Sidney Bradshaw Fay : The Origins of the World War
chapter 4 continued


In 1908, as has been indicated above, Tirpitz had secured the adoption by the Reichstag of a naval program providing for the construction of four capital ships annually from 1908 to 1911, and for two annually from 1912 to 1917.  The English had become greatly alarmed, both for their actual safety and for the disastrous effect upon Anglo-German relations.  They had therefore made efforts to call a halt, or come to some understanding, but these had failed owing to the Kaiser’s decisive opposition, culminating in his interview with Sir Charles Hardinge at Cronberg in August, 1908.

During the following months English alarm steadily increased, and frightened imaginations pictured a German invasion of England.  Further antagonism between the two countries was caused by the unfortunate Daily Telegraph affair.  The Kaiser had allowed an English friend to summarize a confidential talk in which the Kaiser refuted the idea that he was hostile to England.  The English were “mad, mad as March hares,” he had said, to suspect the German navy, which was simply to protect German commerce and not to attack England.  The Kaiser was the friend of England.  He wished to restrain the German people, whose prevailing sentiment was not friendly to England.  But the English suspicions and Press attacks made his task of preserving peace difficult.  As proof of his friendly attitude in the past, he recalled that during the Boer War he had refused to join France and Russia in putting pressure on England in favor of the Boers;  on the contrary, he had even sent Queen Victoria a plan of campaign for use against the Boers.  The Kaiser sent the manuscript of this summary to Bülow at his summer home at Nordeney on the shore of the North Sea, and Bülow, without studying it, sent it to the Foreign Office for examination and comment.  But here an official, supposing that it had received Bülow’s approval, allowed it to go out, and it was published in the London Daily Telegraph on October 28, 1908.(137)

The Kaiser had hoped the article would disarm England’s suspicions and improve the relations between the two countries.  It had precisely the opposite effect.  It caused a storm of newspaper attacks on both sides of the North Sea, many of which were directed against himself personally.  The English doubted his sincerity;  they ridiculed and resented the idea that any advice of his had helped them win the Boer War;  but they noted as ominous his admission that the prevailing sentiment in Germany was unfriendly to England.  In Germany, the Liberals and Socialists protested bitterly against his ill-considered act and the dangers of his personal rule.  Bülow tendered his resignation, but withdrew it after the Kaiser promised in the future not to talk politics without his Chancellor’s advice.  But in the great Reichstag debate growing out of this affair, the Kaiser felt that Bülow did not adequately defend his sovereign’s position.  He no longer regarded his Chancellor with the same favor and confidence.

Count Metternich, the German Ambassador in England, was greatly distressed at seeing the two countries drifting into mutual misunderstandings and recriminations which one day might lead to war.  English public opinion was demanding that the Cabinet should assure the “Two Power Standard” (that the English navy should be as strong as the combined navies of any other two Powers), and that if Germany built four Dreadnoughts annually, England should build eight.  Lord Roberts began to tour the country trying to arouse England to the creation of a huge army and the adoption of the continental system of universal military service, naming Germany as the enemy of the future.  A year ago, reported Metternich, these speeches would have been regarded as so exaggerated that they would have made no impression;  today they are taken more seriously.  The fundamental cause of all this alarm and agitation, Metternich believed, was the rapid increase of the German navy.  He therefore suggested the desirability of slowing down Germany’s program of construction from four to three ships annually, and of trying to come to some understanding with England.(138)

Bülow personally was in favor of the suggestion.  To facilitate an understanding with England he hastened to make the Morocco settlement of 1909, which he hoped would remove one of the political causes of England’s distrust.  He sent Metternich’s despatches to Tirpitz for comment.

But the Admiral disagreed fundamentally with the wise Ambassador’s diagnosis of the English situation.  Tirpitz received part of his information about England from the German naval attachés, whose reports often sound like an echo of their master’s voice and wishes.  Tirpitz insisted that the fundamental cause of British alarm and agitation was not the German navy, but German industrial and commercial competition.  The British were now getting accustomed to the idea of a respectable German navy, but what troubled them was the fact that Germany, like Holland in the seventeenth century, was everywhere taking their trade and capturing their markets.  It would do little good to slow down the naval program;  and, anyway, it was fixed by law and could not be altered.  To alter it as a result of the English clamor would be an intolerable humiliation for Germany and encourage the navy propaganda in England.  Therefore Germany ought to go ahead with the creation of the “risk navy,” and trust to passing safely through the “danger zone” without a British attack.  He also rejected Bülow’s suggestion that it would be wiser to spend more money on naval defense—coast fortifications, torpedo-boats, and submarines—to which England would have no objection, rather than on so many Dreadnoughts, which Metternich believed were the main sources of irritation and alarm in London.  He finally threatened to resign, if Bülow insisted.(139)

So Bülow, weakened in favor with the Kaiser after the Daily Telegraph affair, gave way before Tirpitz, and virtually abandoned Metternich’s suggestion for the time being.  He let slip the opportunity of taking the initiative afforded by King Edward VII’s visit to Berlin in February, 1909, when Lord Crewe touched upon the question of naval competition.

As Metternich had forecast, the British agitation continued, and under its influence Mr. McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed that for three years England should lay down six Dreadnoughts a year against Germany’s four.  A considerable number in the Cabinet and in Parliament thought that four British ships would still be enough to maintain a safe margin of British superiority.  To overcome their objections and carry his bill, Mr. McKenna exaggerated the rate of speed at which the German ships were being completed.  He alleged that Germany was exceeding the “normal rate” by secretly assembling materials beforehand, so that she might have 13 completed as early as 1911, instead of in 1912, as contemplated in the German navy law and as Metternich had expressly assured Grey beforehand was the actual intention.(140)  Thus, Germany might have 13 Dreadnoughts to England’s 16 in 1911, and an even more dangerous proportion in the following years.  These statements of the First Lord of the Admiralty crystallized the general feeling of uneasiness into a first-class “navy scare.”  The public believed that Germany was trying to steal a march on England, and now clamored for eight ships, instead of the six which Mr. McKenna had asked for.  “We want eight and we won’t wait,” was the popular cry.  In the end, eight were voted, four at once, and four contingent upon Germany’s continuing to build according to her program.

The effect on Anglo-German relations was deplorable.  The Kaiser boiled with indignation at McKenna’s “lies,” and blamed Metternich for letting the wool be pulled over his eyes and for not taking a stiffer tone to Grey.(141)  He was particularly displeased that Metternich had given the English to understand that Germany did not intend further to increase her program in the future—"a colossal personal concession, given right out of hand without getting the slightest thing from England in return, except untold lies, slanders, suspicions, and incivilities.”(142)

Although Mr. McKenna later admitted his statements to have been incorrect,(143) they had done their damage in further increasing Anglo-German antagonism.  In view of the offer implied in the English plan for four contingent ships, Bülow called a special meeting which was attended by Tirpitz, Bethmann, Moltke, and Metternich who came over from London.  But the conditions demanded by Tirpitz and the Kaiser were such that there was no prospect of success in opening a negotiation.(144)  Three weeks later Bülow was defeated in the Reichstag on his finance bill and resigned.  Shortly afterwards the British voted to lay down the keels of the four contingent ships.

In this domestic conflict between Metternich and Bülow on one side, and Tirpitz and the Kaiser on the other, there is no doubt that wisdom lay with the former.  Though it is true, as Tirpitz maintained, that commercial and industrial competition caused Anglo-German antagonism, it is much more true, as Metternich believed, that the naval question was the fundamental cause, and that the British were determined, cost what it might, to maintain the naval superiority which was vital for their commerce and for the very existence of the Empire.  Metternich was quite right when he observed:  “The services of Tirpitz in the development of our navy are unquestioned and great.  But it is again evident that military, technical, and organizing ability are not necessarily united with correct political judgment.  His judgment in regard to England is in such contradiction to the actual facts, that it almost seems as if he closed his eyes to them.”(145)

Bethmann-Hollweg, who succeeded Bülow as Chancellor, agreed with Metternich as to the need for coming to a naval agreement with England.  He believed that Ger many could not be expected to have her 1908 program modified by a formal Reichstag amendment, but she might “retard the rate” of construction, by laying down less than the authorized four Dreadnoughts annually;  he hoped that in return England might make concessions in regard to colonial questions and the Bagdad Railway and perhaps give some kind of neutrality promise.  With this in view he opened negotiations with the British Ambassador, Sir Edward Goschen, in August, 1909, but they came to nothing.(146)  In the course of the next two years he took up this idea several times, as well as various minor proposals to mitigate naval rivalry and suspicions, such as a mutual visiting of navy yards and exchange of information by naval attachés.  But he had no success.(147)  Finally, in the fall of 1911, after the heat of the Agadir Crisis had somewhat cooled down, the idea was taken in hand more definitely by two business men.

Albert Ballin, the head of the Hamburg-American Line, believed that the rapid building of the German navy was the main cause of Anglo-German antagonism and might some day lead to war.  He considered this naval rivalry a far more serious threat to the peace of Europe than the Franco-Russian alliance.  He was also on intimate and very friendly terms with Tirpitz and the Kaiser, as well as with Bethmann.  He was aware that the German Government intended to lay a new navy law before the Reichstag in the spring of 1912, and he wished to bring about some understanding with England before this made matters worse.  His friend, Sir Ernest Cassel, was a rich and influential London banker.  Born in Germany, Cassel had emigrated to England as a boy, and had at heart the interests of the land of his birth no less than of his adopted country.  Like Ballin in Germany, he enjoyed in England a social and political position of great influence without holding any office in the Government.  He had become an intimate friend of Edward VII, both as his banker and political adviser.  He carried great weight among English business men in the “City,” as well as in English political circles.  Ever since July, 1909, Ballin and Cassel had been consulting together how to bring about an understanding between Germany and England.(148)  In the winter of 1911-12, while the Berlin and London Foreign Offices were discussing possible colonial agreements,(149) and the English were becoming worried over rumors of an imminent new German Navy Law,(150) Ballin saw Cassel, who thereupon got into touch with Sir Edward Grey.  This paved the way for the Haldane Mission.  On January 29, 1912, Cassel came to Berlin with a memorandum(151) which had been approved by Sir Edward Grey, Winston Churchill, and Lloyd George.  This memorandum was to serve as a basis for opening official negotiations, and ran as follows :

1.  Fundamental.  Naval superiority recognized as essential to Great Britain.  Present German naval program and expenditure not to be increased, but if possible retarded and reduced.

2.  England sincerely desires not to interfere with German Colonial expansion.  To give effect to this she is prepared forthwith to discuss whatever the German aspirations in that direction may be.  England will be glad to know that there is a field or special points where she can help Germany.

