A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 35

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search


THE LESSON OF ALGECIRAS


only a year later, the entente between Great Britain and France was supplemented by the entente between Great Britain and Russia, already the ally of France; while at the conference Italy had rather significantly affirmed the identity of her interests with those of Britain. It was not clear how far Italy regarded herself as committed to support the policy of her imperial allies.

Thus the grouping of the Powers and their attitudes towards each other had changed materially in the four years 1903-7. At the beginning Germany and Austria were balanced against France and Russia; while the security of the central alliance against Franco-Russian aggression was guaranteed by the actual adherence of Italy, and by the constant friction between the Dual Alliance and Great Britain. At the end Russian prestige and self-confidence had suffered a shattering blow, in itself a sufficient guarantee against aggressive action on her part; but the friction with Great Britain had passed, while between Great Britain and Germany friction had undoubtedly set in. The expectation, little short of certainty, that the greatest maritime Power would operate against Franco-Russian aggression had given place to the still more confident expectation that it would operate against Teutonic aggression, while little but neutrality could be looked for from Italy if the Central Powers should be the aggressors. That was the lesson of the Algeciras episode.

Europe, then, in 1908 was staging for a new drama, in which the first act was unexpectedly opened by the Young Turks. Their organization had secured the support of the army at Salonica; in July they suddenly demanded the long-promised constitution which had never materialised. The sultan promptly acceded. The Powers hopefully withdrew their supervisors from Macedonia, to give the reformers free play. Consequently, in October, Ferdinand of Bulgaria judged that his time had come; he proclaimed the complete independence of Bulgaria, and assumed the ancient title of tsar. Two days later Austria announced the annexation of her protectorate in Bosnia, in defiance of the undertakings under which the protectorate had been established. This was very definitely the concern of Russia. But beside Austria, in the Kaiser's significant phrase, stood Germany "in shining armour"; after a brief hesitation, Russia acquiesced.

If the Central Powers had been checked at Algeciras, they recovered now more than they had lost then. But the price

← 34   ·   35   ·   36 →
(page index)