune he announced to the whole world that right and justice lay on the side of France?"
And were they, too, mistaken, those other countries who in turn ranged themselves by the side of France and Belgium,--Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hedjaz, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Rumania, Siam, and Uruguay? And the states who were oppressed and downtrodden before the war and whom the war liberated, Poland and Jugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, were they too deceived? And if all these people were deceived, what is the diabolic power which led them astray? Can it reside in one man or one nation?
In the July number of FOREIGN AFFAIRS, President Masaryk of the Czechoslovak Republic, set over against each other the political and social characteristics of pre-war France and prewar Germany--imperial Germany, prussianized, accustomed to confound the ability to use force with the right to use it, an entire stranger to democratic customs and unacquainted with liberty: France, steeped in the doctrines of the French Revolution, familiar through long usage with the ideas of justice and equality, and free from warlike aspirations. He was right. The republican institutions of France are indeed conceived in such a manner that no one man can substitute his will for that of the people. No President of the Republic can act without the counter-signature of a minister and every minister is responsible to the Chambers for his actions. It would be a simple matter to show, year by year and point by point, that, before the war as since, the foreign policy of France has been carried on in the open and in complete accord with Parliament.
I have been somewhat astonished to find over the signature of one of my American academic critics a number of remarkable misstatements concerning men and events in France. He speaks of "the Poincaré clique" and alleges that in 1912 there came into power "the advocates of a strong France, prominent among them Poincaré, Delcassé, Millerand, Joffre, Jonnart, and Tardieu." Now as a matter of fact Jonnart did not become minister until 1913, in a cabinet presided over by M. Briand, now Foreign Minister in the "Left" cabinet of M. Painlevé; M. Tardieu was not even a deputy in 1912 or 1913, but a mere journalist; General Joffre was chief of staff before 1912, and he remained as such until the war, but his attitude was never open to criticism and he never attempted in any manner whatsoever to exert any political influence. And, finally, the cabinet of 1912, the formation of which was entrusted to me by President Fallières, comprised men like M. Briand, who was its Vice-President; M. Léon Bourgeois, one of the most active partisans of international arbitration and one of my most faithful friends; and M. Steeg, today Minister of Justice in the Painlevé cabinet, who like M. Briand and M. Léon Bourgeois was closely associated with the policy of my government, and who has always assumed his share of responsibility and has referred publicly to a remark of mine made one day at the Council of Ministers: "Even if I knew beforehand that war would bring us victory, I should attempt the impossible to prevent it." As to my subsequent conduct as President of the Republic, it was that of the head of a state who belonged to no party and felt it his constitutional duty to act the part of an arbiter between conflicting elements and to maintain the same reserved attitude as the King of England or of Italy. This is of course the very essence of the European parliamentary system. In consequence of this policy, I had as ministers under me republicans of every shade, such for example as, in 1913, M. Doumergue, now President of France; M. Caillaux, M. Renoult, who was in M. Herriot's cabinet only a short time ago; M. Malvy, M. Viviani and later, during the war, a number of Socialists. I may perhaps be allowed to add, since Messrs. Barnes and Bausman propose to call me to account, that if when I left the Elysée both Chambers, regardless of party and on the initiative of deputies like MM. Briand and Painlevé, voted an act declaring that I had deserved well of my country, it was tantamount to admitting that at no stage had I governed with a clique. Enough of personalities. Let us turn to ideas and facts.
The dominant idea is this: up to the month of August, 1914, France in every situation gave proof of the sincerity and permanence of her pacific intentions. The dominant fact is this: there is always a chance of avoiding war so long as it has not actually been declared, and it was Germany who declared war.