3.  Proposals for reciprocal assurances debarring either power from joining in aggressive designs or combinations against the other would be welcome.(152)

Sir Ernest Cassel showed this memorandum to the German Chancellor, who replied in writing that he welcomed this step taken by the British Government, and was in full accord with the memorandum, except that the new 1912 German naval estimates had already been arranged.  He added that he and the Kaiser would be greatly, pleased if Sir Edward Grey would visit Berlin, as the most effectual way of bringing the negotiations rapidly forward.  He also gave Cassel a sketch of the proposed new Supplementary Navy Law, which indicated the creation of a third and new Naval Squadron to be formed from five existing reserve ships and three new ships;  these three new ships, to be constructed during the next six years represented an augmentation of the 1908 program by three capital ships;  that is, whereas by the 1908 program two capital ships were to be laid down annually between 1912 and 1917, by the new proposal three ships would be laid down in 1912, 1914, and 1916.(153)  Cassel returned with this, and replied on Grey’s behalf that if the German naval expenditure could be so arranged, by a modification of the German rate of construction or otherwise, as to render unnecessary any serious increase of British naval expenditure, “British Government will be prepared at once to pursue negotiations, on the understanding that the point of naval expenditure is open to discussion and that there is a fair prospect of settling it favorably.”(154)  If this understanding was acceptable, a British Minister would come to Berlin.  Bethmann replied that it was acceptable, provided England gave adequate guarantees of a friendly orientation of her general policy.  “The agreement would have to give expression to a statement that both Powers agreed to participate in no plans, combinations or warlike engagements directed against either Power.”(155)

Sir Edward Grey himself was unwilling to accept the cordial invitation to Berlin.  His reasons, according to his memoirs of a dozen years later, were his fears that “the visit might arouse suspicion and distrust at Paris”;  that the whole plan might be “one of those petty unofficial manoeuvres that could be avowed or disavowed at Berlin as best might suit German convenience”;  and that he “had no great hope that anything would come of it.”(156) Probably at the time his strongest motives were his deep distrust of Germany, and his fear of alarming France and so weakening the Entente.  He decided not to go to Berlin himself, but arranged that Lord Haldane, the Minister of War, should go in his place.  He desired that Haldane’s visit “should be private and informal, so that, if nothing came of it, there should be no sensation and little disappointment to the public.”(157)  In 1910, when Bethmann was trying to secure an understanding with England, Grey had written to the British Ambassador in Berlin:  “The mutual arrest or decrease of naval expenditure is the test of whether an understanding is worth anything,” and that in Bethmann’s overtures “the naval question was not sufficiently prominent.”(158)  He apparently did not think that there was any better chance of German naval reduction in 1912.  He seems to have, been convinced that the Kaiser had taken the initiative,(159) and then, if he had gone to Berlin and the negotiations had come to nothing, the German Government would have tried to put the blame upon him, Grey.  But above all, Grey was determined not to endanger in the slightest degree the Entente with France.  He had been told by Winston Churchill that the Admiralty was contemplating bringing home the Mediterranean ships, in order to meet the new Third Squadron which Tirpitz wanted;  and that this meant relying on France in the Mediterranean (as was later actually arranged), so that certainly no change in the Entente would be possible, even if Grey desired it.(160)  To allay French fears Grey at once informed the French Ambassador of the projected negotiations and assured him that he would do nothing with Germany that would tie his hands.(161)  His statement to Paul Cambon shows what a restricted conception he had of the Haldane Mission:  Haldane was “to find out whether Germany’s recent overture was serious or not.  He was also to attempt to gather information about the Bagdad Railway.  But there is no question of entering upon negotiations.  We desire only to learn the intentions of the German Government and to inquire about its plans for a naval program.”(162)  This attitude on Sir Edward Grey’s part in itself foredoomed the Haldane Mission to failure.

Two other circumstances were hardly calculated to facilitate it.  On February 7, the day of Lord Haldane’s arrival in Berlin, the Kaiser in his speech at the opening, of the Reichstag had announced in general terms that projects for the increase of the army and navy would be introduced later in the session.  To this Winston Churchill immediately replied in a defiant speech at Glasgow, characterizing the German Navy as a “luxury”:  “The British Navy is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, the German Navy is to them more in the nature of a luxury. ... We shall make it clear that other naval Powers, instead of overtaking us by additional efforts, will only be more outdistanced in consequence of the measures which we ourselves shall take.”  The speech offended Mr. John Morley and some of the other more pacific members of the British Cabinet, who sincerely hoped for an understanding with Bethmann, and it created no little indignation in Germany.(163)

In spite of these inauspicious circumstances Lord Haldane’s reception at Berlin was most cordial and aroused considerable optimism, both in his own mind and especially in that of the Kaiser.  His first interview on February 8 was with Bethmann at the British Embassy.  He got the impression, which he always retained, that the Chancellor was as sincerely desirous of avoiding war as he was himself.  Next day he lunched with Tirpitz and the Kaiser, and had a long and friendly discussion.  He emphasized England’s necessity of having a fleet large enough to protect her commerce and vital supply of food and raw materials.  He admitted that Germany was free to build as she pleased, but so was England, and England would probably lay down two keels to every one which Germany added to her program.  After along discussion between him and Tirpitz about the Two Power Standard and naval ratios, in regard to which they could find no mutually satisfactory basis, the Kaiser proposed that it would be better to avoid for the moment discussing shipbuilding programs;  instead of attempting to define ratios between the two navies, it would be better to have the agreement deal with the political question of general policy and colonial matters;  after this was concluded and published, the Kaiser would have Tirpitz tell the Reichstag that the new political agreement with England had entirely altered the situation, and the three extra ships which the new navy law proposed to lay down in 1912, 1914, and 1916, would not be asked for until 1913, 1916, and 1919.  Haldane tactfully assented to his suggestion and it was agreed that next day he should try to work out with Bethmann some formula of political agreement.(164)

In a long final interview on February 10, 1912, Bethmann proposed the following formula for a political agreement:

I.  The High Contracting Powers assure each other mutually of their desire for peace and friendship.

II.  They will not, either of them, make any combination, or join in any combination, which is directed against the other.  They expressly declare that they are not bound by any such combination.

III.  If either of the High Contracting Parties becomes entangled in a war with one or more other Powers, the other of the High Contracting Parties will at least observe toward the Power so entangled a benevolent neutrality, and use its utmost endeavor for the localisation of the conflict.

IV.  The duty of neutrality which arises from the preceding Article has no application in so far as it may not be reconcilable with existing agreements which the High Contracting Powers have already made.  The making of new agreements which make it impossible for either of the Contracting Parties to observe neutrality toward the other beyond what is provided by the preceding limitation is excluded in conformity with the provision contained in Article II.(165)

Haldane objected to Article III as being too wide-reaching.  It would preclude England from coming to the assistance of France should Germany attack her and aim at getting possession of such ports as Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne.  This England could never tolerate, because it was essential to her island security that these ports should remain in the friendly hand of France.  Suppose, he said that England were to attack Denmark, to seize a naval station, or for some other object disagreeable to Germany, Germany must have a free hand.  Similarly, if Germany fell upon France “with her tremendous army corps,” England could not bind herself to remain neutral.  Furthermore such a formula might also hamper England in discharging her existing treaty obligations to Belgium, Portugal and Japan.  Lord Haldane therefore proposed to modify Articles II and III so that they would read :

II.  They will not either of them make or prepare to make any unprovoked attack upon the other, or join in any combination or design against the other for purposes of aggression, or become party to any plan or naval or military enterprise alone or in combination with any other power directed to such an end.

III.  If either of the High Contracting Parties becomes entangled in a war with one or more other powers, in which it cannot be said to be the aggressor, the other of the High Contracting Parties will at least observe towards the power so entangled a benevolent neutrality and use its utmost endeavor for the localisation of the conflict.(166)

In his eagerness to secure an agreement Bethmann bit at this bait, without committing himself to accept it.  Later, however, Germany argued, and with good reason, that the words “unprovoked” and “aggressor” were too uncertain in interpretation.  In the complex situations which lead to war, it is always difficult to tell which side is really the aggressor.  To make neutrality dependent on this uncertainty of interpretation would be robbing the agreement of all its value.  Suppose Germany were drawn into a war with Russia and France, England’s neutrality would then depend on whether or not she judged that Germany had “provoked” the war.

On colonial questions it was much easier for Haldane and Bethmann to come to a tentative agreement, which, however, was not to be regarded as binding upon either.  In disposing of the Portuguese colonies Germany was to get Angola, and England Timor.  Germany might buy the Belgian Congo, in return for giving a right of way to a Cape-to-Cairo Railway.  England would cede Zanzibar and Pemba, in return for a satisfactory arrangement concerning the Bagdad Railway, such as 51% control of the section from Bagdad to Basra near the Persian Gulf.(167)

In regard to naval rivalry, Haldane agreed that the new Navy Law, having been publicly announced by the Kaiser, would have to be brought before the Reichstag, but he doubted very much whether the British Cabinet would regard as satisfactory the slight postponement in construction which the Kaiser had mentioned the day before.  England would be compelled to take counter-measures, and English public opinion would not be likely to sanction any “political agreement” between the countries at a moment when both were increasing naval expenditures.

After all these points had been noted down for further discussion by the London and Berlin Governments, Lord Haldane returned to England, carrying in his pocket the draft of the proposed German Navy Law.  This had been confidentially given to him by the Kaiser, with permission to show it privately to his colleagues, although its contents was still unknown to the Reichstag and the German public.  As it was a bulky document requiring technical knowledge, Haldane had not attempted to study it in Berlin.  When he handed it over to Winston Churchill and the Admiralty for examination, they believed that it would entail very serious naval expenditures on the part of both England and Germany.  The British therefore drew up and forwarded to Berlin a memorandum calling attention not merely to the three new capital ships contemplated, but to the great increase in personnel and expenditure by which Germany was proposing to provide for her new Third Squadron.  To meet it England would have to lay down two keels to one for every capital ship added to the German Navy above the existing law;  and she would make a further concentration of the Fleet in Home Waters, all involving 18,500,000 spread over the next six years.  Public opinion would hardly regard these serious measures and counter-measures as appropriate to the coincident reëstablishment of cordial relations.(168)  In other words, as Metternich bluntly reported, the “political agreement” was in danger of being shipwrecked on the Navy Law.  To save the former, Germany must abandon or greatly modify the latter.  In fact Grey told him flatly a few days later that it would be impossible to sign any political agreement at the moment when both countries were making increased naval expenditures, because public opinion would regard this as inconsistent.”(169)

At Berlin this memorandum made a bad impression.  Grey seemed to have damped all hopes of an understanding.  He had abandoned the basis of discussion agreed to by Haldane at Berlin, shifting it away from the neutrality agreement, and giving priority to a criticism of the Navy Law and naval details, some of which (like the question of increase of personnel) had not been mentioned at all by Haldane.  Even in colonial matters Grey seemed to be withdrawing what he had held out at first, and to be making difficulties:  he had discovered that the Dutch had a prior right to purchase Timor;  that England could hardly give up Zanzibar and Pemba without receiving some German territory in return;  and that the suggested Bagdad Railway concession was insignificant and unsatisfactory.(170)

The Kaiser was especially indignant at the change in England’s attitude.  He was willing to proceed with negotiations on the basis of Haldane’s conversations at Berlin, but not on the new basis which Grey was taking in London.  A memorandum to this effect was drawn up for Metternich, but was held back by Bethmann for several days.  In spite of everything, he and Kiderlen were still making a valiant struggle to satisfy Grey.  They were trying to persuade Tirpitz and the Kaiser to abandon the three extra capital ships and postpone still further the publication of the Navy Law.(171)  But the Kaiser was impatient to have the Navy Law laid before the Reichstag, inasmuch as it had already been announced in his speech, and been in English hands for more than a fortnight.  At Bethmann’s insistence it had been withheld from publication hitherto, in order not to jeopardize the negotiations with England.  Finally, on March 5, the Kaiser telegraphed to Bethmann that the memorandum for Metternich must be delivered to Grey on the morning of March 6, so that the Navy Law could then be laid before the Reichstag in the evening.  He also took the unusual step of telegraphing himself directly to Metternich:  it appeared that England had abandoned the basis agreed upon by Haldane;  the Kaiser would stick to it and to the Navy Law except for a partial postponement of capital ships;  but navy personnel was not to be a subject of discussion with England;  if England withdrew her ships from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, this would be regarded as a threat of war and would be replied to by an increased Navy Law and by possible mobilization.(172)

Bethmann now sent in his resignation:  he could no longer assume responsibility for such a policy or for such a direct dictation by the Kaiser to Germany’s Ambassadors, without previous consultation with the Chancellor.  The Kaiser hastened back to Berlin, persuaded Bethmann to remain in office, and agreed to a further postponement of the Navy Law and the continuance of the negotiations with England.  Thereupon Tirpitz in turn threatened to resign, if the Navy Law were dropped altogether.(173)  After a sharp domestic conflict between the two Ministers, the Admiral virtually triumphed over the civilian Chancellor.  It was decided that no reduction in the Navy Law should be made beyond the minor matter of retarding the date for the capital ships, which Tirpitz had already grudgingly conceded.

