Causes Of World War I

.. ples of Russia had deep sympathy for their ethnic brothers in Serbia and so offered them support. Serbia, recognizing Russian defense, felt they had the power to question their Austrian rulers who ignored Serbian demands to liberate their people. Austria, ethnically dissimilar from the Serbians they governed, looked to a history of German association to counter the Serbian threat of Russian involvement. Germany, without need of an ally, saw the Austrian proposal as a means to create a stronger Germany, one that could compete with Europe’s historical powers, France and Britain and the world’s up and coming powers, The United States and Russia.

If nothing else, ethnic differences between opposing nations led to considerable distrust and lack of respect. In a reaction to Serbia’s reply to Austria’s demands following the Archduke’s assassination, Kaiser Wilhelm went so far as to say, The Serbs are Orientals, therefore liars, tricksters, and masters of evasion (480). This statement clearly exemplifies the implications of ethnic differences among nations seeking understanding to avoid conflict. With such attitudes compromise is essentially impossible. Unfortunately, the Kaiser was not alone in his pre-conceived evaluations of different peoples.

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All of Europe can be partly to blame for wild, unfounded assumptions that only furthered tensions and thus brought Europe that much closer to a world war. The most significant factors leading up to World War I lie deeper than systematic alliances or ethnic differences. It was in the month’s time between the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and Germany’s declaration of war on Russia that a world war became inevitable. June 28 to August 1, saw a complicated series of futile attempts by all sides to prevent war, or at least that is what they claimed, foiled by bad timing and ineffective diplomacy. Austria was the first nation to blunder in effectively dealing with the Archduke’s assassination. Austria’s failure was a result of her inaction immediately following the murder.

German Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Alfred Zimmermann expressed the consequences of Austrian hesitation: Austria-Hungary failed to act without delay and under the powerful impression of the Sarejevo murder..This mistake gave he Entente Powers the welcome chance to exchange views and arrive at an understanding(458). Zimmermann implied that a localized war, involving exclusively the Balkan region, would be possible only if Austria took immediate action. Austria itself recognized the need for immediate action: There should be no time lost in going into action as to take Serbia and the chancelleries of Europe by surprise(457). This, of course, was not the case. Austria gave Europe sufficient time to establish political position and Serbia time to establish sufficient defense. The second mistake was a consequence of Russian haste in mobilization and its disapproval of localized conflict.

The German Ambassador to Russia, Pourtals, reported Russia’s stance to the Kaiser on July 25; It would be impossible for Russia to admit that the Austro-Serb quarrel could be settled by the two parties concerned(469). Clearly Russia intended on intervention if any Austrian aggression ensued. Though Russia had substantial ethnic ties to Serbia, it is questionable whether or not Russia was justified in a total defense against Austrian aggression. It was undeniable that Serbia had challenged the power of Austria and an Austrian response was expected. Had Russia, as painful as it might have been, allowed Austria to deal Serbia its punishment than Germany and thus France and England would have stayed out of any war and localization would have been achieved. However, once Russia had committed itself to action, France to Russia’s defense and Germany to Austria’s were obligated by their respective alliances to also commit themselves to eventual war.

Great Britain, on the other hand, waited until mobilization by both parties occurred before taking the side of France and Russia. Interestingly, at one point the Czar reconsidered mobilization but balked due to immense domesticate pressure to defend Serbia. Pourtals accurately predicted of the Czar’s cowardice, saying on July 30, two nights before war declarations, Frivolity and weakness are to plunge the world into the most frightful war(487). The third, and most vital mistake, belongs to Germany. Germany, seemingly determined to go to war, refused numerous offers and suggestions by primarily England to negotiate with Austria and Russia to prevent a continental war. After loudly dismissing an English proposal from Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to convene as one of four major powers to promote a peaceful end to the increasing tensions in Europe, Germany also ignored Britain’s request to mediate the Balkan conflict. Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, recognized the implications of Germany’s refusal to adhere to Great Britain’s requests: Since we have already refused one English proposal for a conference, it is impossible for us to waive a limine this English suggestion also.

By refusing every proposition for mediation, we shall be held responsible by the conflagration by the whole world, and be set forth as the original instigators of the war(478). Upon German defeat four years later, the Treaty of Versailles would be based heavily on these same principles. Adjacent to Germany’s lack of interest in mediation was its vehement support of any Austrian action. This position by Germany was clearly expressed by Heinrich Leonhard von Tschirschky, German Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, when he relayed to Austria, That Germany would support the Monarchy through thick and thin in whatever it might decide regarding Serbia(460). This statement is hardly a mediative plea for Austrian compromise. Austrian confidence in this statement was strengthened when Kaiser Wilhelm offered Austria Carte Blanche, or total support, in its military actions.

With Germany standing strong at its back, Austria was now poised to exercise harsh military punishment on Serbia that would undoubtedly trigger Russia’s and the rest of Europe’s involvement. Had Germany instead used its influence to pacify Austrian aggression and therefore subdue Russia’s fears, then the conflict could have remained localized and a world war could have been prevented. It is pure speculation that Germany would have been able to pacify Austria. Austria seemed intent from the beginning to prove its power over Serbia by harsh militaristic means. It is even further speculation that in light of a German detachment from the Balkan conflict that Russia would have followed suit.

Russia, seeking the same nationalistic growth as all of Europe’s competing powers, had a history of influence throughout the Balkan region that offered Russia potentials in economic and political expansion. Likewise, France’s involvement in the affair was not a simple matter of altruism. France sought to regain lands it had lost to Germany almost fifty years prior as well as a renewed respect as a world empire. Great Britain, though to all appearances innocent, selfishly bathed in its content while European tensions heated to a boiling point. Had Great Britain been clear on its stance from early on, then Germany may have stepped down as Europe’s playground bully.

In light of these arguments one cannot justly apportion blame to a single nation or person. Rather, it was a collection of nations all seeking economic, military, and territorial expansion at the expense of anyone who got in their way. Driven by false ideals of ethnocentrism, all convinced of divine supremacy, the leaders and peoples of those European nations found themselves spiraling into a half a decade of absolute death and destruction. Two gunshots by a Serbian nationalist triggered billions more and one man who killed for his country caused millions to die for theirs. Yet, behind it all lay a vast and complex political structure that for reasons to be argued about but never proven, crumbled to the ground and left Europe and the world to question, why? Bibliography world book encyclopedia 1982 max monteglas luigi albertini History Essays.

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