Of course, France had not forgotten and could not forget that in 1871 Germany had torn from her side a living piece of flesh, regardless of the cries of the inhabitants and the solemn protests of the representatives of Alsace and Lorraine in the National Assembly. It is vain to say that it was the Emperor Napoleon III who declared war. Yes, he did declare it after the publication of the mutilated telegram of Ems; and I admit that in spite of this attenuating circumstance he deserved to suffer the consequences of his wrong-doing. France disavowed and dethroned him. It was quite comprehensible for Germany to force the defeated nation to pay an indemnity,--which she did to the tune of five billions of francs. But nothing can justify Germany's adding to this severe punishment an attack upon the liberties of an unoffending and defenseless population. The rape of two provinces which had been incorporated in France for over two hundred years and which wished to remain French was a crime against the law of nations. To have passed the sponge of oblivion over so black a page of history would have been on France's part a complete abdication, a renouncement of sover-eignty and a cowardly abandonment of her children. But the fact that she continued to think sorrowfully of those who had been torn from her did not mean that she dreamed for a single moment of delivering them by force of arms. The republicans of 1870 who in the defense of their invaded country girt on the fallen sword of a tottering Empire were no lovers of military glory. Quite the contrary, they were averse to it both by tradition and principle. They were sincere friends of peace. They tried to prevent their country's defeat. Having failed, and having also witnessed the defeat of justice, they withdrew into themselves and gleaned what comfort they could from Gambetta's famous phrase, that sooner or later would sound the hour of immanent justice. This consolation was certainly theoretical rather than practical. Yet they remained satisfied with it and never brooded over the idea of a war of revenge, nor did any of the old republicans--Gambetta, Jules Ferry or Freycinet--ever, even momentarily, pursue a policy that was anything but absolutely frank.
The generation which succeeded them inherited these pacific sentiments and abided by them. Germany turned her energies more and more toward the Germanization of Alsace and Lorraine. In spite of her persistence she did not achieve what she was after, but even if she had succeeded in making Alsace and Lorraine into a loyal German colony, the immorality of the conquest would have remained the same, for the assimilation, coming after forcible seizure and having been brought about by compulsion, would have been but a different form and prolongation of the initial violence. It was not to be expected that France could give her approval to such an infringement of her national rights. But, however painful it might be for her, she loved peace too much and knew too well how deeply she would suffer from any war ever to allow herself provocation or even indiscretion. And of all her citizens the most peaceful were those who lived near the new frontiers. They knew only too well that a war would expose them and their families and property to invasion and devastation. That brilliant German publicist, Maximilian Harden, realized this when he told his compatriots: "You may if you wish represent M. Poincaré as an abettor of all iniquity, but when you say that he is responsible for the war, it would be all too easy for him to prove the contrary, even without the testimony of outstanding men belonging to different political parties in different parts of the world. Poincaré did not want his Lorraine to become a battlefield again. He wanted to be a President of Peace."
Germany, after for years insisting that economic competition and colonial jealousies with England were the cause of the war, has suddenly changed her tune and now asserts that France, the ally of Russia, was at fault in not opposing the Eastern ambitions of the Tsarist Government, in allowing Russia a free hand and thus participating in a policy that led to the cataclysm.
In advancing so fantastic an explanation Germany quite forgets to show that the Franco-Russian alliance was merely a defensive display, rendered necessary by the Triple Alliance. Between 1871 and 1891 the German Empire had laid a firm basis for its hegemony over Europe. To accomplish this it had concluded a series of accords: in 1879 an alliance with Austria, in 1882 an alliance with Italy, in 1887 the "reinsurance treaty" with Russia. German ascendancy had reached such a point that there was no longer any independence or equilibrium in Europe. Peace meant German despotism and European servitude. An instinct of self-preservation made Europe cast about for a corrective. The first result was the Franco-Russian alliance which was negotiated under the Presidency of M. Carnot by M. de Freycinet and M. Ribot. It was of a strictly defensive nature as Article I clearly shows: "If France should be attacked by Germany or by Italy supported by Germany, Russia shall employ all her available forces to attack Germany. If Russia is attacked by Germany or by Austria supported by Germany, France shall employ all her available forces to fight Germany." All the documents relating to the negotiations and to the conclusion of this alliance, as well as to the military and naval annexed conventions, have been published in their entirety in a "Livre Jaune" and they admit of no misinterpretation. Other agreements to free Europe and the world from German domination followed the Franco-Russian rapprochement: the Franco-Italian agreements of 1900, the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904, and finally the Russo-Japanese, Anglo-Russian and Russo-Italian agreements. No one of these treaties was aggressive in character, no one was directed against Germany, but they had been concluded without her and to this extent set a limit to her imperialistic ambitions. None the less, Germany's policy continued to be dominated by the arrogant spirit which since the war of 1870 had led to the Franco-German incidents of 1875 and 1887, and which between 1905 and 1911 had constantly poisoned affairs in Morocco. After the insult of Tangiers came the threat of Agadir. Instead of being stung into action by these repeated provocations, France, in her desire for peace, signed, under the very cannon of the Panther, the treaty of November 4, 1911, and in exchange for liberty of action in Morocco made important territorial concessions in the Congo. In the early part of 1912, as head of the French Government, I saw the treaty through the Senate in spite of the opposition of M. Clemenceau, and I put into application its provisions in spite of continued intrigues which German agents such as Karl Ficke carried out in Morocco with the connivance of the Berlin cabinet. The Resident-General, General Lyautey, reported officially in 1914 that Germany was acting in Morocco exactly as if she were still in possession of the rights which she had forfeited by the treaty of 1911 and that she thus was keeping alive the germs of war.