Meanwhile Bethmann had been continuing his negotiations with England,(174) but they never had any chance of success as far as a neutrality agreement or naval limitation was concerned.  They were virtually abandoned as hopeless on March 29, when Grey informed Metternich that the English Cabinet had finally decided definitely against Bethmann’s original neutrality formula.  Grey offered instead another much more restricted formula, which Germany rejected as not giving any satisfactory security against war with England.(175)  Already, on March 18, Winston Churchill had laid before Parliament the British Navy Estimates, providing for two keels to every additional German one, and for the other greatly increased naval expenditures which he had threatened as England’s reply to the expected German Navy Law.  The Atlantic fleet would be moved from Gibraltar to Home Waters and replaced at Gibraltar by the Mediterranean ships which had hitherto had their base at Malta.  He indicated, however, that if Germany made no increase, neither would England;  the two navies would then stand in the same ratio to each other as before, and both countries would be spared enormous expenditures.(176)  He did not make this proposal officially to Germany, however.  On April 14 the German Navy Law was finally laid before the Reichstag, and accepted by it, unmodified, on May 14.(177)

The Haldane Mission failed primarily from two causes:  England’s unwillingness to make any political agreement concerning neutrality which would in any way limit her freedom to aid France;  and Germany’s unwillingness to make any worth-while reductions in the Supplementary Navy Law which would satisfy England.  Each country was seeking a concession which dominant ministers in the other were determined not to make.  Only in the third group of subjects under consideration-colonial matters and the Bagdad Railway—was it possible to continue successful negotiations;  in this less difficult field of economic imperialism mutually satisfactory agreements were gradually worked out, and were complete for signature on the eve of the World War.(178)  Thus, the Haldane Mission, like the Potsdam negotiations with Russia in 1910, resulted in removing some causes of friction, but they both failed in one of their main objects—the securing of some written agreement which would lessen Germany’s political isolation and loosen the bonds of the Triple Entente.


Germany’s overthrow of M. Delcassé in 1905, and her sudden sending of the Panther to Agadir, were regarded by the French as “brutal acts”—as exhibitions of the German habit of thumping the green table with the mailed fist to secure diplomatic victories.  On both occasions they had been frightened by what they feared were German threats of war if they did not yield.  In both cases therefore they had been forced to make what they felt to be humiliating concessions, because they were not prepared to take up the German challenge.  Or as M. Poincaré puts it:  “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,”(179) agreed to the Algeciras Conference, and to territorial concessions in the Congo in exchange for liberty of action in Morocco.  These acts of Germany, as well as her ultimatum to Russia in the Bosnian Crisis and the Kaiser’s bellicose gestures, had gradually aroused in a group of French politicians a new national spirit.  They had revived the desire for revanche and the recovery of Alsace-Lorraine.  They had created the feeling that France had suffered long enough from the German menace from across the Rhine.  There had grown up the determination that in the future, if Germany made a new threat of force, it would be better to risk war than accept a new humiliation.  This new national spirit, determination, and self-confidence was greatly increased by the friendship of England and the growing conviction that in case of a conflict with Germany, England would not only stand behind France with her fleet, but would send English troops to strengthen the left wing of the French army in northern France.  This would give a good prospect of victory, and the fruits of victory would be the recovery of the lost provinces and the end of the nightmare of the German menace.  Most of these French leaders, like the mass of the French people, did not want war;  but if Germany’s desire for the “hegemony of Europe” and her attempt again to use the mailed fist to force a diplomatic triumph brought on another international crisis, it would be better to fight than to back down.  As they had little doubt that Germany would attempt some new aggression, this would make war “inevitable.”  France must therefore prepare for it by increasing her own army and navy at home, and by tightening her relations with her ally on the other side of Germany and with her friend across the Channel.

This new national feeling was personified in M. Raymond Poincaré and the little group of men with whom he was closely associated.  Not only was he the embodiment of the reveil national.  By his determination, firmness, and ability, he did more than any other man to strengthen and to stimulate it.  It found expression in the overthrow of the Caillaux Ministry, which was accused of having been too yielding to Germany in the Agadir Crisis, and in the formation, on January 13, 1912, of the “Great Ministry” or “National Ministry,” in which M. Poincaré was Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Millerand Minister of War, and M. Delcassé Naval Minister.  In announcing its program, M. Poincaré declared that its first task would be to unite all groups of Republicans by a single national feeling, to organize the new protectorate in Morocco, and to maintain courteous and frank relations with Germany;  and, he added,

As always, we intend to remain loyal to our alliances and our friendships—we shall make it our duty to unite, like twin convergent forces, the financial strength which is such a help for France, with her military and naval strength.  However profoundly pacific our country may be, it is not master of all eventualities and it intends to live up to its duties.  The army and the navy will be the object of our attentive solicitude.(180)

Born at Bar-le-Duc in Lorraine, M. Raymond Poincaré was ten years old when the German armies overran France in 1870, and took his home from his country.  Son of a distinguished meteorologist, brother of a distinguished physicist, and related to a distinguished mathematician, M. Poincaré himself soon showed an ability at the bar which brought him into the Chamber of Deputies at the early age of twenty-seven, and into the Cabinet as Minister of Education six years later in 1893.  Later he was Vice-president of the Chamber and twice Minister of Finance, before taking the Premiership and Foreign Affairs portfolio in 1912.  No one since Bismarck’s day has equalled him in sheer ability.  His length of public service, his extraordinary vitality and endurance, his capacity for mastering and remembering detail, his clearness of purpose and determination to achieve it, have all combined to make him one of the most remarkable of modern statesmen.  All these native qualities, united with his dialectical skill and legal training, enabled him easily to vanquish his opponents in the Chamber of Deputies and to dominate his colleagues or subordinates in the Cabinet.  One may not always approve of his aims, but one must admire the skill and ability with which he has achieved them.  He knew precisely what he wanted, and he set about to secure it with singular directness and determination.  The simplicity and brevity of his despatches are a refreshing contrast to the usual diplomatic circumlocutions and verbiage.  His natural timidity was more than compensated by his bold energy.  Such was the man who mainly directed and controlled French foreign policy from 1912 to 1914.  In his memoirs he frequently denies that he pursued a personal policy as Minister of Foreign Affairs, or exceeded his constitutional position after he became President of the Republic in February, 1913, by imposing his wishes on the Ministers of Foreign Affairs who succeeded him.  But with his ability, energy, and strong personality, it was inevitable that he should be the guiding spirit.  In spite of his denials, we believe that he exercised a strong influence in the direction of an aggressive and dangerous policy, which was not a reflection of the wishes of the great majority of the truly peace-loving French people from 1912 to 1914, and which they would not have approved, had they been fully aware of it and the catastrophe to which it was leading.(181)

The man who coöperated most closely with M. Poincaré in his task of tightening the Triple Entente was the Russian Ambassador at Paris.  It now is clear that Izvolski was vain, self-important, inclined to intrigue, and not always trustworthy.  Consequently his reports must be taken cum grano salis.(182)  Nevertheless, his characterizations of M. Poincaré in the following quotations seem to be substantially accurate.  He describes the new Minister of Foreign Affairs as “a very strong personality”;  a man whose sensitive amour propre must be “taken into account”;  one who “while often displaying useless rudeness and breaking windows without reason, has never given me cause to doubt his veracity”;  “a passionate character and one who goes in a straight-line,” whose “energy and decision” it is important to have wholly on Russia’s side and turn to advantage.(183)  After his election to the Presidency, M. Poincaré told Izvolski that he would still “have full opportunity to influence directly the foreign policy of France, and that he would not fail to take advantage of it to insure intact the policy founded on a close alliance with Russia.  In his opinion it is of the highest importance for the French Government to prepare French opinion in advance to take part in a war which might break out over the Balkan question.  For this reason the French Government requests us not to undertake any personal action of a nature to provoke such a war without an exchange of views beforehand with France.”(184)  Thenceforth, to the World War, the Russians found him “an ardent and convinced partisan of a close union between France and Russia and of a constant exchange of views between the two allies on all the most important questions of international policy”;(185)  and in general, in a view of the Balkan situation, a man who would never fail Russia in case of a war with Germany.(186)

One of the first tasks which occupied M. Poincaré’s attention, after forming his “National Ministry,” was the cementing of closer relations with England.  The Haldane Mission and the possibility of an Anglo-German rapprochement caused him some uneasiness, in spite of Sir Edward Grey’s assurances.  He therefore welcomed a curious step taken by Sir Francis Bertie, the English Ambassador at Paris.  Although Grey was making no concessions which would satisfy Germany, Bertie feared that in the future he might change his mind under the influence of men like Lord Loreburn, Harcourt, and the other members of the Cabinet who were more eager for an understanding with Germany, and who might make trouble if they learned of the Anglo-French military and naval “conversations” which had been going on for six years but of which they had not been informed.  Bertie therefore quite privately and unofficially suggested to Poincaré that he would do well to point out firmly to Grey the dangers involved in any neutrality agreement with Germany.  Taking the hint, but not revealing where it came from, Poincaré sent an energetic despatch to.  Paul Cambon to this effect.  Cambon presented the substance of it to Grey on March 29.(187)  This was the very day on which the British Cabinet finally decided to give its negative answer to Bethmann’s neutrality formula, and buried the hopes which had centered in the Haldane Mission.(188)  It is not clear whether Cambon’s interview came before or after the Cabinet meeting, nor whether it had any decisive effect on England’s action.  That Poincaré may have boasted later to Izvolski of having wrecked the Haldane Mission is quite possible.(189)  But in view of Sir Edward Grey’s evident determination from the outset not to concede any neutrality agreement which would limit his freedom in taking sides with France in case of a Franco-German war, and in view of the fact that even before March 29 the Haldane negotiations had virtually broken down, it seems very doubtful whether Poincaré’s intervention had the decisive effect which Izvolski implies.  Of course, it may be that Poincaré made earlier representations to Grey on the subject than those which he gives in his memoirs.  Grey in his memoirs says nothing of this intervention on Poincaré’s part.  On this point, as on so many others, we must await a full publication from the English archives to learn the precise truth.

The Haldane Mission, however, impelled Poincaré to try to secure from England a binding statement in writing.  Winston Churchill’s plan to withdraw British ships from the Mediterranean for a stronger concentration against Germany in the North Sea, foreshadowed in his speech of March 18, 1912,(190) aroused a lively discussion in the British and French Press.  It was urged that the time had come for naval coöperation between the two countries.  If England withdrew her naval forces from the Mediterranean and protected the north coast of France against the possibility of a German attack, France could withdraw her fleet from Brest and look after British interests, as well as her own, in the Mediterranean.  In connection with this discussion, many British newspapers urged that the Anglo-French Entente should be definitely extended to a regular defensive alliance.  “The only alternative to the constant menace of war is a new system of precise alliances.”(191)  This also was the feeling of M. Poincaré.  Upon instructions from him, Paul Cambon spoke to Sir Arthur Nicolson about the need of strengthening the Entente Cordiale through a written agreement :

“You see there is a cause of weakness in M. Poincaré’s situation.  More than anyone else, he is a partisan of the Entente with England, but to the important politicians, to his colleagues in the Cabinet, to the leaders of French public opinion who question him, he cannot give them to understand that there exist between us other bonds than those of sympathy.  This is enough between two Governments sure of their reciprocal intentions.  It is not enough for public opinion.  The enemies of England in France (they are few but they exist) proclaim that our relations with you offer no security.  I have, therefore, asked myself if we could not find together a formula which would permit us to reassure uneasy and doubting spirits.  I know that the British Government does not have the right to bind itself without the authorization of Parliament, but there is no need of an agreement in duplicate, of a treaty drawn up and signed;  we could content ourselves with an exchange of declarations.  This is what we would have done in 1905 with Lord Lansdowne, if the resignation of M. Delcassé had not cut our conversation short.”(192)

Sir Arthur Nicolson was personally favorable to making such an agreement, which, according to M. Poincaré, would have been a step further in the transformation of the Entente into an alliance.(193)  But Sir Edward Grey, who had already been severely criticized in Parliament for subserviency in following in the wake of the French and Russian imperialism in Morocco and Persia, did not feel like taking such a momentous step without the knowledge of the whole Cabinet.  The majority of them were still uninformed even of the military “conversations” which had been going on since 1906.  Cambon’s suggestion, therefore, remained for the moment without results.  Meanwhile M. Poincaré strengthened the Triple Entente and the naval position of France in the Mediterranean by a Naval Convention with Russia.(194)

In May, 1912, Winston Churchill, accompanied by Mr. Asquith, visited Malta to confer with General Kitchener as to the situation in Egypt and the British position in the Mediterranean.  Upon his return he announced more definitely in Parliament, on July 22, the Admiralty plan for withdrawing ships from the Mediterranean for concentration in the North Sea.  At the same time he proposed to the French Military Attaché a draft plan for the coöperation of the British and French fleets.  But the French hesitated to accept it, because its cautious preamble stated that it was not to affect the liberty of action of either party;  this robbed it of its value in the eyes of the French.(195)

