Telegrams and Letters Circulated on Saturday July 25 1914
Austria-Hungary. Count Berchtold, Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, telegraphed from Lembach to his Under-Secretary, Baron von Macchio, that Russia through Prince Koudacheff, its Chargé d'Affaires at Vienna, was pressing for an extension of the time limit in the note to Serbia, and that he should tell the prince this would not be granted, but that, even after the severance of diplomatic relations, Serbia could have peace by complying unconditionally with Austria-Hungary's demands—in which case, however, she must pay the cost of Austro-Hungarian military measures.
Later, Count Berchtold telegraphed to Count Szápáry, Austro-Hungarian Ambassador at St. Petersburg, that Prince Koudacheff had based his request on the powers being taken by surprise in the demands on Serbia, and therefore that Russia should have time to consider the evidence in the case as presented in Austria-Hungary's dossier. These grounds, said Count Berchtold, rested on a mistaken hypothesis.
"Our note to the powers was in no way intended to invite them to make known their own views on the subject, but merely bore the character of a statement for information, the communication of which we regarded as a duty laid on us by international courtesy.... We regarded our action as concerning us and Serbia alone."
Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, Austro-Hungarian Minister at Belgrade, telegraphed Count Berchtold that the Serbian Cabinet on the evening of the 24th and morning of the 25th had been preparing its reply to the note, and would deliver it before the time limit expired; preparations were being made by the Serbian Government and army for removal into the interior; foreign legations expected to have to follow; the Russian Legation was already packing up; the Austro-Hungarian Legation were ready to leave Belgrade by the 6.30 p. m. train.
Count Berchtold notified Count Szápáry at St. Petersburg, on the same day, that, in case of Russia reconsidering her position, and refusing to be swept away by the bellicose elements, he, with the support of his German colleague, Count Pourtalès, a close understanding with whom was presumed, should impress upon M. Sazonof, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Austria-Hungary, in event of war with Russia, would not stand alone.
"That we had striven up till now, so far as in us lay, to preserve the peace which we considered to be the most precious possession of nations, was shown by the course of events during the last forty years, and by the historical fact that our gracious emperor has won for himself the glorious title of 'Protector of the Peace.'
"We should, therefore, most sincerely deplore the disturbance of the European peace, because we also were of the opinion that the strengthening of the Balkan States in a position of political and national independence would prove to the advantage of our relations with Russia, and would also remove all possibility of antagonism between us and Russia; also because we have always been ready, in the shaping of our own policy, to take into consideration the dominant political interests of Russia.
"Any further toleration of Serbian intrigues would undermine our existence as a state and our position as a great power, thus also threatening the balance of power in Europe. We are, however, convinced that it is to Russia's own interests, as her peaceful leaders will clearly see, that the existing European balance of power which is of such importance for the peace of the world, should be maintained. Our action against Serbia, whatever form it takes, is conservative from first to last, and its object is the necessary preservation of our position in Europe."
In a supplementary telegram Count Berchtold instructed Count Szápáry to explain that point five in the note to Serbia was interpolated merely out of practical considerations, and not to infringe on the sovereignty of Serbia.
"By 'collaboration' in point five, we are thinking of the establishment of a private 'Bureau de Sûreté' at Belgrade, which would operate in the same way as the analogous Russian establishments in Paris and in cooperation with the Serbian police and administration."
Other ambassadors were similarly instructed.
Russia. M. Broniewsky, Russian Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin, telegraphed to M. Sazonof reporting that he and the British Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, had urged the German Secretary of State, Herr von Jagow, to advise Vienna to extend the time limit in the ultimatum to Serbia. Von Jagow had telegraphed the request to Vienna, but, owing to the absence of Count Berchtold from the capital, feared that it would have no result.
"Moreover, he has doubts as to the wisdom of Austria yielding at the last moment, and he is inclined to think that such a step on her part might increase the assurance of Serbia. I replied that a great power such as Austria could give way without impairing her prestige, and I adduced every other similar argument, but failed, nevertheless, to obtain any more definite promise. Even when I gave him to understand that action must be taken at Vienna if the possibility of terrible consequences was to be avoided, the Minister for Foreign Affairs answered each time in the negative."
M. Sevastipoulo, Russian Chargé d'Affaires at Paris, telegraphed M. Sazonof that, at his instance, the French representative at Vienna had been instructed to request extension of the time limit in the note to Serbia.
Count Benckendorff, Russian Ambassador at London, telegraphed that the British representative at Vienna had been instructed to do the same, and also to discuss the prevention of hostilities should the request be refused.
M. Sazonof replied by telegraph that in event of hostilities, Russia counted on Great Britain siding at once and definitely with France and Russia in order to maintain the European balance of power for which Great Britain had constantly intervened in the past and which would certainly be compromised by the triumph of Austria.