On top of all this, hostilities broke out between the Balkan States and Turkey. As soon as she received the first inkling of this danger France did her best to prevent it. But she was not in a position to muzzle the dogs of war which others had let loose. The Italian expedition into Tripoli (begun in September, 1911), the many difficulties which it encountered, the persistence of the local resistance with which it met, the broader scope given it by the Italian Government, the occupation of the islands of the Dodecanese entailing a threat to the Dardanelles themselves--all had fired Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro with the determination to obtain from a weakened Turkey the reforms so long and so imperiously demanded by the Slavs and Greeks of Macedonia. Never indeed had the Ottoman administration been so shiftless and so mischief-making; everywhere the Christian populations were complaining of the way they were being treated. On January 17, 1912, with the idea of continuing its detestable practises more freely, the cabinet of Saïd Pasha had dissolved the Chamber of Deputies and proceeded under army surveillance to hold fake elections and thus set up a veritable despotism. It was at this moment that in the minds of the Balkan statesmen there took definite shape the plan to liberate their Macedonian brothers from the oppression of the Committee of Union and Progress. Pourparlers had taken place some months before between M. Venizelos and M. Gueschoff, between M. Rizoff and M. Pashitch. It was decided to strike while the iron was hot, and the conventions constituting the Balkan League were concluded at the end of May. It was not until the following August that France learned their actual contents, but beginning in January, 1912, alarming rumors from the Balkans had reached the ears of the French Government and they at once got in touch with Russia with a view to considering the various eventualities which Europe might have to face sooner or later in the East. Russia gave us assurances that she would abide by the territorial status quo in the Balkans. As the clouds loomed more threateningly on the horizon regular daily conversations took place among the Great Powers, including of course Germany and Austria-Hungary. This exchange of views is contained at length in a voluminous "Livre Jaune", the existence of which seems to be completely unsuspected by students of the Soviet documents, and which shows day by day what efforts France made for peace. But the course of events moved so rapidly that the agitation in the Balkans had reached an alarming point before the Great Powers could agree on any concerted program of reform. In the face of the approaching danger the French Government felt that while recommending the utmost patience and calm in Sofia, Belgrade, Athens, and Cetinje, it would be advisable to ask the Porte to carry out certain reforms. But the Porte continued to promise everything and to do nothing. In order to prevent a clash between Austria and Russia, and to emphasize the unanimity of European opinion, we suggested that these two Powers make a joint appeal to the Balkan States to be wise and maintain absolute calm. Unfortunately on the very day when this joint appeal was to be launched by Russia and Austria, Montenegro suddenly declared war on Turkey. From then on, of course, the European concert of nations altered its goal; having failed to prevent war, they turned all their energies to limiting its scope and duration. The French Government did all it could in support of this policy by keeping in constant touch with the Great Powers and by helping to organize the Conference of London, so ably and impartially presided over by the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Sir Edward Grey.