But Grey and Churchill did not want to tie their own hands by any binding written obligation.  Even a naval arrangement, by which England withdrew her Mediterranean fleet to the North Sea, while the French shifted their Brest fleet to Toulon, was in danger of creating an obligation on England’s part to protect the northern coasts of France, as Grey had gathered in conversations with Cambon in July.(196)

Churchill also was well aware of this danger.  Like Mr. Campbell-Bannerman in 1906,(197) and like Mr. Asquith in 1911,(198) he perceived that the French would be encouraged to count upon British assistance;  this would virtually create an obligation and thus limit England’s freedom of action.  As he pointed out to Grey:  “Freedom will be sensibly impaired if the French can say that they had denuded their Atlantic seaboard and concentrated in the Mediterranean on the faith of naval engagements made with us.  [He did not think that such a statement by the French would be true, because such a distribution of the fleets was the best policy for both Governments anyway.] Consider how tremendous would be the weapon which France would possess to compel our intervention if she could say, ‘On the advice of and by arrangement with your naval authorities, we left our northern coasts defenseless.’  Everyone must feel, who knows the facts, that we have the obligation of an alliance without its advantages, and above all without its precise definitions.”(199)

While these Anglo-French negotiations were going on but before a decision had been reached, it was announced prematurely, through an inadvertence on the part of one of M. Delcassé’s subordinates, that the Brest fleet was to be transferred to the Mediterranean.  This news, says M. Poincaré, caused great excitement, and was interpreted by the Press as a sign that an Anglo-French naval agreement had been definitely concluded.(200)  This incident gave a new impulse to the negotiations.  Poincaré again instructed Cambon to ask Grey for a written agreement.  Grey finally consented to give one.  But before taking such an important step he rightly believed that it should be known to and approved by the whole Cabinet, and all its members were at last informed of the Anglo-French “conversations” which had been going on since 1906.  He also insisted that it should not take the shape of a formal diplomatic document, but merely of a personal correspondence between himself and M. Cambon.(201)  Accordingly, on November 22, he handed M. Cambon a letter which had been approved by the Cabinet, and received one in similar terms from him in exchange next day.  Grey’s cautiously expressed letter was as follows :

Foreign Office,
My dear Ambassador,
November 22, 1912.

From time to time in recent years the French and British naval and military experts have consulted together.  It has always been understood that such consultation does not restrict the freedom of either Government to decide at any future time whether or not to assist the other by armed force.  We have agreed that consultation between experts is not, and ought not to be regarded as, an engagement that commits either Government to action in a contingency that has not arisen and may never arise.  The disposition, for instance, of the French and British fleets respectively at the present moment is not based upon an engagement to coöperate in war.

You have, however, pointed out that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, it might become essential to know whether it could in that event depend upon the armed assistance of the other.

I agree that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, or something that threatened the general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should act together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in common.  If these measures involved action, the plans of the General Staffs would at once be taken into consideration, and the Governments would then decide what effect should be given to them.

Yours, &c.
E. GREY.(202)

These Grey-Cambon letters fixed the relations between the French and British Cabinets, so far as any written statements were concerned, down to the outbreak of the War.  Sir Edward Grey continued to cherish the illusion that he still had his “hands free”;  and this was true as far as the wording of the letters went.  But as Mr. Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Asquith had pointed out, the military conversations were dangerous in the encouragement they gave to the French;  and as Winston Churchill warned, the new arrangement of the British and French navies, which took place in the fall of 1912, tied England to France more closely still.  It created for England an inescapable moral obligation to protect the coast of France in case of a war between France and Germany-that is, to participate on the French side no matter how the war arose.  To be sure, Poincaré was aware that Grey had carefully stated that if there was reason to expect “an unprovoked attack,” the two Governments would “discuss” whether they would act together.  He knew that Grey would have to reckon with a strong pacific group within the British Cabinet and among the British people;  with them it would make a great difference how the war arose.  Hence he was very careful, as will appear in connection with the crisis of July, 1914, to make it appear that Austria and Germany were the aggressors.  The French military authorities also, in drawing up “Plan XVII” (which in a modified form was the plan of campaign used by the French in 1914), were aware that they could not count with certainty upon the coöperation of the British army;  but they had no doubt that they could depend upon the British navy :

On the sea, however, we can count without risk upon the effective support of the British fleet.  On land, an understanding established between the General Staffs of the two countries has provided for the employment on our extreme left of an English army comprising ... 120,000 men.  [But this support remains doubtful.]  We should therefore act prudently in not taking into consideration these English forces in our plan of operations.”(203)

This, however, did not mean that General Joffre did not expect English military aid, but merely that the French mobilization plan should not be made absolutely dependent upon British military coöperation.  The further details of “Plan XVII” show that not only was the British Expeditionary Force expected, but elaborate provisions were made for its transportation and concentration on the Belgian frontier.(204)

Significant from the political point of view is this French conviction that they could count on the British navy, for this would involve British participation in the war, with all advantages to France and Russia which would accrue from England’s great naval superiority in the way of blockading Germany and shutting her off from food and war materials, to say nothing of the great moral effect of having the British Empire actively engaged on the side of the Franco-Russian Alliance.

Closely connected with these Anglo-French naval arrangements was the Franco-Russian Naval Convention of July 16, 1912.  Russia wished to have absolutely undisputed naval domination of the Black Sea.  She had also long wished to control the Straits and Constantinople.  A first step in this direction would be to secure a free passage for her warships through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.  Izvolski had several times attempted to gain this but without success.(205)  Italy’s naval activity and closing of the Dardanelles during the Tripolitan War again made Russia acutely sensitive to the importance of the Straits Question.  She believed that her French ally could and ought to aid the Russian fleet to retain its supremacy in the Black Sea, by hindering the Austrian or Italian naval forces from passing the Straits.  In case of a European War this would safeguard the left flank of the Russian army;  this in turn would be of advantage to the Triple Entente in the other theatres of war.  Russia also wished to be able to transfer some of her Baltic fleet to augment her Black Sea fleet, and to have a possible naval base in the Mediterranean.  This could be provided if the French would develop the port of Bizerta in Northern Africa and allow the Russians to use it.  Such were some of the considerations which made the Russians desire a closer naval agreement with France.  The French, on their part, were glad to meet all Russian wishes as far as possible, in order to strengthen the solidarity of action between the two countries.(206)

The Franco-Russian Military Convention of 1894 contained nothing concerning the coöperation of the navies of the two countries.  This was owing to the relatively late establishment of Naval Staffs as distinct from the Army Staffs, the French Naval Staff not being formed until 1902, and the Russian not until 1908.  But by 1911 both countries recognized the desirability of extending their alliance by a Naval Convention analogous to the Military Convention.  In the spring of 1912, upon the initiation of the Russians, negotiations to secure this took place in Paris between army and navy officers of both countries.  They resulted in the secret Naval Convention signed on July 16 by Admiral Aubert and Lieven and by the Naval Ministers, Delcassé and Grigorovitch, and confirmed by an exchange of notes between Sazonov and Poincaré a month later, upon the latter’s visit to Russia.  It declared:  “The naval forces of France and Russia will coöperate in all the eventualities in which the alliance contemplates and stipulates the combined action of the land armies.”  It also provided in time of peace for the preparation of this coöperation by means of conferences at regular intervals between the Naval Staffs of the two countries.  The protocols of these subsequent conferences are not given in the French Yellow Book, but their substance has recently been revealed from the Russian archives.  They dealt with the development of Bizerta as a naval base for the French and Russian fleets, for its connection with Sebastopol by wireless telegraph and for secret naval codes.  In general it was agreed that naval domination was to be secured by France in the Mediterranean, by England in the North Sea, and by Russia in the Baltic and Black Seas.

When Poincaré visited Russia in August, 1912, one of his main topics of conversation with Sazonov was the closer coöperation of the naval forces of the Triple Entente.  He confided to Sazonov, according to the latter’s report to the Tsar, that “although there does not exist between France and England any written treaty, the Army and Navy Staffs of the two countries have nevertheless been in close contact.  This constant exchange of views has resulted in the, conclusion between the French and English Governments of a verbal agreement, by virtue of which England has declared herself ready to aid France with her military and naval forces in case of an attack by Germany.”(207)  He begged Sazonov to “preserve the most absolute secrecy in regard to the information,” and not give the English themselves any reason to suspect that he had been told of it.  He also urged Sazonov to take advantage of his coming visit to England to discuss the question of a possible Anglo-Russian naval agreement, which would thus complete the naval coöperation of the three Triple Entente Powers in case of a conflict with Germany.(208)

Sazonov followed Poincaré’s suggestion.  On his visit to Balmoral in September, he informed Grey of the substance of the new Franco-Russian Naval Convention, saying that the French would endeavor to safeguard Russian interests in the southern theater of war by preventing the Austrian fleet from penetrating into the Black Sea;  he then asked whether England would perform the same service for Russia in the North by keeping the German fleet out of the Baltic.  According to Sazonov’s report to the Tsar, Grey declared that, if the contemplated conditions arose, England would make every effort to strike the most crippling blow at German naval power :

On the question of military operations he said that negotiations had already taken place between the competent authorities concerned, but in these discussions the conclusion had been reached that while the British fleet could easily penetrate into the Baltic, its stay there would be very risky.  Assuming Germany to succeed in laying hands on Denmark and closing the exit from the Baltic, the British fleet would be caught in a mouse-trap.  Accordingly, Great Britain would have to confine her operations to the North Sea.

On his own initiative Grey then gave me a confirmation of what I already knew through Poincaré—an agreement exists between France and Great Britain, under which in the event of war with Germany Great Britain has accepted the obligation of bringing assistance to France not only on the sea but on land, by landing troops on the Continent.

The King touched on the same question in one of his conversations with me, and expressed himself even more strongly than his Minister.  When I mentioned, letting him see my agitation, that Germany is trying to place her naval forces on a par with Britain’s, His Majesty cried out that any conflict would have disastrous results not only for the German navy but for Germany’s overseas trade, for he said, “We shall sink every single German merchant ship we shall get hold of.”

These words appeared to me to give expression not only to His Majesty’s personal feelings but also to the public feeling predominant in Great Britain in regard to Germany.(209)

Whether Sazonov correctly reported what Poincaré and Grey had said to him is very doubtful.(210)  But the fact that he made such statements to the Tsar shows how much the French and the Russians—and especially the Russians—were encouraged by the existence of the Anglo-French military and naval “conversations” and inclined to interpret them as a promise of British support in case of a general European War.  This Naval Convention also gave rise to evasive statements on the part of the Entente Powers which naturally increased Germany’s suspicions of their aggressive intentions.  By some “leak” in the French or Russian Foreign Office, the French Press soon indicated the existence of the Franco-Russian Naval Convention.  This led to inquiries by Germany.  At St. Petersburg Kokovtsev denied that any such convention had been signed, but naturally refused to confirm his denial by a public statement, “because every word of it would be twisted around and the outcry would be all the greater.”(211)  Other Russian and French officials gave evasive answers to the effect that no agreement had been signed, but that since France and Russia were allies, their military and naval staffs must from time to time consult together.(212)  Similarly, after the Grey-Cambon exchange of letters, Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey continued to deny solemnly in Parliament that England had any secret agreements which bound her to participate in a continental war, although, as we have seen, this is what the French and Russians confidently counted upon.  Inasmuch as the German Government by the spring of 1914 had in some secret way become informed(213) of the Grey-Cambon letters all these denials caused uneasiness in Germany.  This was especially the case in connection with the negotiations for an Anglo-Russian naval convention just before the War.

