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Saturday, 26 July 2014

37 Day Count Down to War - Day 30

Day 30 - July 26th 1914
On July 26, Count Berchtold rejected Grey’s mediation offer, and wrote that if a localisation should not prove possible, then the Dual Monarchy was counting, “with gratitude”, on Germany's support “if a struggle against another adversary is forced on us”. That same day, General Von Moltke sent a message to Belgium demanding that German troops be allowed to pass through that kingdom “in the event of an imminent war against France and Russia”. 
Bethmann Hollweg

Bethmann Hollweg in a message to the German Ambassadors in London, Paris and St. Petersburg stated that the principal aim of German foreign policy now was to make it appear that Russia had forced Germany into a war, in order to keep Britain neutral and ensure that German public opinion would back the war effort. Bethmann Hollweg advised Wilhelm to send Nicholas a telegram, which he assured the Emperor was for public relations purposes only. AsBethmann Hollweg put it, “If war should come after all, such a telegram would make Russia’s guilt glaringly plain”. Moltke visited the German Foreign Ministry to advise Jagow that Germany should start drafting an ultimatum to justify an invasion of Belgium. Later, Moltke met with Bethmann Hollweg, and told his wife later that same day that he had informed the Chancellor he was “very dissatisfied” that Germany had not yet attacked Russia.

On July 26, in St. Petersburg, the German Ambassador von Pourtalès told Sazonov to reject Grey’s offer of a summit in London, stating that the proposed conference was “too unwieldy”, and if Russia were serious about saving the peace, they would negotiate directly with the Austrians. Sazonov replied that he was willing to see Serbia accept almost all of the Austrian demands, and following von Pourtalès’s advice, rejected Grey’s conference proposal in favour of direct talks with the Austrians. Von Pourtalès reported to Germany that Sazonov was being “more conciliatory”, seeking “to find a satisfy...Austrian demands” and willing to do almost anything to save the peace. At the same time, von Pourtalès warned that changes in the Balkan balance of power would be regarded as a highly unfriendly act by Russia. The following Austro-Russian talks were sabotaged by Austria’s refusal to abandon any of the demands on Serbia As a preparatory move in case a war did break out, and Britain were to become involved, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the British Admiralty, ordered the British fleet not to disperse as planned, arguing that news of the British move might serve as a deterrent to war, and thus help persuade Germany to put pressure on Austria to abandon some of the more outrageous demands in their ultimatum. Grey stated that a compromise solution could be worked out if Germany and Britain were to work together. His approach generated opposition from British officials, who felt the Germans were dealing with the crisis in bad faith. Nicolson warned Grey that in his opinion “Berlin is playing with us”. Grey for his part, rejected Nicolson's assessment, and believed that Germany was interested in stopping a general war.
Philippe Berthelot, the political director of the Quai d’Orsay told Wilhelm von Schoen, the German Ambassador in Paris that “to my simple mind Germany’s attitude was inexplicable if it did not aim at war”. In Vienna, a dispute began between Conrad and Berchtold about when Austria should begin operations. Their conversation ran as follows: Berchtold: “We should like to deliver the declaration of war on Serbia as soon as possible so as to put an end to diverse influences. When do you want the declaration of war? Conrad: Only when we have progressed far enough for operations to begin immediately—on approximately August 12th. Berchtold: “The diplomatic situation will not hold as long as that.”
In summary:
Germany thinks Russia will not fight, but threatens mobilisation, i.e. war, if Russia does not stop her preparations, and asks Entente States to keep Russia quiet.  
Kaiser and German Fleet return from Norway.
Conrad informs Berchtold that he will not be ready for full military action before 15-Aug-1914. Shelling would have to do until then.
The Kaiser's first words to Bethmann-Hollweg upon his return - "How did it all happen?"
Austria begins to mobilise eight corps on Russian frontier.
Sir Edward Grey suggests Conference of Ambassadors in London.
Russia declares she will mobilise on Austrian frontier if Austria crosses Serbian frontier.  General Putnik released with apologies.
A copy of the ultimatum is wired to Poincare aboard the French battle cruiser France.
Montenegro orders mobilisation.

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