In this European conference, which she had worked so hard to establish, France played the rôle of a moderator. The instructions given M. Paul Cambon by the successive French Governments--my own, M. Briand's, M. Barthou's, M. Doumergue's --bear witness to this constant pacific influence. In a speech delivered on June 22, 1916, M. Tittoni, then Italian Foreign Minister, who had been Ambassador in Paris during the Balkan crisis, could truthfully say: "Everything that Austria asked for after the two Balkan Wars she obtained with the consent and support of all the Powers. It was in this way that Albania was created at Austria's request, its King designated by Austria, Montenegro obliged to give up Scutari, Serbia forced to abandon her claim to an outlet on the Adriatic, and the frontiers of Albania toward Serbia and Greece drawn at Austria's dictation." These triumphs were referred to by Count Berchtold himself in a speech on November 20, 1913, in which, after mentioning specific instances, he concluded: "We carried out the essential part of our program and safeguarded the peace of the Monarchy." And if more proof were needed it is supplied by Prince Lichnowsky, German Ambassador to Great Britain and designated to represent his Government at the London Conference, when he refers in his memoirs to the continued, often indiscreet, support given by Berlin to Vienna's claims. He states that Russia did not wish to drive the Sultan from Constantinople and that Germany compromised the whole situation by trying to extend her control to the shores of the Bosphorous. He declares that the Hohenzollern Empire moved toward a conflict with Russia, "viewing the Eastern Question through Austrian spectacles." He adds: "We supported, against our own economic interests, Austria's political interests, which aimed at the strangulation of Serbia." And again: "Sir Edward Grey conducted the negotiations with prudence, calm and tact. Whenever a question threatened to become dangerous, he would propose a harmonious formula which was always just and always acceptable. His personality inspired equal confidence in all the negotiating parties. We had indeed once more come happily out of one of the numerous crises to which our policies constantly subjected us. Russia had been obliged to back down on every point, for she had in no instance been able to obtain satisfaction for her Serbian protégés; Albania had been created a vassal state to Austria; Serbia had been kept from the sea. In short, the whole Conference was another humiliation to Russia's dignity. Just as in 1878 and in 1908, once again we opposed Russia's ambitions, although Germany's interests were in no way at stake." Lichnowsky then makes reference to the conciliatory attitude of his Russian colleague, Ambassador Benckendorf, recalling his German origin and that consequently he was supposedly German in sympathies. "He was careful," he writes, "never to take too intransigent a stand on any question; and was supported in this by the attitude of France and Great Britain."
In the face of such positive proofs, proofs which correspond exactly with the French documents and the actual facts, what weight can be attached to the Soviet publications and the commentaries resulting from them? Maximilian Harden has drawn attention to the fact that there is no way of distinguishing in the Soviet diplomatic reports between objective truth and personal prejudice. As Mr. Richard Grelling observes, no one knows if the texts divulged to Germany by the Soviets in 1919 have been reproduced whole or piece-meal, nor is it known whether the French, English and German translations are correct. Mr. Grelling has brought to light what appear to be intentional mistakes and contradictions in the texts as they stand. But even admitting the authenticity of these documents, we French politicians find it hard not to shrug our shoulders when we find that the statements taken so seriously emanate from M. Isvolsky. The French Government felt so little confidence in the Russian Ambassador that in August, 1912, I made energetic representations about him to M. Kokovtzev, President of the Russian Council, asking for his recall. Of course, as he was the representative of a friendly nation we had to put up with him, but we looked upon him as quite capable of serving his own interests and, if it suited him, of garbling our conversations in his reports. Traces of our mistrust are quite apparent to anyone who reads the "Livre Jaune" and the "Livre Noir", and I feel sure that anyone who will take the trouble to peruse, page by page, the five large volumes of M. Friederich Stieve containing the Soviet documents will come to the same conclusions as did M. Herriot. I cannot, owing to lack of space, undertake to go into all the details of this matter here. A summary of M. Stieve's books has already been published by a French diplomat, M. Romieu. I am looking forward myself to publishing a detailed, complete study on the subject. It will show how well-founded were Prince Lichnowsky's estimates of events, and how, in the East as elsewhere, France was a sincere and faithful friend of peace.
As an indication of France's too blind obedience to Russia much has been made of the recall of our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, M. George Louis, who, it is claimed, was sacrificed unjustly to M. Isvolsky's whim. We need only consult the "Livre Noir" to find that it was not M. Isvolsky but M. Sazonov, Russia's Foreign Minister, who, rightly or wrongly, objected to M. George Louis. M. George Louis' health and his rather unusual reserve made it hard for him properly to fill a post which required untiring energy as well as great social gifts. After thoroughly examining the complaints made against him, I nevertheless refused to inflict upon him a rebuke which seemed quite unwarranted, as he had always professed to be in complete agreement with the policy of the French Government. Later on, when I was no longer President of the Council and before I had become President of France, M. Briand, who had become Premier, and M. Jonnart, Minister of Foreign Affairs, decided that M. Louis' health was so impaired as to prevent his properly fulfilling his duties and he was placed on the retired list. A few months ago M. Jonnart published the reasons for this decision. It was made, by his and M. Briand's request, at a Council meeting presided over by M. Fallières and which I did not attend. Upon his return to France, more and more broken in health and perhaps a little soured in spirit, M. Louis had the ill fortune to enter a milieu made up in part of defeatists and adventurers. This accounts for his admitting to his inner circle a most questionable financier, Bolo Pasha, to whom Germany had paid many millions of francs and who (as the result of unimpeachable evidence secured by the American Department of Justice) was condemned and shot as a traitor. So taken in was he by Bolo that George Louis offered to vouch for his patriotism and probity.