Count Pourtalès, German Ambassador at St. Petersburg, handed a note verbale to M. Sazonof, denying the press report that the action of Austria-Hungary was instigated by the German Government, and declaring that this government "had no knowledge of the text" of the note to Serbia before it was presented, and had "exercised no influence upon its contents."
"Germany, as the ally of Austria, naturally supports the claims made by the Vienna Cabinet against Serbia, which she considers justified.
"Above all Germany wishes, as she has already declared from the very beginning of the Austro-Serbian dispute, that this conflict should be localized."
The same statement was made to the French Government by Baron von Schoen, the German Ambassador, and to the British Government by Count Benckendorff, the Russian Ambassador. The count asked Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of Foreign Affairs, that the British Government bring conciliatory pressure on Austria.
"Grey replied that this was quite impossible. He added that, as long as complications existed between Austria and Serbia alone, British interests were only indirectly affected; but he had to look ahead to the fact that Austrian mobilization would lead to Russian mobilization, and that from that moment a situation would exist in which the interests of all the powers would be involved. In that event Great Britain reserved to herself full liberty of action."
Great Britain. Sir Francis Bertie, British Ambassador at Paris, telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey that M. Bienvenu-Martin, French Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, hoped that Serbia's reply to Austra-Hungary's demands would be sufficiently conciliatory to obviate extreme measures, but said that there would be revolution in Serbia if she were to accept the demands in their entirety.
Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey that M. Sazonof, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that the explanations of the Austrian Ambassador, Count Szápáry, did not quite correspond with information received from German quarters, which information came too late to affect negotiations at Vienna.
"The Minister for Foreign Affairs said that Serbia was quite ready to do as you had suggested and to punish those proved to be guilty, but that no independent State could be expected to accept the political demands which had been put forward. The Minister for Foreign Affairs thought, from a conversation which he had with the Serbian Minister [Dr. Spalaikovitch] yesterday, that, in the event of the Austrians attacking Serbia, the Serbian Government would abandon Belgrade, and withdraw their forces into the interior, while they would at the same time appeal to the powers to help them. His excellency was in favor of their making this appeal. He would like to see the question placed on an international footing, as the obligations taken by Serbia in 1908, to which reference is made in the Austrian ultimatum, were given not to Austria, but to the powers.
"If Serbia should appeal to the powers, Russia would be quite ready to stand aside and leave the question in the hands of England, France, Germany, and Italy. It was possible, in his opinion, that Serbia might propose to submit the question to arbitration.
"On my expressing the earnest hope that Russia would not precipitate war by mobilizing until you had had time to use your influence in favor of peace, his excellency assured me that Russia had no aggressive intentions, and she would take no action until it was forced upon her. Austria's action was in reality directed against Russia. She aimed at overthrowing the present status quo in the Balkans, and establishing her own hegemony there. He did not believe that Germany really wanted war, but her attitude was decided by ours. If we took our stand firmly with France and Russia there would be no war. If we failed them now, rivers of blood would flow, and we would in the end be dragged into war.
"I said that England could play the rôle of mediator at Berlin and Vienna to better purpose as friend who, if her counsels of moderation were disregarded, might one day be converted into an ally, than if she were to declare herself Russia's ally at once. His excellency said that unfortunately Germany was convinced that she could count upon our neutrality.
"I said all I could to impress prudence on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and warned him that if Russia mobilized, Germany would not be content with mere mobilization, or give Russia time to carry out hers, but would probably declare war at once. His excellency replied that Russia could not allow Austria to crush Serbia and become the predominant power in the Balkans, and, if she feels secure of the support of France, she will face all the risks of war."
Sir Horace Rumbold, British Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin, telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey that Herr von Jagow, German Secretary of State, had instructed the German Ambassador at Vienna, Herr von Tschirscky, to present to Count Berchtold, Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grey's suggestion of an extension of the time limit for Serbia's reply, but that, owing to Berchtold's absence from the capital, the extension would probably not be granted. Von Jagow did not know what Austria-Hungary had ready on the spot, but admitted that they meant to take military action. He also admitted that Serbia "could not swallow" certain of Austria-Hungary's demands.
"I asked whether it was not to be feared that, in taking military action against Serbia, Austria would dangerously excite public opinion in Russia. He said he thought not. He remained of opinion that crisis could be localized. I said that telegrams from Russia in this morning's papers did not look very reassuring, but he maintained his optimistic view with regard to Russia. He said that he had given the Russian Government to understand that the last thing Germany wanted was a general war, and he would do all in his power to prevent such a calamity. If the relations between Austria and Russia became threatening, he was quite ready to fall in with your suggestion as to the four powers working in favor of moderation at Vienna and St. Petersburg.
