The Year 1915 Illustrated/The Balkans Again

< The Year 1915 Illustrated

THE present war started in the Balkans and recent events seem to indicate that the Central Powers have hopes of so compromising the relationship of the Allies with the Balkan States as to force a decision there. As we write these lines, the integrity of Serbia is menaced by the third and most serious invasion of the war. Her brave army is attacked from the north by the combined armies of Austria and Germany under General Mackensen, whilst from the south Bulgarian troops are attempting to strike a fatal blow and thereby to revenge the loss of Macedonia as a result of the second Balkan War of 1913. "Strike your enemy whilst he is down" is the policy of Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, for has he not admitted that he entered upon the war in the belief that Russia could no longer relieve the pressure of the armies of the Central Powers on Serbia and that therefore the cause of the Allies in the East was hopeless?

To understand the present situation in the Balkans, it is necessary to keep in mind many factors which have been at work there. First, there is the unhealed sore as a result of the second Balkan War. Then there has been the constant pressure of German influence and diplomacy; the enforced retreat of the Russian armies from Galicia and Poland; the failure of the Allies to penetrate the Dardanelles and the strengthening of the Turkish powers of resistance by German officers. It is also stated that German influence has been very marked in the comments on the war which have appeared in the press of the Balkan States. In fact it may be said that the armies and victories of the Central Powers have loomed very large in the eyes of the Balkan peoples, whilst the doings of the Allies have seemed to belong to another sphere.

So it has come about that Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria has accepted a gift of territory from the Turks, enlarging his frontier towards the south-east, and is now hand in glove with his one-time enemy in an endeavour to enrich himself at the expense of Serbia in Macedonia. Time will prove if the choice he has made will bring him the successes that he desires. Meantime both Greece and Roumania continue their position of neutrals — interested spectators of the drama which is being enacted at their very doors. Whether they can continue as merely spectators remains to be seen. The downfall of M. Venezelos, the patriot Premier of Greece, was a severe blow to the cause of the Allies, but up to the present the Greek Government has not in any way hindered the landing of British troops at Salonika to help the Serbian cause.

From the reports of the diplomatic conversations between the Allies and the Greek Government which have appeared in the press, it seems that the one condition for Greek participation in the war was not forthcoming — namely the guarantee of an immediate landing of 300,000 men of the Allies to help the cause. The offer by Great Britain of Cyprus if Greece would give full and immediate support to Serbia against Bulgaria was not accepted, and Sir Edward Grey announced in the House of Commons on October 26th that the offer had since been withdrawn. On November 3rd a new crisis occurred in Athens, the Government of M. Zaimis, the successor of M. Venezelos to the premiership, being defeated in the Chamber.