After having during his lifetime given so sorry an example of his lack of discrimination, the ex-Ambassador entrusted to friends who approved his stand during the latter days of his life the task of showing after his death that he had been the innocent victim of a government's caprice. A journalist against whom M. Clemenceau brought a charge of intelligence with the enemy, who escaped across the frontier, who was condemned in default of defense, and who, returning to France after many years of exile, managed to secure an acquittal after the war was over, has published a correspondence attributed to M. Louis. This book was announced in Germany before it appeared here and no one has been able to verify its authenticity. If these conversations do really emanate from the pen of M. Louis, I fear that we are forced to conclude that his intellect had become even more clouded than his ill-considered testimony in favor of Bolo had led us to believe. The documents published under his name consist of conversations which he alleges to have had with politicians and diplomats from 1914 to 1917. They might justly be entitled "Dialogues of the Dead"; and if the interlocutors are no longer here to protest, the opinions attributed to them are contradicted by everything that they ever wrote while they were alive. Those few who still linger among the living have one and all been at pains categorically to deny their alleged remarks--as for example M. Stephen Pichon, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs; M. Jules Cambon, ex-Ambassador to Germany; and M. Paleologue, ex-Minister to Russia. M. Daeschner, now our Ambassador in Washington, who in 1912 was my chef de cabinet and one of my most valuable collaborators, has found glaring misstatements in these documents. M. Daeschner knows better than anyone else how tenaciously we fought for peace and the purely political reasons which obliged MM. Briand and Jonnart to put an end to the mission of M. Louis.
An administrative incident of this kind could of course in no way influence France's diplomatic policies. With or without M. Louis, France's policies remained unalterably pacific and no sympathy toward imaginary Russian ambitions ever turned us from the paths of peace. And besides, the results of the Conference of London put an end to all of such discussions. In consequence at least in part of France's efforts, the status in the Balkans remained as Austria desired it and she expressed her complete satisfaction officially. Germany had been a contributing factor in this success of her "brilliant second." The Triple Alliance had been renewed by anticipation on December 5, 1912. On March 24 and 29, 1913, Emperor William II had stopped on the Hohenzollern at Pola and Venice and reviewed the Austrian fleet and visited the Italian. A few weeks later King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who was on very intimate terms with the Hapsburg Monarch and who shortly afterwards was to range himself on the side of the Triple Alliance, gave General Savoff the order to attack the Serbs on the Vardar on the night of June 29--30. Ferdinand of Coburg had received an assurance from Vienna that the King of Rumania, Carol I of Hohenzollern, would come to his aid in consideration of certain specific concessions. These rosy schemes of Vienna and her Bulgarian ally were frustrated by the head of the Rumanian Government, Také Jonescu, who launched the army not against Serbia but against the conspiring Bulgars. At the end of two weeks King Ferdinand was beaten and a new Congress of Peace met at Bucharest. It was then that Austria made up her mind to take determined measures against her small neighbor, Serbia, whose proximity was a source of constant anxiety. The Dual Monarchy was in truth a tyrannous and precarious system, based entirely on the supremacy of the Austrian Germans and the Magyars and the subordination of all the Slavs of the Empire. Vienna and Budapest instinctively distrusted the attraction which independent Serbia might exercise over her brother Slavs. Therefore in July, 1913, Austria-Hungary communicated to the Italian Government, as also to Germany, her intention to act against Serbia, and, in order to involve Italy, she defined this enterprise as "a defensive action." M. Giolitti and the Marquis di San Giuliano at once characterized the proposal as "an extremely dangerous adventure" and refused to have anything to do with it. This attempted attack of 1913 casts a sinister light on the events of the following year.
