A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 40

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THE WORLD DRIFT TO WAR


the Balkan states, which was all to Austria’s advantage, since it had been her purpose to open for herself the way to the Aegean, which would be blocked to her as long as they remained even superficially united. And while Bulgaria, and possibly Greece, might be won over, Serbia was at once the main obstacle to the Austrian expansion, and the external focus of Slavonic sentiment which was the most disintegrating influence within the heterogeneous Austrian empire.

The motives which actuate governments and those which actuate their peoples at moments of crisis are not necessarily the same, though the peoples may be unconscious of the difference — the more in those countries where the governments do not derive their authority directly from the people. It is not difficult to believe in the conviction of the German people that the entente between Great Britain and France was a grand conspiracy, born of political vindictiveness and begotten of commercial jealousy, for the overthrow of Germany; that the organization of the nation for war was only the necessary preparation for self-defence, and that when the Central Powers flung down the challenge it was because no other course was open to them. But it is not possible to credit the German government with the same belief, or to doubt that it chose its own moment under the impression that it would have only France and Russia to fight and would be able to wipe France off the board before Russia could come into action effectively. The Kaiser and his entourage were aiming at a world domination; Algeciras, Bosnia, and Agadir were all moves intended to test the strength of the opposing combination, and the mastery of the Near East was regarded as the key to the situation.

In the affairs of Algeciras and Agadir the British attitude had been disturbing; Britain, without acknowledging the existence of any formal alliance, had manifested a determination to stand by France if she were made the definite object of aggression, Britain had indeed professed her own warm desire for such a mutual understanding with Germany as she had already reached with France and Russia, her readiness to do her best to facilitate a similar understanding between the two empires and the other Entente Powers, and even to pledge herself to neutrality should the latter take aggressive action against the Central Powers; but she had firmly declined to pledge herself to neutrality should the Central Powers be the aggressors.

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