"Secretary of State confessed privately that he thought the note left much to be desired as a diplomatic document. He repeated very earnestly that, though he had been accused of knowing all about the contents of that note, he had in fact had no such knowledge."
Sir Rennell Rodd, British Ambassador at Rome, telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey that the Italian Secretary General was of opinion that Austria will only be restrained by Serbia's unconditional surrender, and that there was reliable information she intended to seize the Saloniki Railway.
Sir Maurice de Bunsen, British Ambassador at Vienna, telegraphed Sir Edward Grey that the language of the Vienna press left the impression that the surrender of Serbia was neither expected nor desired, and that Minister for Foreign Affairs Berchtold would go to Ischl to communicate Serbia's reply as soon as it was presented.
Mr. Crackanthorpe, British Chargé d'Affaires at Belgrade, telegraphed to Sir Edward Grey a forecast of the Serbian reply, and said that the Serbian Government considered it would be fully satisfactory unless Austria-Hungary was determined on war at any cost. In a supplementary telegram he said that in view of his French and Russian colleagues not having received instructions from their governments and of the proposed conciliatory terms of the Serbian reply, he had not offered advice to the Serbian Government. It was highly probable the Russian Government had urged the utmost moderation on Serbia.
Sir Edward Grey telegraphed Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador at St. Petersburg, that he could not promise to Russia more than he had done.
"I do not consider that public opinion here would or ought to sanction our going to war over a Serbian quarrel. If, however, war does take place, the development of other issues may draw us into it, and I am therefore anxious to prevent it.
"The sudden, brusque, and peremptory character of the Austrian démarche makes it almost inevitable that in a very short time both Russia and Austria will have mobilized against each other. In this event, the only chance of peace, in my opinion, is for the other four powers to join in asking the Austrian and Russian Governments not to cross the frontier, and to give time for the four powers acting at Vienna and St. Petersburg to try and arrange matters. If Germany will adopt this view, I feel strongly that France and ourselves should act upon it. Italy would no doubt gladly cooperate.
"No diplomatic intervention or mediation would be tolerated by either Russia or Austria unless it was clearly impartial and included the allies or friends of both. The cooperation of Germany would, therefore, be essential."
Sir Edward Grey telegraphed to Sir Horace Rumbold, British Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin, to the same effect, and also that Prince Lichnowsky, German Ambassador at London, was personally favorable to the suggestion of mediation between Austria and Russia, which he thought Austria might be able with dignity to accept.
"I impressed upon the ambassador that, in the event of Russian and Austrian mobilization, the participation of Germany would be essential to any diplomatic action for peace. Alone we could do nothing. The French Government were traveling at the moment, and I had had no time to consult them, and could not therefore be sure of their views, but I was prepared, if the German Government agreed with my suggestion, to tell the French Government that I thought it the right thing to act upon it."
Sir Edward Grey telegraphed to Sir Maurice de Bunsen, British Ambassador at Vienna, the text of the Russian telegram sent to the Russian Ambassador at Vienna asking the Austro-Hungarian Government for extension of the time limit for the Serbian reply, and protesting that a refusal would be "against international ethics." Grey asked Bunsen to support the Russian position.
"I trust that if the Austro-Hungarian Government consider it too late to prolong the time limit, they will at any rate give time in the sense and for the reasons desired by Russia before taking any irretrievable steps."
Sir Edward Grey telegraphed Mr. Crackanthorpe, British Chargé d'Affaires at Belgrade, an account of an interview of M. Boschkovitch, Serbian Minister at London, with Sir Arthur Nicholson, British Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
"He mentioned that both the assassins of the archduke were Austrian subjects—Bosniaks; that one of them had been in Serbia, and that the Serbian authorities, considering him suspect and dangerous, had desired to expel him, but on applying to the Austrian authorities found that the latter protected him, and said that he was an innocent and harmless individual."
France.—M. Jules Cambon, French Ambassador at Berlin, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs at Paris, an interview with Baron Beyens, Belgian Minister at Berlin.
"The Belgian Minister appears very anxious.... He is of opinion that Austria and Germany have desired to take advantage of the fact that, owing to a combination of circumstances at the present moment, Russia and England appear to them to be threatened by domestic troubles, while in France the state of the army is under discussion. Moreover, he does not believe in the pretended ignorance of the Government of Berlin on the subject of Austria's démarche.
"He thinks that, if the form of it has not been submitted to the Cabinet at Berlin, the moment of its dispatch has been cleverly chosen in consultation with that Cabinet, in order to surprise the Triple Entente at a moment of disorganization.
"He has seen the Italian Ambassador, who has just interrupted his holiday in order to return. It looks as if Italy would be surprised, to put it no higher, at having been kept out of the whole affair by her two Allies."