Nevertheless, the world was at peace at the time of the Sarajevo murder. The immediate determining causes of the war must therefore be sought in the conduct of the various European nations after this tragedy.[ii]
Thoroughly dissatisfied with the Treaty of Bucharest and realizing that the national aspirations of the Southern Slavs constituted a menace to the maintenance of her artificial and fragile Empire, Austria eagerly seized upon the assassination at Sarajevo as an opportunity to eliminate Serbia as a political factor. At first Germany did not disapprove of this dangerous scheme. Quite the contrary, on July 5 Emperor William II and his Chancellor knowingly gave their adhesion to Austria's plan. They pretended not to know the details of its execution; they took no part in drawing up the ultimatum to Serbia; but they knew its general meaning and scope, and, far from restraining, egged Austria on. The ultimatum was to be so drawn as to make Serbia's humiliation complete and Count Berchtold certainly hoped that a local war would result. I do not claim that Austria or Germany, in this first phase, had a conscious thought-out intention of provoking a general war. No existing document gives us the right to suppose that, at that time, they had planned anything so systematic. Perhaps they did fondly imagine that Europe would watch unmoved the annihilation of Serbia, that Russia would limit her interference to diplomatic representations, and that England and France would give way, as they had given way before to the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But, even so, the Central Empires from the beginning had taken into account the fact that the despatch of a threatening note to Belgrade might result in action by Russia and they were decided to run the attendant risks. They had of course staked everything on England's neutrality.
Their first thesis therefore consisted in saying: "This is a special quarrel between Austria and Serbia. The quarrel concerns them alone. No one has the right to interfere in it." Germany saw to it that Austria was left free to act. M. Sazonov suggested entering into negotiations with Austria. "No," said Austria, "my affairs are none of your business." The Great Powers suggested a conference. "No," said Germany, "this matter concerns Austria alone." And William added: "In a vital matter one does not consult outsiders." In order to prevent every attempt at mediation, Count Berchtold brought matters to a head by declaring war on Serbia on July 28. Did Germany ask Austria to delay? Did she advise calm and patience? Far from it. She allowed her "brilliant second" to declare war, in other words to perform the first irreparable act in the long and bloody series yet to come. Was not this the time to invoke the old maxim: principiis obsta? Obviously, neither Berlin nor Vienna could suppose the Russians would lightly pass over such an act of brutality against a small Slav state, particularly when the state in question had just replied to the ultimatum in the most conciliatory terms, and publicly condemned the crime of Printsip and Tchabrinovitch, and had promised Austria to take the most severe and reassuring measures. By their common action on July 27 Germany and Austria therefore did everything to make a European War possible. They had cast the fatal die. It could no longer be recalled by scruples or by any form of mere regrets.
It was because I feared the incalculable consequence of the first act of violence that on Tuesday, July 21, at a reception in St. Petersburg to the members of the diplomatic corps, I called the attention of the Austrian Ambassador to Russia, Count Szapary, to the sinister complications which an ill-considered act on the part of his country might precipitate. At this time I knew nothing, of course, of the contents of the Austrian note, but rumor had it that the terms were very harsh. The trip which I had undertaken in Russia, and which was to extend to Sweden, Denmark and Norway, had been determined upon in the preceding January by M. Doumergue's cabinet. It had been modeled on similar trips of all my predecessors as President of France. However tense the situation might be after the Sarajevo murder, the French Government had decided that it was wiser not to postpone my visit so as not to increase the anxiety of Europe. But, as proved by the German and Austrian documents published since the Russian Revolution, the two Governments of Vienna and Berlin had arranged to delay the delivery of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia until I had left Russia. I suppose that they wanted to avoid giving M. Viviani, my Foreign Minister, who accompanied me, an opportunity to consult with M. Sazonov. And indeed from July 23 to 29, except for a short stop at Stockholm, the President of France and her Foreign Minister were in mid-seas with only scanty information from often indecipherable radiograms.