The Grey-Cambon letters, following the consistent diplomatic support which England had given France throughout the Morocco crises, established a very satisfactory basis of mutual confidence between the French and British Governments.  This confidence and harmony was strengthened by many factors: by the common distrust of Germany;  by the cordial personal relations between Sir Edward Grey and Paul Cambon;  by the fact that England had no aggressive aims which conflicted with French interests;  and by the care with which M. Poincaré sought to consult Sir Edward Grey’s wishes and as far as possible conform French policy to them.  There was in fact more harmony and mutual confidence between France and England, though they were only “friends,” than between France and Russia who were allies.  It was a striking example of the fact that a well established friendship is better than an alliance.  Many writers, however, especially the “revisionists” and critics of Poincaré, have argued that there was a complete unity also between Paris and St. Petersburg;  that Poincaré and Izvolski worked harmoniously hand in hand, though they are not agreed as to whether the Frenchman was the tool of the Russian, or vice versa.  Their arguments rest largely on the Izvolski correspondence and their conviction that Izvolski and Poincaré were both working for war, the one to get Constantinople and the Straits, the other to recover Alsace-Lorraine.  But we believe that a closer examination of the Izvolski correspondence, of M. Sazonov’s character and methods, and of M. Poincaré’s memoirs would show that there was by no means that perfect unity between the two allies which has often been assumed.

As has been pointed out in the second chapter, the Franco-Russian Alliance in its origin was essentially defensive in its wording and purpose.  For nearly twenty years it remained so.  It was not interpreted to cover Russian ambitions in the Balkans and the Far East, nor French ambitions in North Africa and the lost provinces on the Rhine.  Russia had given France only lukewarm support in 1905, at Algeciras, and in the Agadir Crisis.  France’s negative attitude had been one of the reasons for Izvolski’s failure to open the Straits after the Buchlau bargain;  and again in 1911 France refused to be “nailed down” to support another of Izvolski’s efforts to open the Straits in the Charikov affair.(214)  But in 1912, under the Premiership of M. Poincaré, the character of the alliance began to be changed.  France began to support more actively Russia’s aggressive policies in the Balkans, and assured her that France would give her armed support if they involved Russia in war with Austria and Germany.  One of the first signs and causes of this change is to be found in connection with the intrigues against M. Georges Louis.(215)

M. Georges Louis, a trained diplomat, served as Political Director in the French Foreign Office from 1904 to 1909, and then as Ambassador to Russia until his recall in February, 1913.  He had used his influence to restrict the application of the Franco-Russian Alliance to its originally defensive character.  He favored the Anglo-French policy of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman Empire in contrast to Russia’s designs upon it.  He feared Russia’s Balkan ambitions might involve France in war, and he was suspicious of the aims and intrigues of Izvolski.  In the fall of 1911, when temporarily filling again the vacant office of Political Director at Paris, he had thwarted Izvolski’s efforts to “nail France down” to a written agreement to support a plan for opening the Straits to Russian warships.(216)  He had thereby incurred the displeasure of Izvolski and Sazonov.  They also complained that as Ambassador he did not transmit accurately to Paris the views of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs.  If this was true, it was certainly not wholly the Ambassador’s fault, but was in part owing to M. Sazonov’s lack of frankness in stating his views, and also to “the fact that he often shifted them suddenly.  He had, for instance, drawn up and shown to Georges Louis a questionnaire on February 14, 1912.  This raised a whole series of fundamental questions about the Balkans growing out of Italy’s Tripolitan War, and seemed to indicate that Sazonov was contemplating some important action to which he wished to secure French assent.  “These are the most serious questions which Russia can raise for her ally,” Louis wrote to Poincaré next day.(217)  But Sazonov then apparently changed his mind suddenly;  to Louis’s repeated efforts to induce him to discuss the questionnaire and the intentions which lay back of it, Sazonov only answered evasively.  On many other occasions, as in the case of the Potsdam negotiations, Sazonov took important steps or consulted with Germany without first informing Georges Louis;  this lack of regard for Franco-Russian solidarity was very irritating to Poincaré.  It was his great aim to have the Triple Entente present a solid diplomatic front to the Triple Alliance.

M. Sazonov also nourished a personal grievance against Georges Louis.  This arose from the curious fact, which one would hardly have expected between two allies, that Sazonov’s agents had discovered how to decipher the French secret diplomatic code, and were spying upon the telegrams between Georges Louis and the French Government.  M. Louis suspected this and repeatedly warned Poincaré that the cipher ought to be changed more frequently.  In April, 1912, in one of Georges Louis’s deciphered telegrams, Sazonov thought he discovered that Louis had accused him of being dilatory in regard to a Chinese loan.(218)  Thereupon he instructed Izvolski to try to get Georges Louis recalled and have someone else sent as French Ambassador to St. Petersburg.  Izvolski readily undertook the task, though it was a very delicate and embarrassing one.  Poincaré at once complied with the request.  On May 8, 1912, he had M. Paléologue, the new Political Director, telegraph to Georges Louis :

With as much surprise as regret, the President of the Council has been officially notified that the Russian Government wishes to see France represented by an Ambassador who displays more activity in his political functions and social relations. ...

The diplomatic problems which are at present being discussed between Paris and St. Petersburg are too serious for our efforts to be paralyzed soon by the fact that M. Sazonov declares that he does not feel in touch with you. ...

M. Poincaré therefore invokes your patriotism to resign your Embassy, with the intention of finding another place for you as soon as possible.  I am forced to recognize, as well as he, the imperative necessity of providing for your replacement.(219)

On receipt of this Georges Louis was at first dumfounded.  Then, suspecting that Sazonov and Izvolski were intriguing against him, and being assured by Kokovtsev, the President of the Russian Council, that the Russian Government knew nothing of any request for his recall, he telegraphed to Poincaré begging him to delay his decision, and hurried to Paris to lay his suspicions before Poincaré in person.  One of the most influential members of the Cabinet, M. Leon Bourgeois, opposed yielding to Izvolski’s request for the Ambassador’s dismissal, and other friends rallied to his support.  Meanwhile, something of the affair had leaked out, and several newspapers raised an uproar against Izvolski’s unwarranted interference in French affairs.  The incident threatened to become a scandal, seriously troubling Franco-Russian relations.  So Poincaré found it more prudent to issue a sweeping denial that any request had been made to him for Georges Louis’s recall, and the Ambassador was allowed to return to his post until the outcry had died down and a more suitable occasion should occur for his removal.(220)

This Georges Louis incident is important because it increased Poincaré’s distrust of Izvolski, and made him all the more anxious to get into closer relations with Sazonov and so keep a more solid hold on the policies of France’s ally.  To secure Sazonov’s confidence and loyal coöperation in maintaining solidarity of action on the part of the two Allied Powers was M. Poincaré’s great aim henceforth.  He sought to accomplish this in many ways:  by visiting Russia in August, 1912, and in July, 1914;  by reiterating that France was ready to support Russia in case of war;  by backing up Russia’s Balkan policies much more actively;  by arranging French loans for Russian military preparations against Germany;  by strengthening France’s own armaments;  and by the ultimate removal of Georges Louis.

By his visit to Russia in August, 1912, M. Poincaré did much to strengthen the bonds between the two allied countries.  He sought to counteract the effect of the Tsar’s re cent meeting with the Kaiser at Port Baltic, and make sure that Russia made no further separate arrangements with Germany after the fashion of the Potsdam Agreements.(221)  He also wished to clear up and smooth out the Georges Louis incident.  He discussed with Sazonov, Kokovtsev, and the Tsar all the chief matters in which France and Russia had common interests-Asia Minor, the Chinese loan, the Turco-Italian War, the recent Naval Convention, the prospect of English coöperation, and the preparations made by the French and Russian Staffs for military action in case of war with Germany.  He particularly urged Russia to develop her strategic railways to the West to facilitate the rapid concentration of the Russian forces against Germany.  On all these points there was substantial harmony.  But on one question, the most important one of all, Poincaré discovered another alarming evidence of Sazonov’s lack of frankness: he had not revealed the terms of the secret Balkan League which had been drawn up with Russian assistance during the preceding winter.  This had been signed on March 13, 1912, but Sazonov had given no hint of its contents and the fact that it was likely to lead to war in the Balkans.  When he now read it to his French guest, Poincaré shrewdly perceived its dangerous character and exclaimed:  “C’est un instrument de guerre.”(222)  He justly protested to Sazonov at having been kept so long in the dark about a matter which might involve Russia, and consequently France in war.  He urged that each should keep the other fully informed as to his intentions.  He defined the alliance in its originally defensive form, but immediately added words which encouraged Sazonov to believe that in a crisis Russia could count upon France.  As Sazonov reported, among other things, to the Tsar :

After having confirmed our reciprocal intention of observing with vigilance events in the Balkans, and of exchanging continuously our news and views on the subject, we agreed anew with M. Poincaré to set up a common action to prevent by diplomatic means an aggravation of the situation so soon as any complication should arise and according to circumstances.

M. Poincaré considered it his duty to emphasize the point that public opinion in France would not permit the Government of the Republic to decide on a military action for the sake of purely Balkan questions if Germany did not take part and if she did not provoke on her own initiative the application of the casus foederis.  In this latter case we could certainly count on France for the exact and complete fulfilment of her obligations toward us.

On my part I declared to the French Minister that, while always being ready to range ourselves on the side of France in the cases contemplated by our alliance, we also could not justify to Russian public opinion taking an active part in the military operations provoked by colonial questions outside Europe, so long as the vital interests of France in Europe were not touched. ... I am very glad to have had the occasion for making the acquaintance of M. Poincaré and of entering into personal relations with him, all the more so, because the exchange of views which I have had with him has left me with the impression that in his person Russia possesses a sure and faithful friend endowed with exceptional political ability, and with an inflexible determination.  In case of a crisis in international relations, it would be very desirable that our ally should have as her head, if not M. Poincaré himself, at least a personality possessing the same decision and as free from the fear of responsibility as the present French Prime Minister.(223)

Faced with the fait accompli of the Balkan League and the potential dangers involved in it, Poincaré took steps with the other Powers to try to prevent the Balkan States from actually going to war.  But they came too late.  The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 increased the delicacy and the importance of Franco-Russian relations, and also of relations between the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance.  During the first weeks of the Balkan Wars his policy remained the same as on his visit to Russia;  restraint of Sazonov from rash steps through insistence on a preliminary exchange of views, coupled, however, with assurances of complete loyalty to the obligations of the alliance;  subordination of Russia’s Balkan interests to the greater question of the preservation of peace between the Great Powers;  the establishment of complete solidarity of purpose and action on the part of the Triple Entente Powers, coupled, however, with a willingness to coöperate with the Triple Alliance so long as the latter did not make excessive claims.  But as the War proceeded and the Balkan allies won their great victories, there was some change, or rather shift of emphasis, in his guidance of French policy.  This change, however, was not nearly as great as many of his critics have asserted, nor as considerable as Izvolski was inclined to represent in his despatches to St. Petersburg.

