World War One
Published 08 Sep 2017
There were two stages in the World War I. There was the conventional war which lasted for two years and the desperate expedients’ war which lasted till the end of the war. In the last stage, the involved parties struggled for their survival and existence as it was threatened by the war. The two sides involved were Russia, France, Great Britain, the United States and other minor countries coming together as the Allied Powers while on the other hand, Germany, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and other smaller nations formed the Central Powers. There is little evidence that Germany had intended for the war even though it emerged as the strongest central Power which was most involved in the war. Various factors which included militarism, nationalism, competition and prewar alliances played a major role in the onset of the war even though Germany had a major role to play with regard to stimulating and encouraging the war. As such, Germany primarily bears the responsibility for the outbreak of the war.
The war started as a culmination of events centered on the formation of alliances between countries. The subject of these alliances was the defense of a given ally in case it was under attack from an enemy. The major countries than were involved in the war had made one form of an alliance or another. Combined with tensions which existed between militarily active states, the world was set for a major conflict. The climax of events came on twenty eighth of June with the assassination of Frances Ferdinand who was an Austrian archduke (Snipes, 1998). The assassin was Gavrilo Princep, a Serbian student who was also a member of a militant group known as the “Black Hand”. The assassination was a reaction to the spirit of nationalism which came as a result of the integration of Yugoslavian provinces into one state. It was suspected that the Serbian government was responsible for the assassination, something that naturally angered the Austrians. Austrians vowed to go to war with Yugoslavia but since Yugoslavia had signed a defensive treaty with Russia, they hesitated for they knew that Russia was bound to join the war.
Germany on the other hand had also signed a defensive treaty with Austria. As such, Germany assured Austria that they would defend them should Russia move to protect Yugoslavia. Germany then encouraged Austria to begin the war and should it evolve into a larger conflict, then they would offer their support. The willingness of Germany to get involved in the war was motivated by several factors. One of the factors was that the assassination meant that Hapsburg had lost control which had a consequence of Germany being surrounded by enemies should their offer be declined by Austria. Germany also knew that if Russia lost Yugoslavia, then they would have no major base in Europe. Greece and Bulgaria will also be susceptible to attack with annexation of Yugoslavia. The common perception in Germany was that Russia was unlikely to join the war as had happened in 1908 was parts of Serbia was annexed by Austria.
This view overlooked various factors. In 1908, Russia could not join the conflict since it was struggling with a revolution but by nineteen fourteen, the Revolution had not only stopped but they had also recovered enough to enable them sustain war against Germany or Austria. Beyond this, Germany had allied with Turkey which made them feel confident about destroying any country in Europe. Germany also knew that England was not likely to join the war especially when Russia was the aggressor. Germany was not however conversant with Europe’s take on the situation between Serbia and Austria. The general notion in Europe was that even if Serbia had a hand in the assassination, the event cannot be used as an excuse to concur it.
Ever since the time of Bismarck, Germany had been involved in developing plans of invading every country in Europe (Vinton, 2004). One of such plans was the Schlieffen Plan which called for quick ways of surrounding and destroying the enemy. This plan had been used against France and other individual wars like the Battle of Tannenburg. One of the major points of this strategy was the necessity of investing all possible force behind France’s invasion. As such, no soldier was to be held back in reserve. The aim of the Germans was to quickly end the war by laying an attack on France and overrunning it immediately before Russia could mobilize. The plan was to proceed into France by first attacking Belgium. Unfortunately, Belgium was not an easy ride as Germany had thought and hence they put up resistance which made it difficult for Germany to carry out its plan. Besides these war plans, Germany also attempted to stop the involvement of other nations by sparking off revolutions in them. This plan succeeded in Russia but terribly failed in Ireland.
In order to bar Britain from getting involved in the war, Germany wanted to make it seem like Russia was responsible for the onset of the war (Geiss, 2004). They made it clear that any conflict which involved Austria and Serbia was a local conflict and hence external powers were not supposed to intervene. However, the other nations knew what this meant and hence readied themselves for a possible war which was likely to involve all the major powers. The Austrians on the thirteenth of July, 1914 demanded the evacuation of all Serbians from Albania. The Serbians could not consent to any demand which was likely to jeopardize their government and thus opted to get ready and mobilize for war. Three days after the ultimatum was given, Austria saw the unwillingness of Yugoslavia to heed their demand and thus declared war officially. The conflict then begun with Austria intending to capture some portion of Serbian territory then using this to negotiate for their demands.
Russian then begun to mobilize its forces with the aim of protecting Yugoslavia from Austria. The only country that barred Germany from entering the war was Britain and they thus invested their energy in trying as much as possible to bar England from engaging in the conflict. When the war broke out, England attempted to negotiate peace between the conflicting parties, an effort which did not bear any fruit. Immediately after attempting to broker peace, Germany saw that it was unlikely for England to remain neutral. However, they resorted to get involved in the war anyway.
On July thirtieth, a state of imminent war danger was announced by the Germany’s military leader. Russia concluded its mobilization process the following day even though it still held that they would not attack if there was still interest at peace talks. The reaction of Germany was to call for Russia’s demobilization within twelve hours; something could have not been possible. Russia ultimately declined to heed for such calls, an action that Germany used as an excuse to declare war. Germany begun to mobilize her army on thirty-first July. All this indicate that Germany was growing impatient with peace and hence needed an excuse sufficient enough to enable her carry out her long desired ambitions.
It is clear that Germany would have done anything to see the war begin even though peace would have been the easiest and best option. As such, all the bale and guilt can be justifiable be directed to Germany as it was within their power to prevent the onset of World War I had they not pushed Austria to invade Serbia in the name of giving them support should anything happen which was not anticipated before.
- Geiss, I., (2004) Outbreak of the First World War and German War Aims. Springer
- Snipes, J. (1998) Austria and the First World War. Oxford University Press
- Vinton, Q., (2004) German Ambition and the Outbreak of World War I. Global Publishers