In Paris, M. Bienvenu Martin, now president of the most advanced group in the Senate, filled the functions of Minister of Justice and Vice-President of the Council. He was in constant communication with Great Britain and joined in all London's efforts to avert war. But, as was of course to be expected, Austria's aggression had caused tremendous feeling in Russia. On July 29 Russia informed the Powers that she was proceeding to a partial mobilization against Austria. She hoped by this to prevent the complete collapse of Serbia, which would have entailed a revision of the Treaty of Bucharest. It is true that Austria assured the Government of St. Petersburg that she herself contemplated no territorial annexation, but she made no promises regarding the partition of Serbia and its possible distribution between her clients, Albania and Bulgaria. The Austrian Ambassadors in Rome and London had in fact given it to be understood that such a partition was contemplated. Russia's partial mobilization was therefore nothing but her reply to the Austrian declaration of war and to the strong suspicions engendered by it.
It is a fact that the attitude of the German Government underwent a slight change just at the end. Up to the close of the day of the 27th, Germany had given Austria wholehearted support which could only be interpreted as encouragement. Germany had clung tenaciously to the theory of localization--not to interfere and to let things take their course. Serbia was to receive one of those magisterial lessons which William II flamboyantly clamored for in his annotations. But on the 28th, coming to the sudden realization that things were not turning out as they had been planned, the German Government began to fear that its bluff was being called and made a tardy attempt to bring the run-away car to a standstill. On the 28th, the Imperial Chancellor advised Count Berchtold not to reject entirely the possibility of merely taking some security of good faith from Serbia. It was the fear of England which was bringing her to her senses. During the night of July 28--29 Germany pressed her new views rather more strongly. "If the war is to become a general one," wrote Bethmann, "it is absolutely essential that Russia should bear the onus of it." Vienna received these unexpected suggestions with great ill-humor. She had on the 28th broken off the direct negotiations begun on the 26th with Russia at the initiative of M. Sazonov because Count Berchtold was only willing to carry on "an academic discussion on generalities." Austria was no more disposed merely to accept securities of good faith from Serbia than to accept mediation. What was more serious was that the evasive answers of Vienna had had their repercussions in Berlin. The General Staff and the military clique surrounding the Emperor (for it was in monarchical Germany and not in republican France that a military clique held sway) had found new courage to combat the Chancellor's changed attitude. M. Bethmann-Hollweg at first resisted, but finally gave way during the evening of the 30th. He agreed to cancel the instructions sent to the Ambassador at Vienna, M. Tschirschky, and he contented himself with forwarding to the Austro-Hungarian Government a telegram from the King of England without comment of any kind upon its vital significance.
On the evening of the 30th, then, Germany, like Austria, went back to the policy of the mailed fist. At that time she did not know of the ukase ordering general mobilization in Russia. This mobilization was therefore not responsible for the German Government's return to the paths of war laid out by the General Staff; the responsibility rests upon the all-powerful military spirit of Berlin.
Could the Russian mobilization in any event be considered as of an aggressive nature? It must not be forgotten that, technically, a partial mobilization causes great confusion among the workmen on the inadequately manned railroads and thus makes a possible general mobilization more difficult. It must also not be forgotten that in Russia, whose immense territory was far less densely populated than Austria or Germany, mobilization and concentration were slow affairs. A head-start of several days' mobilization could not by any means put Russia on an equal footing with Austria. And in any event German superiority was assured. M. Sazonov had many times repeated, and the Tsar himself had written to "Willy," that mobilization did not mean war and that the army would remain with arms grounded. At the very worst, as a last resort, Germany could always have mobilized her army without declaring war and have then continued the interrupted parleys. She would thus have retained her advantage over Russia and yet not wrecked all chances of peace.