Poincaré found that Sazonov’s purposes were not always clear and easy to reckon with.  Sazonov did not always exchange views and come to a prior understanding with France.  He had been dilatory or non-committal in replying to French proposals.  At the beginning of the War he had rejoiced with the Pan-Slavs at the astonishing military successes of the Balkan States over Turkey.  But the overwhelming victories of Kirk Kilisse and Lule Burgas, and the rapid advance of Ferdinand’s troops toward Constantinople, was an unpleasant damper on his enthusiasm.  A Bulgarian occupation of the Turkish capital threatened to thwart indefinitely Russia’s own historic hopes in that quarter.  Even if the Powers who had political and financial interests there should refuse to permit the Bulgarians to have the city, they might take advantage of the opportunity to carry out Sir Edward Grey’s idea of an internationalization of the Straits.  Accordingly, even while the battle of Lulé Burgas was still in progress, Sazonov had urged the Bulgarians to recognize “the necessity for prudence and to halt in time,” endeavoring to bribe them to listen to reason by promises of future diplomatic support.  At the same time he informed France and England that he would greatly welcome intervention at Sofia and Belgrade in favor of mediation to restrain the victorious Slavs—in the war which Russia had helped to cause by her part in the formation of the Balkan League.(224)  Three days later, in spite of the fact that Poincaré had already taken the initiative in the direction desired by Russia, and without any warning or prior consultation, Sazonov presented all the Powers with a complete program for immediate intervention:  the maintenance of the Sultan in Constantinople with a defense zone including Thrace and Adrianople;  an autonomous Albania;  compensations to Rumania for remaining neutral;  Serbian access to the Adriatic;  and free transit for Austrian goods through the new Serbian territory.(225)

Except for Serbian access to the Adriatic, this whole program was in the nature of concessions to the Triple Alliance.  As compared with Constantinople, Sazonov cared very slightly for “the little Slav sisters” or for the solidarity of the Triple Entente.  Without giving Poincaré time to recover from his astonishment at the proposed concessions, Sazonov sent him the further startling news that if the Bulgarians occupied Constantinople the whole Russian Black Sea Fleet would “appear before the Turkish capital.”(226)  The Russian Admiralty plans went further:  “For the protection of our Embassy and our interests in general, it will naturally be necessary to land, and in order not to weaken the navy crews, the despatch of some troop divisions with machine guns is desired. ... The occupation of the Bosphorus one would not extend very far, but it would then be easier to remain there forever.  If we have the Bosphorus tight in hand, the troublesome Straits Question is already half settled.  If a favorable opportunity for such an advance cannot be found, then it must be artificially created;  because, if it is impossible to get possession of the whole Straits, we should at least have an eye to the enormous political advantage which the Bosphorus has.”(227)

French public opinion, however, had been reassured by the Balkan victories and began to take a new interest in Russia’s Balkan policies.  A public declaration by Poincaré of French loyalty to Russia had aroused great enthusiasm.  “Nothing succeeds like success,” Izvolski reported;  “under the influence of recent events one notices here a marked change in feeling in favor of the Balkan States and the Russian point of view”;  and he added that he would do all he could to strengthen this new attitude, especially by influencing the Press, but for this he needed more money at his disposal.(228)  Poincaré was not enthusiastic for Sazonov’s program of intervention which would antagonize Bulgaria and Serbia.  He was impressed by the new weight and influence which the Balkan victories had given to the Slav cause and to the Triple Entente in the Balance of Power in Europe.  He also suspected that Austria, backed by Germany, might take advantage of the situation to attempt territorial aggrandizements, and this he was determined to prevent, not only in the interests of Russia and Serbia, but of France and the prestige of the Triple Entente.  He was more concerned over what Austria might do, than at Sazonov’s anxiety about Constantinople.  As Izvolski reported on November 7:  “Whereas France up to the present has declared that local, so to speak, purely Balkan events could not induce her to take any active measures, the French Government now appears to admit that an acquisition of territory on the part of Austria in the Balkans would affect the general European equilibrium and consequently also the special interests of France. ... Poincaré is perfectly conscious of the fact that France may thus become involved in a warlike action.  For the present, of course, he submits this question merely for our consideration, but in a conversation with me Paléologue plainly admitted that the proposed agreement might lead to some kind of active step.”(229)

Serbia’s occupation of Northern Albania and desire for a port on the Adriatic soon became a dangerously acute question.  Austria threatened to use force if necessary to prevent this, and had the support of both her allies.  Sazonov naturally favored the Serbian demand, but not to the point of making war.  He was secretly inclined to find some compromise proposal, such as giving Serbia a railway outlet on the Adriatic, but not part of Northern Albania to which Austria and Italy particularly objected.  When he inquired what would be the attitude of France if an active intervention by Austria could not be avoided, Poincaré replied according to Izvolski :

It is for Russia to take the initiative in a question in which she is the most interested party.  France’s task is to lend her the most effective support.  If the French Government should take the initiative it would risk falling short of, or overstepping, the intentions of its ally. ... In short, added M. Poincaré, if Russia goes to war, France will do the same, for we all know that Germany will stand behind Austria in this question.(230)

This statement, which has been much quoted by Poincaré’s critics as showing the triumphant influence exerted on him by the intriguing Izvolski, is severely criticized by Poincaré in his memoirs as being inaccurate.  As a matter of fact, he was again insisting that he did not wish to make promises until Sazonov had taken the initiative in saying clearly what he wanted.  Then France would be able to make her views known.  As to war, he again defined the obligations of the alliance in the same terms he had used to Sazonov in August: France would go to war if the particular case of the casus foederis provided in the Alliance were fulfilled, namely, “if Russia is attacked by Germany or by Austria supported by Germany.”  Until then he would keep his hands free.  A couple of days later he took care to warn Georges Louis of Izvolski’s misrepresentations and asked him to correct any false impressions which they may have caused.  Izvolski’s report is therefore undoubtedly inaccurate as a representation of Poincaré’s words;  but it is accurate as a representation of what Sazonov was being told by his Russian Ambassador in Paris were Poincaré’s views.  And it indicates that Poincaré was now ready to consider seriously the question of war arising out of Balkan problems in which Russia was interested.  In 1912, however, Russia was not prepared for war;  none of the Great Powers wanted it, and the Serbian question was referred for settlement to the London Conference of Ambassadors.

With a person of Izvolski’s intriguing, ambitious, and not wholly trustworthy character as Russian Ambassador at Paris, it was all the more important that France should have at St. Petersburg a man of Georges Louis’s views, who was on his guard against the danger of Russia’s ambitions in regard to the Straits.  But on February 17, 1913, Georges Louis was suddenly notified of his definite dismissal and replacement by M. Delcassé.  M. Poincaré had just become President of the Republic and the responsibility for the change in the French Embassy at St. Petersburg could be technically placed upon the shoulders of the Briand Cabinet in which M. Jonnart succeeded Poincaré as Minister of Foreign Affairs.(231)  After being thus “politically assassinated,” as his friends called his dismissal, Georges Louis’s diplomatic career was ruined.  No new place was found for him.  He died in 1917 in the midst of the War which it had been his aim to avert.  Doubtless there is some truth in Poincaré’s explanation that Louis’s frail health and his lack of intimate relations with Sazonov and influential circles at St. Petersburg made it desirable in the interests of allied solidarity that he should be replaced by someone who would coöperate more cordially with Sazonov and his Balkan policies.  The fact that he was succeeded by Delcassé, and then by Paléologue, who were both strongly in favor of strengthening the bonds of the alliance by giving Russia strong support, did make for harmony between the Cabinets of Paris and St. Petersburg.  It did tend thereby to tighten the Triple Entente, but it also encouraged Sazonov in his support of Serbia and his stiff attitude to Austria and Germany which was one of the main causes of war in 1914.


Bismarck, who regarded the Austro-German Alliance of 1879 as strictly defensive, had refused to permit military agreements between the German and Austrian Staffs, for fear that they might hamper the political freedom of action of the civilian authorities.  This Alliance, therefore, as well as the Triple Alliance, had long remained without being supplemented by any such definite military convention, stating the number of troops which each ally was bound to furnish in case of war, as in the case of the Franco-Russian Military Convention in 1894.(232)  Nor for many years were there any regular periodical conferences between the Staffs of the Triple Alliance Powers, with written protocols fixing in detail the coöperation of their armies, as in the case of the annual conferences between the French and Russian Staffs from 1900 onwards.(233)  But in January, 1909, when the Bosnian Crisis began to look alarming, Moltke and Conrad, the Chiefs of Staff of the German and Austrian armies did enter into a correspondence concerning possible military coöperation.(234)  It was carried on with the knowledge and approval of the civilian authorities of the two countries, and was continued intermittently during the following years.  It was also supplemented by personal meetings between the two generals at visits during military maneuvers and other occasions.  One Austrian writer sees in this correspondence a “military convention” which transformed the Austro-German Alliance from its originally defensive character into an offensive agreement.  He even makes it the “key” to the whole question of responsibility for the war.(235)  But nowhere did Moltke and Conrad, or any other persons in authority, ever refer to this exchange of views as a “military convention.” On the contrary, it was more in the nature of a general discussion of the political situation, and an exchange of information as to the plan of campaign which each intended to put into operation if war should be declared by the civilian authorities.  Conrad was trying to persuade Moltke to make Germany’s mobilization plan provide for as many troops as possible against Russia, so as to lessen the number which the Tsar would have available against Austria.  Moltke, in turn, wanted to have Conrad plan to use few troops in Serbia, and send as many as possible into Galicia against Russia, in order to relieve the pressure on Germany’s eastern frontier, while the bulk of the German forces were being thrown against France.  Their arrangements with one another were hardly as definite or as binding as those which were being made by the French and Russian Staffs.  Though some of the Moltke-Conrad letters were shown to the civilian authorities, they did not legally modify the terms of the Alliance.  This remained fixed in writing, and its interpretation and application rested with the civilian, and not the military, authorities.

On the other hand, it is undoubtedly true that this Moltke-Conrad correspondence tended to foster the conviction at Vienna, that if Austria attacked Serbia, she could count on a threat of German mobilization to bluff Russia into remaining inactive;  or upon German support, if Russia made war.  In this sense it did tend to give the Alliance a potentially offensive, rather than defensive, character.  Another result of their correspondence was the fact that Moltke and Conrad made mobilization plans which were dependent for success on one another, and, as in all such cases, this enabled the military authorities in a time of crisis, to exert pressure on the civilian authorities in favor of war.  To what extent this was actually the case in July, 1914, will be discussed later in the second volume.  In the years before the final crisis, the personal friendship and mutual confidence between Moltke and Conrad had been one of the factors in strengthening the bonds between these two allies.

Italy was the element of weakness in the Triple Alliance.  Ever since the Algeciras Conference Germany had regarded her loyalty with doubt.  Conrad was so convinced not only of her probable disloyalty to her treaty obligations, but of her positive hostility, that he speaks of her as Austria’s “principal opponent.”  He made plans for mobilization against her, and even wanted a “preventive war” against her.(236)  Italy’s war with Turkey for the possession of Tripoli had further displeased her allies, not only because they had not been fully consulted beforehand, but because it embarrassed them to have their nominal ally attack the Turks, whose friendship and good-will they were trying to cultivate.  To be sure, the events of the war and Italy’s establishment as a sea-power in the Mediterranean had led to a decided coolness in her relations with France.  But these had improved again by the summer of 1912 so that Poincaré and Sazonov both agreed that it was best to keep Italy as a “dead weight” in the Triple Alliance, where she would be useful to both France and Russia.(237)

Though the Triple Alliance was to run until 1914, the question of its renewal had already begun to be discussed in the summer of 1911.  Italy favored its early renewal as a means of placating her allies on the eve of her Tripolitan adventure.  Germany favored it, being always glad of anything which might make for better relations between her two allies, and thus help to counter-balance the growing strength and solidarity of the Triple Entente.  Aehrenthal at first was not opposed to it.(238)  But Conrad and the military officers were so incensed at Italy’s insults and treacheries that they saw no use in trying to keep her even as a nominal ally.  General Auffenberg related with childish indignation to the German Ambassador in Vienna evidences of Italian animosity which he had just seen in the Southern Tyrol :  every day or two a patrol had to be detailed to clean up the insulting epithets scribbled on a war memorial;  he had seen cigarette boxes in which all the Austrian territory from Fiume to the Brenner Pass was marked as belonging to Italy;  irredentist propaganda even took the form of calling the horses and mules by the names of Austrian cities like Trent and Trieste !  “In case of a war Italy would explode against us like a keg of powder,” he added, declaring that the best thing for Austria to do would be to crush the irredentist hopes by war, and then Austria would be freer to deal with Serbia or meet a Russian attack.(239)  Aehrenthal, however, had Francis Joseph on his side, and secured the dismissal of Conrad because the latter was urging war with Italy and friendship with Russia.  The Tripolitan War delayed the negotiations for the renewal of the Triple Alliance.  It was finally renewed, however on December 5, 1912, without modification, being extended for six years from July 8, 1914.(240)  A couple of weeks later Italy notified Germany that, in view of the existing political conditions, frankness compelled her to say that she would be unable to carry out her agreement of 1888 for sending troops to coöperate with a German army on the Rhine.(241)


The outbreak of the Balkan Wars and the consequent intensification of the conflict of interests between all the Powers, great and small, affected the system of alliances in several ways.