M. Bienvenu-Martin notified the French Legations at London, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Stockholm of a visit made him by Baron von Schoen, the German Ambassador, to protest against an article in the Écho de Paris calling his démarche of yesterday a "German threat." M. Berthelot, French Political Director, assured him that no private information had been given out by the Foreign office of the démarche, and that the article merely showed that the proceeding was known elsewhere than at the Quai d'Orsay. The German Ambassador did not take up the allusion.
M. Paléologue, French Ambassador at St. Petersburg, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin that M. Sazonof, Russian Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had been unfavorably impressed by the evasive replies and recriminations of Count de Pourtalès, the German Ambassador, over the note to Serbia.
"The ministers will hold a council to-morrow with the czar presiding. M. Sazonof preserves complete moderation. 'We must avoid,' he said to me, 'everything which might precipitate the crisis. I am of opinion that, even if the Austro-Hungarian Government come to blows with Serbia, we ought not to break off negotiations.'"
M. Jules Cambon, French Ambassador at Berlin, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin the interview with Herr von Jagow, German Secretary of State, by Sir Horace Rumbold.
"The British Chargé d'Affaires inquired of Herr von Jagow, as I had done yesterday, if Germany had had no knowledge of the Austrian note before it was dispatched, and he received so clear a reply in the negative that he was not able to carry the matter further; but he could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the blank cheque given by Germany to Austria.
"Herr von Jagow having replied to him that the matter was a domestic one for Austria, he remarked that it had become essentially an international one."
Later in the day M. Cambon reported the interview between Herr von Jagow and M. Broniewski, Russian Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin.
"M. Broniewski, like myself, has heard the rumor that Austria, while declaring that she did not desire an annexation of territory, would occupy parts of Serbia until she had received complete satisfaction. 'One knows,' he said to me, 'what this word "satisfaction" means.' M. Broniewski's impressions of Germany's ultimate intentions are very pessimistic."
M. Dumaine, French Ambassador at Vienna, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin that Prince Koudacheff, Russian Chargé d'Affaires, had sent his Government's request of an extension of the time limit for the Serbian reply to Count Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in two telegrams, one addressed to him on his journey, and the other to Ischl, his destination. The prince does not expect any result. Baron Macchio, General Secretary of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office, had received "with icy coldness" the prince's expostulation that the submission by Austria-Hungary of grievances against Serbia without permitting time for their examination was not consonant with international courtesy. The baron replied that one's interests sometimes exempted one from being courteous.
"The Austrian Government is determined to inflict humiliation on Serbia: it will accept no intervention from any power until the blow has been delivered and received full in the face by Serbia."
M. Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin that the request by the Russian Government for Italy's cooperation in securing from Austria-Hungary an extension of the time limit for the Serbian reply, came too late for action thereon, owing to the absence from Rome of the Prime Minister, the Marquis di San Giuliano.
M. Jules Cambon, French Ambassador at Berlin, notified M. Bienvenu-Martin that report had come from Vienna of rupture between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.
"Large crowds consisting of several hundred persons are collecting here before the newspaper offices and a demonstration of numbers of young people has just passed through the Pariser-platz shouting cries of 'Hurrah' for Germany, and singing patriotic songs. The demonstrators are visiting the Siegessaül [column of victory], the Austrian and then the Italian Embassy. It is a significant outburst of chauvinism....
"In financial circles measures are already being taken to meet every eventuality, for no means of averting the crisis is seen, in view of the determined support which Germany is giving to Austria.
"I, for my part, see in Great Britain the only power which might be listened to at Berlin.
"Whatever happens, Paris, St. Petersburg, and London will not succeed in maintaining peace with dignity unless they show a firm and absolutely united front."
At the hour of expiration of the ultimatum to Serbia, M. Dumaine, French Ambassador at Vienna, reported to M. Bienvenu-Martin that Prince Koudacheff, the Russian Chargé d'Affaires, had presented alone his request for an extension of the time limit, it seeming to the representatives of the other powers useless to support him when there was no time to do so.
"At the last moment we are assured that the Austrian Minister has just left Belgrade hurriedly; he must have thought the Serbian Government's acceptance of the conditions imposed by his Government inadequate."
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian-Serb student and member of Young Bosnia, assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia. This began a period of diplomatic manoeuvering between Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France and Britain called the July Crisis. Wanting to end Serbian interference in Bosnia conclusively, Austria–Hungary delivered the July Ultimatum to Serbia, a series of ten demands which were deliberately unacceptable, made with the intention of deliberately initiating a war with Serbia. When Serbia acceded to only eight of the ten demands levied against it in the ultimatum, Austria–Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914. Strachan argues "Whether an equivocal and early response by Serbia would have made any difference to Austria-Hungary's behaviour must be doubtful. Franz Ferdinand was not the sort of personality who commanded popularity, and his demise did not cast the empire into deepest mourning".