On the contrary, however, Germany hastened to bring about the irreparable. Why? Because such was the wish of the General Staff. And it is here that the real difference between the French and the German régimes becomes apparent. In France, when the threat of a general war seemed to call for mobilization, the General Staff requested the Government to order it. The Government answered that it preferred to delay a little longer. The decree was postponed twenty-four hours and General Joftre obeyed. Once mobilization was decreed, M. Viviani, so as to avoid any incidents which might lead to bloodshed and thus provoke war, decided, with the consent of the President of France, to withdraw the French troops ten kilometers from the frontier. The General Staff regarded such a proceeding with the utmost disfavor, as being likely to put us in a strategically bad position. The order was given nevertheless. The General Staff carried it out at once. They are accustomed to respect the civil government and do not try to usurp its prerogatives. In Germany in 1914 it was the General Staff who controlled everything, and they were the prisoners of their own plan of campaign. Moltke had prepared a sudden offensive in the west. France was to be invaded through Belgium, the civil populations were to be terrorized, our army was to be dealt with before England should have time to come to our assistance, and the more slowmoving Russians were then to be annihilated. On July 26 the German General Staff had already drawn up the Belgian ultimatum. The violation of Belgian neutrality was an essential part of the plan of campaign. When the Chancellor, under the sway of the military clique, finally characterized as a "scrap of paper" one of the most solemn treaties of our time, he merely gave a striking expression to the abiding conviction of the General Staff. In only one eventuality were France and Belgium to be spared--in the event of their remaining neutral. The Chancellor therefore ordered his Ambassador at Paris, Baron von Schoen, imperiously to demand neutrality from the French cabinet. Even should France be willing to tear up her defensive alliance and agree not to assist Russia, even should she express a willingness to withdraw completely from a struggle involving all the issues of the European balance of power, Germany was nevertheless to exact tangible guarantees. Baron von Schoen was directed to say: "Hand over to us, for the duration of the war, the fortified places of Toul and Verdun. We will return them to you later on when we have beaten Russia."
Germany has been so successful in plunging into darkness even the memory of these many facts that certain people actually believe that she is less responsible for the war than Russia or France. Did France draw up military plans for a sudden attack involving the violation of Belgian neutrality? Did she put herself deliberately, beforehand, in a position where she had to declare war and had to tear to shreds an international treaty bearing her own signature? Let no one say: "It was the German General Staff who drew up the plans, not the German Government." No, it was not the Government; but the Government was cognizant of the plans, had approved them, had assumed responsibility for them and knew whither these plans would lead if the general situation grew threatening. It is therefore of little import that the Government should have declared war only because it was committed beforehand to a certain line of action. The Government was not obliged to adopt any such program; it did adopt it, in spite of all risks. William himself foresaw the consequence, as is proved by the entry on August 1 of one of his all-too-famous annotations: "So if we do not respect Belgian neutrality, England attacks and Italy deserts us, that is the situation in a nutshell! So there is another betrayal by our Allies!" Why had Germany brought herself to the edge of such a precipice? Her fault was the price which she had to pay for a military and autocratic régime. Perhaps she would never have committed it had she ever known liberty.
Mobilization is not aggression. Else Austria, whose army remained mobilized during the greater part of the Balkan Wars, was the aggressor against Serbia. The aggressor is the one who renders inevitable the first shot, in other words the nation who first declares war. An aggression is even more clearly characterized when the nation who declares war suddenly breaks off negotiations which are under way and, taking advantage of its more rapid mobilization, is able, because of its precipitate action, to obtain strategic advantages over the nation which it attacks.
Imperial Germany is guilty because she did not try to prevent Austria from attacking Serbia. She is guilty because on the contrary she manoeuvred so that Europe should leave Serbia alone face to face with its powerful neighbor. She is guilty because having for a time, through belated fear of Great Britain, gone back on her first counsels of violence and made feeble attempts at moderation, she returned, as the Scriptures say, to her vomit. She is guilty because without being forced by anything except strategic considerations she set a torch to the powder houses of Europe by declaring a senseless war on Russia and then on France. Against these unalterable truths the gates of hell themselves shall not prevail.
[i] Only a few months ago Mr. Frederick Bausman, a former member of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, wrote in an English publication that "a decided change" had taken place in American public opinion concerning the origins of the war. He quoted a pamphlet of Mr. Albert Jay Nock of New York, articles by Professor Sidney Fay, the German publications of Siebert, the Bolshevik "Livre Noir", speeches made before the American Senate in December, 1923, by Senator Robert L. Owen, and the commentaries of Mr. Frank H. Simonds, Professors Seymour of Yale, and Wright and Bernadotte Schmitt of Chicago. He recalled, too, the classification of national responsibilities which Professor Harry E. Barnes felt himself qualified to make: the primary guilt rests upon Austria, then upon Russia, then upon France; Germany, according to Mr. Barnes, wished on the contrary to avoid war.
[ii] An eminent French historian, M. Pierre Renouvin, has made a conscientious study of these causes in his lectures before the student body of the University of Paris. He has examined the arguments advanced in different countries with scrupulous care, he has given deep consideration to the claims of Germany's defenders, and has just published his conclusions in a remarkable book. It shows no trace of passion or resentment, but exposes to the pitiless light of day the guilt of the Central Empires.