It increased the internal friction within the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente.  A study of the daily and even hourly interchange of telegrams which went on between the members of each group during the succession of crises and kaleidoscopic changes which took place in the Balkans during 1912 and 1913 shows, for instance, that Germany was constantly irritated by the selfish policies and rash acts of her Austrian ally.  She was irritated because Austrian policies sometimes ran counter to her own views on Balkan affairs, and sometimes because they might endanger the peace of Europe.  For example, Germany had no great desire for the creation of an autonomous Albania.  The Kaiser did not think that the country was capable of governing itself, and he thought it very doubtful whether any European prince could be found who could succeed in the difficult task.(242)  In spite of this, however, Germany consented to support Austria’s wishes (and also Italy’s) for the creation of an autonomous Albania which should exclude Serbia from access to the Adriatic.  Similar clashes of interest existed between France and her ally.  France desired the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, in which she had large financial interests, and wanted the right to construct railways in northern Asia Minor, which would strengthen and develop Turkey.  Russia opposed these railways because they might aid Turkey to move troops more easily to prevent the Russian advance south of the Caucasus.  An interesting example of this internal conflict within each group is seen in the intrigues in regard to the disposal of Kavala at the close of the Balkan Wars.  Austria and Russia, for various reasons to be explained in the next chapter, wanted to give Kavala to the Bulgarians;  their allies, Germany and France, instead of agreeing with them respectively, were in favor of letting the Greeks keep it.  The Greeks kept it.

This internal friction, however, was more than counterbalanced by the feeling in each group that it must do everything possible to preserve unity and solidarity among its members.  Allies must stand together and support one another’s policies, consenting to policies which were unpalatable, or even consenting to acts which might involve dangers to the peace of Europe.  In this way Austria was often a liability, rather than an asset, to Germany, as was also Russia to France.  Sometimes the dominant member exerted successfully a restraining influence on her ally in favor of moderation and the preservation of the peace, as in the case of Germany’s veto on Austria’s contemplated intervention against Serbia in July, 1913, or France’s unwillingness to approve Sazonov’s proposed measures for exerting pressure on Turkey in connection with Liman von Sanders affair.(243)

In the recently published German documents and in Conrad’s memoirs one finds many cases indicating that Germany encouraged Austria to take steps against Serbia for putting an end to the “Greater Serbia” danger in the belief that it threatened the existence of the Dual Monarchy and consequently of Germany’s only remaining reliable ally.(244)  They occur in official despatches from the German Foreign Office to the German Ambassador in Vienna, in the correspondence and interviews between Moltke and Conrad, and occasionally in the meetings between the German Kaiser and Franz Ferdinand.  On the other hand, however, one finds as many, if not more, cases of an exactly opposite kind, in which German officials, especially the Kaiser, urged Austria to come to some arrangement with Serbia and warned her against using force.(245)  On the whole, we believe we are justified in saying that Germany’s influence was in favor of moderation and peace rather than the contrary—until the provocation of the Sarajevo assassination.

To what extent France in the same way gave dangerous encouragement or exercised wise moderation on Russia, it is difficult to say.  The evidence furnished by Sazonov’s correspondence with Izvolski and Benckendorff, his reports to the Tsar, and other Russian material on the one hand, is often contradicted, on the other, by Poincaré’s memoirs and by the French Yellow Book on Balkan Affairs.  But it must be remembered that this Yellow Book is very far from complete, the documents in it evidently being selected to support the view that M. Poincaré’s policy was always in the interests of the peace of Europe.  On this question, no wholly satisfactory answer can be given until the French make a full publication of their pre-War documents, similar to that already made by Germany and to that in course of publication by England.

One effect of the Balkan Wars, which was most serious to the peace of Europe and to the crystallization of opposition between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, was the intensification of the general movement for an increase of armaments on the part of all the Continental Powers.  We have already noted above the antagonism between England and Germany caused by the rapid construction of Dreadnoughts and the failure of the Haldane Mission.  At the same time that Germany passed the Naval Bill of 1912 she made a considerable increase in her army.  In 1913 a new Army Law provided for a much larger increase to take place in the following years.  Before France was aware of this German Army Law of 1913, Poincaré and the little group associated with him had already decided to bring in a bill greatly increasing the strength of the French army.  Convinced that sooner or later a war was “inevitable,” they persuaded the French Chamber of Deputies to vote the law extending the French term of active military training from two to three years, and the liability for service in the reserve from the age of forty-five to forty-eight.  According to the opinion of Colonel Buat, who was one of the ablest French experts and officially in charge of one section of the French General Staff, France would have in 1914 a slightly larger army than Germany in the first weeks of a war.(246)  The idea that Germany was overwhelmingly superior in numbers in her invasion of Belgium and France in 1914 is a myth.  In Russia also strenuous efforts were being made to organize and train a greater number of her vast population.  The increases in Austria and Italy were relatively slight.  We refrain at this point from giving any figures as to the relative size of armies and military expenditures because such figures are apt to be extremely misleading.  Figures comparing English and German naval expenditures have no significance unless allowance is made for the cheaper costs of construction in Germany and the system of obligatory service instead of voluntary enlistment.  Similarly the size and strength of armies is not indicated merely by the numbers of troops, but depends in large part upon efficiency of equipment, rapidity of mobilization, and other technical matters which would require long comment if trustworthy and really just bases of comparison are to be made.  By the spring of 1914 all these armaments in progress of preparation had raised in both Triple Alliance and Triple Entente a growing uneasiness and suspicion.  Everywhere thoughtful observers were alarmed at the situation, but little was accomplished to alleviate it.  Colonel House went to Europe with the hope of doing something about it, and wrote to President Wilson, a month before the assassination of the Austrian Archduke :

The situation is extraordinary.  It is militarism run stark mad.  Unless someone acting for you can bring about a different understanding, there is some day to be an awful cataclysm.  No one in Europe can do it.  There is too much hatred, too many jealousies.  Whenever England consents, France and Russia will close in on Germany and Austria.  England does not want Germany wholly crushed, for she would then have to reckon alone with her ancient enemy, Russia;  but if Germany insists upon an ever-increasing navy, then England will have no choice.  The best chance for peace is an understanding between England and Germany in regard to naval armaments and yet there is some disadvantage to us by these two getting too close.(247)

One beneficial consequence of the Balkan crisis was the increased effort sincerely made to establish a “Concert of Europe,” which should counteract the opposition between the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente.  This was the aim of the London Conference of Ambassadors, and it succeeded in its task of finding peaceful solutions of most difficult problems.  Possibly if such another conference could have been arranged in July, 1914, it also might have averted the catastrophe.  In this matter of the Concert of Europe each statesman was continually torn between two conflicting purposes.  On the one hand, he wished to preserve and strengthen the solidarity of the group which he represented—Triple Alliance or Triple Entente as the case might happen to be.  He therefore aimed to reach a prior agreement within his own group which would safeguard the prestige and interests of the other two members and thus of the group as a whole;  and then to try to impose the acceptance of this prearranged agreement upon the members of the opposing group.  This of course tended to accentuate the crystallization of opposition between Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, and if carried too far, as in 1914, would precipitate war.  At the same time, on the other hand, most of the statesmen of Europe were aiming at an altogether different purpose.  In the interests of peace, they were genuinely trying to maintain the Concert of Europe, that is to have all six Great Powers arrive at collective action and common views in a conciliatory spirit and by means of compromises.  This often involved sacrificing to some extent the interests of his own country, or at least those of his ally.  In Balkan questions Austria and Russia had the greatest interests and were therefore the countries most frequently expected to make sacrifices.  England, whose interests were least, and who was not bound by any formal alliance, could most easily afford to serve as a medium in smoothing out opposition between the others.  It is not here possible to review in detail the extent to which each of the leading statesmen of Europe pursued each of these two opposite purposes.  As one reads the complicated diplomatic negotiations of the years immediately preceding the War one gets the impression, beyond all doubt, that Sir Edward Grey was the man who most sincerely and tirelessly placed the Concert of Europe above the interests of any single Power or group.  Next to him in support of the Concert of Europe would come Bethmann-Hollweg and the German Secretary of State, Kiderlen-Wächter;  but Kiderlen died in December, 1912, and after that the German Chancellor was less able to make his influence prevail over that of Tirpitz and the Kaiser.  In France, M. Poincaré was more interested in the solidarity of the Triple Entente, than in the Concert of Europe;  but in order to preserve the confidence and friendship of England, which was one of his primary aims, he also frequently took the lead in steps for initiating or upholding collective action by the Powers.  Sazonov and Izvolski cared less for the Concert of Europe, and Count Berchtold least of all.

It was while Europe was thus divided into two opposed groups that a new danger arose from the assassination of the Austrian Archduke and a new intensification of Balkan problems.


137. Reprinted in G.P., XXIV, 170-174;  for the details of this incredible mistake and the storm which the article raised in both Germany and England, see ibid, pp. 167-210.

138. Metternich to Bülow, Nov. 22, 27;  Dec. 11, 20, 29, 1908;  Jan. 1, 14, 20;  G.P., XXVIII, 23-75.

139. Tirpitz to Bülow, Jan. 4, 1909;  G.P., XXVIII, 51-55.

140. Metternich to Bülow, Mar. 3, 10, 17, 1909;  G.P., XXVIII, 93-112.

141. Cf. Kaiser’s comments, G.P., XXVIII, 99, 102, 105, 113, 126.

142. Kaiser to Bülow, April 3, 1909;  G.P., XXVIII, 145.

143. G.P., XXVIII, 391-395.

144. Protocol of meeting, June 3, 1909;  G.P., XXVIII, 168ff.;  cf. above, 256ff.

145. Metternich to Bülow, Nov. 27, 1908;  G.P., XXVIII, 19.

146. G.P., XXVIII, 201-278.

147. G.P., XXVIII, 281-423;  cf. Grey to Goschen, May 5 and Oct. 26, 1910 (Grey, 1. 244-247).

148. G.P., XXVIII, 205 ff;  Huldermann, Albert Ballin, 216 ff.

149. G.P., XXXI, 71-94.

150. G.P., XXVIII, 3-67.

151. The full details of the Haldane Mission can now be followed in G.P., XXXI, 95-251;  Tirpitz, Erinnerungen, p. 185ff.;  Der Aufbau der deutschen Weltmacht, pp. 197-338 (including many documents most of which were later published in G.P.);  “Warum kam eine Flottenverständigung mit England nicht zur Stande?”, in Suddeutsche Monatshefte, 23. Jahrgang (Nov., 1925), pp. 95-155, including polemical articles by Fritz Kern, Hans Hollmann and others, for and against the Tirpitz publication of documents;  Bethmann-Hollweg, Betrachtungen, I, 48 ff.;  Huldermann, Albert Ballin, pp. 235-270;  E. Jäckh, Kiderlen-Wächter, II, 155 ff.;  Siebert-Schreiner, pp. 613-639;  Haldane, Before the War, pp. 55-72;  Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1914, pp. 94-115;  Asquith, Genesis of the War, 153-160;  Grey, I, 240-248;  Poincaré, I, 163-188. The subject is excellently summarized by B.E. Schmitt, in an article in The Crusades and Other Historical Essays presented to Dana C. Munro (N.Y., 1928), pp. 245-288.

152. G.P., XXXI, 98.

153. G.P., XXXI, 99 note.

154. Cassel to Ballin, Feb. 3, 1912;  Churchill, p. 98;  G.P., XXXI, 102.

155. G.P., XXXI, 103 f.

156. Grey, I, 241 ff.

157. Grey, I, 242 f.

158. Grey to Goschen, May 5, 1910;  Grey, I, 245.

159. Grey gave Paul Cambon the impression that the initiative had not come from England but from the Kaiser (Poincaré, I, 165, 168), and Churchill said the same to the German naval attaché, (G.P., XXXI, 104).  But the Kaiser denied this at once in a marginal note, saying that he knew nothing of the proposal until Sir Ernest Cassel came to him with Grey’s offer (ibid., p. 122).  The fact seems to be that the initiative came from Ballin and Cassel, and that only after the latter had talked with Grey, did the Kaiser suggest that the best way to facilitate the negotiations would be for Grey to come to Berlin.

160. Jan. 31, 1912;  Churchill, p. 97.

161. Grey, I, 242.

162. Poincaré, I, 166. Haldane himself while in Berlin, also made a point of visiting the French Embassy and informing Jules Cambon that, even if a naval accord were reached, it would respect the existing ratio and not disturb the Entente (Poincaré, I, 167;  G.P., XXXI, 126).

163. Cf. Churchill, 99-101;  and G.P., XXXI, 55, 62, 126.

164. Kaiser to Bethmann, Feb. 9;  and Tirpitz’s memorandum;  G.P., XXXI, 112ff;  225ff;  Haldane, Before the War, p. 57ff.;  Bethmann, Betrachtungen, I, 50ff.;  Tirpitz, Memoirs, I, 218ff.

165. Haldane, p. 64;  G.P., XXXI, 116 ff. Kiderlen was not present at any of the conversations with Haldane, but he assisted Bethmann in drawing up this formula.

166. G.P., XXXI, 118 f. Italics are by the present author.

167. G.P., XXXI;  119f.

168. G.P., XXXI. 134 f.

169. Metternich to Bethmann, Feb. 22, 24, 29;  G.P., XXXI, 128-145.

170. G.P., XXXI, 137-154.

171. G.P., XXXI, 148-153;  Tirpitz, Der Aufbau der deutsehen Weltmacht, 290 ff., 308 ff.

172. G.P., XXXI, 156.

173. Ibid, 157 note;  Tirpitz, pp. 317-325.

174. G.P., XXXI, 159-210.

175. G.P., XXXI, 210 ff.

176. G.P., XXXI, 193-201;  Churchill, 107 ff.

177. Tirpitz, 334 ff.

178. G.P., XXXI, 255-305;  XXXVII, 1-470.

179. Foreign Affairs (N.Y.), Oct., 1925, 7.

180. Poincaré, I, 24;  G.P., XXXI, 379.

181. Next to the revelation of his character and aims in his own Memoirs (see above, ch. i, at notes 45-47), the best-informed and most fair-minded account of M. Poincaré in English is the biography by Sisley Huddleston, Poincaré.

182. M. Poincaré has much to say on this score (e.g., I, 294 ff., 317 ff.;  II, 335 ff. ;  III, 90 ff.) . He has even said that he had so little confidence in Izvolski that in August, 1912, he “made energetic representations about him to M. Kokovtsev, President of the Russian Council, asking for his recall” (Foreign Affairs (N.Y.), Oct. 1925, p. 10). If this is true, and if he had so little confidence in Izvolski before the War as he indicates in his post-war memoirs, it is a pity he did not make his energetic representations to the Tsar and to Izvolski’s official superior, M. Sazonov, and really secure his recall. Probably he feared that to do so might antagonize Sazonov and weaken the Alliance.

183. L.N., 1, 203, 216, 266, 281 f.

184. L.N., II, 14 f.

185. L.N.. II, 360. Kokovtsev had the same impression (ibid., II, 393).

186. L.N., 1, 326, 346 ff.;  11, 10, 15, 345, 570.

187. Poincaré, I, 170-178.

188. G.P., XXXI, 210 ff. Germany suspected that Grey’s negative attitude was partly caused by French pressure (ibid., 144, 476 ff., 489 ff.).

189. Izvolski to Sazonov, Dec. 5, 1912 (M.F.R., p. 609;  L.N., I, 365 f.;  Stieve, II, 377):  “In my conversation with Poincaré and Paléologue I have been able to learn in a very confidential way that, à propos of the famous trip of Lord Haldane to Berlin, ... Poincaré told the British Government that so long as France and England had no written agreement of a general political character, the signing of such an agreement between Germany and England would at once put an end to the existing Anglo-French relations. His protest had the expected effect and the London Cabinet rejected the German proposition.”  Poincaré made these confidences to Izvolski in December, 1912, if correctly reported, just at the time he was trying to convince Russia of the strength and solidarity of the Triple Entente and to persuade Sazonov in consequence to take a stiffer attitude in support of Serbia.

190. Churchill, pp. 97, 111 ff.;  G.P., XXXI, 147f., 156, 198, 218.

191. London Daily Express of May 27, 1912;  see also summaries of the British and French Press concerning the desirability of changing the Entente Cordiale into a regular alliance in G.P., XXXI, 475-556;  Siebert-Schreiner, pp. 640-646.

192. Cambon to Poincaré, April 18, 1912;  Poincaré, I, 173 f.

193. Poincaré, I, 174. France and England kept Russia in the dark about this;  denials were made by Nicolson to Benckendorff in London, and by Poincaré to Izvolski in Paris;  Siebert-Schreiner, pp. 641-644.

194. See below, at notes 205-207.

195. Poincaré, I, 215-219.

196. Poincaré, I, 218.

197. See above, ch. iii, at note 188.

198. Cf. Asquith to Grey, Sept. 5, 1911 (Grey, I, 92):  “Conversations such as that between Gen. Joffre and Col. Fairholme seem to me rather dangerous;  especially the part which refers to possible British assistance.  The French ought not to be encouraged, in present circumstances, to make their plans on any assumptions of this kind.”

199. Churchill to Grey, Aug. 23, 1912, Churchill, p. 112.

200. Poincaré, I, 217.

201. Poincaré, I, 219 ff.;  Grey, I, 93 ff.

202. Grey, I. 94 f.

203. Basis of “Plan XVII”;  French General Staff History, Les Armées françaises dans la Grande Guerre, I, 19.

204. Les Armées françaises dans la Grande Guerre, I. 47 ff.

205. See below, ch. v, passim.

206. Cf. L’Alliance Franco-Russe, pp. 133-139;  Poincaré, II, 112-114;  V. Egoriev and E. Schvede, “La Convention Navale de 1912,” in Les Allies contre la Russie (Paris, 1926), pp. 54-64 (containing new material from the Russian archives);  Izvolski correspondence, July 18, Aug. 2, 5, 6, 10, 14, 17, 18;  and Sazonov’s report to the Tsar of Aug. 17, 1912 (M.F.R., pp. 229-256;  L.N., I, 296-309;  II, 338f., 527-534;  Stieve, II, 194-228);  G.P., XXXI, 520-546.

207. Sazonov’s report to the Tsar of Aug. 17, 1912;  M.F.R., p. 256;  L.N., II, 339.

208. Ibid.

209. Krasnyi Arkhiv, III, 18;  L.N., II, 347f.;  Stieve, II, 290f.

210. Cf. Grey, I, 286-289.

211. G.P., XXXI, 523 f., 528.

212. G.P., XXXI, 523 ff.;  L’Alliance Franco-Russe, 138;  Poincaré, II, 114.

213. G.P., XXXI, 544 note;  Grey, I, 286.  Presumably the information came through Siebert, a secretary in the Russian Embassy in London, see ch. i. note 68.

214. For the details, see below, ch. v.

215. This unsavory affair has been dealt with at great length by M. Ernest Judet, Georges Louis (Paris, 1925) and by M. Poincaré, I, 294 ff., 333 ff.;  II, 32 ff.;  Judet, championing the cause and memory of his friend, bases his account in considerable part on official despatches contained among Georges Louis’s papers and on his Carnets (2 vols., Paris, 1926), which is made up of Georges Louis’s notes of conversations with prominent persons. M. Poincaré’s reply to Judet’s stinging attack is largely based on official despatches which he has been able to select from his own papers or from the French archives. In the following paragraphs only a bare summary of the facts can be given.

216. See below, for the details, ch. v. at notes 114-126;  also Judet, pp. 131-167;  Poincaré, 1. 333-347.

217. Judet, p. 174;  cf. Poincaré, II, 24 ff.

218. Judet, p. 85. In reality Louis had referred to the dilatoriness of the “ministry” before Sazonov became Minister of Foreign Affairs, but Sazonov’s agent had made the mistake of deciphering “minister” instead of “ministry” and Sazonov had taken this to be a personal reference to himself.

219. Judet, p. 28f.

220. Judet, pp. 83-130;  Poincaré, I, 333 ff.

221. On the meeting of the Tsar and the Kaiser at Port Baltic, see Poincaré, I, 310ff.;  379ff.;  Sazonov, Fateful Years (N.Y., 1928), p. 43ff.;  and G.P., XXXI, 427-454.

222. So he told Izvolski;  M.F.R., p. 273;  L.N., I, 324;  Stieve, II, 250.  See also below, ch. v.

223. Sazonov’s report to the Tsar, Aug. 17, 1912;  M.F.R., p. 255ff.;  L.N., II, 338 ff.;  Stieve, II, 219 ff.;  and (in part) Siebert-Schreiner, pp. 652-655. Cf. also Poincaré, II, 99-169, especially 114 ff.;  and below, ch. v.

224. Sazonov to Benckendorff and Izvolski, Oct. 31, 1912;  Krasnyi Arkhiv, XVI, 19;  Siebert-Schreiner, p. 381 f.;  Stieve, II, 326.

225. Sazonov’s circular, Nov. 2;  M.F.R., p. 293;  L.N., II, 565;  Stieve, II, 328.

226. Sazonov to Izvolski, Nov. 4;  L.N., I, 339;  Stieve, II, 331.

227. Admiralty Staff Report, Nov. 2, 1912;  Krasnyi Arkhiv, VI, 52.

228. Izvolski to Sazonov, Oct. 28, M.F.R., p. 292;  L.N., II, 564;  Stieve, II, 320. On Izvolski’s activities in bribing the French Press, see below, ch. V, note 117.

229. M.F.R., p. 296;  L.N., I, 342;  Stieve, II, 336.

230. Izvolski to Sazonov, Nov. 17, M.F.R., p. 300;  L.N., I, 346;  Stieve, II. 346. Cf. however, Poincaré, II, 336 ff.

231. Judet, pp. 205-234;  Poincaré, II, 70;  Foreign Affairs (N.Y.), IV, 11, Oct., 1925.

232. Two minor exceptions to this general statement were the convention of 1888 providing for the service of Italian troops on the Rhine frontier in case of a Franco-German war (cf., G.P., VI, 247), and a convention of 1900 providing for naval coöperation by the Triple Alliance in case of war with France and Russia (Pribram, I, 241). See also W. Foerster, “Die deutsch-italienische Militärkonvention,” in KSF, V, 395416, May, 1927.

233. For summaries of the earlier Franco-Russian military conferences, see Les Alliés contre la Russie, pp. 8-39;  and for the protocols of those in 1911, 1912, and 1913, see M.F.R., pp. 697-718;  and L.N., II, 419-437.

234. Conrad, I, 379-406;  II, 54-62.

235. H. Kanner, Der Schlüssel zur Kriegsschuldfrage, Munich, 1926.

236. For the period 1907-1912, of. Conrad, I, 110, 128, 141, 173, 224, 272.

237. Sazonov’s report to the Tsar, Aug. 17, 1912;  L.N., II, 340.

238. G.P., XXX, 495-510.

239. Tschirschky to Bethmann, Nov. 18, 1911;  ibid., 514 ff.

240. Tschimchky to Bethmann, 568;  Pribram, I, 268-298.

241. G.P., XXX, 574-579;  Pribram, I, 299.

242. G.P., XXXVI, 127-745, passim.

243. See below, ch. v.

244. G.P., XXVI, passim (Bosnian Crisis);  XXX, 253;  XXXIII, 274 ff., 330, 373 f.;  XXXIV, 34 ff.;  XXXVI, 386 ff.;  XXXIX, 325 ff. (Konopischt Meeting). Conrad, I, 95 f., 106 ff., 129 ff., 202 f., 369 ff.;  II, 54 ff.;  III, 38 f., 143 ff., 294, 328, 368 f., 424 ff., 469 f., 474, 609 ff., 667 ff. Cf. also W. Schüssler, Oesterreich und das deutsche Schicksal (Leipzig, 1925), pp. 8 ff., 177 ff.;  and H. Kanner, Der Schlüssel zur Kriegsschuldfrage (Munich, 1926), passim.

245. G.P., XXXIII, 42, 80, 92 ff., 116, 150, 295 ff., 355 ff., 371 ff., 426 ff., 478 f.;  XXXIV, 444 ff., 455 ff., 538 ff., 619 ff., 674 ff., 820 ff. ;  XXXV, 52 ff., 66 ff., 122 ff., 319 ff. (Kavala affair and non-revision of the Treaty of Bucharest);  XXXVI, 27 ff.;  XXXVIII, 335, 342 ff. Conrad, I, 156, 165; III, 78 ff., 143 ff., 164 ff., 318, 404, 410, 417, 429 ff., 448, 597f., 627f., 632, 644 f., 729. Cf. also H. Friedjung, Das Zeitalter des Imperialismus (Berlin, 1919-1922), III, passim.

246. E. Buat, L’armée allemande pendant la guerre de 1914-1918, Paris, 1920;  Montgelas, Leitfaden, 81-87.

247. Charles Seymour, The Intimate Papers of Colonel House (Boston and New York, 1926), I, 249;  cf. also G.P., XXXIX, 107-117.