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England's 1914 'blank cheque' to the Franco-Russian Alliance

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  • England's 1914 'blank cheque' to the Franco-Russian Alliance

    The most striking thing about the July Crisis of 1914 is the very conspicuous failure of Lord Grey to moderate either France or Russia – especially in view of the fact that any such moderation would almost certainly have stopped the countdown to war in its tracks.


    In The Origins of the World War, Vol 2, p 379, S.B. Fay wrote:

    "From Buchanan in St. Petersburg came a long telegram:

    '. . . For ourselves position is a most perilous one, and we shall have to choose between giving Russia our active support or renouncing her friendship. If we fail her now we cannot hope to maintain that friendly cooperation with her in Asia that is of such vital importance to us.'"

    Fay continues:

    “This telegram, indicating that ‘Russia, secure of support from France, will face all risks of war,’ might well have prompted Sir Edward Grey to the conclusion that it was high time to attempt to exercise a moderating influence at St. Petersburg, if he preferred to place the preservation of peace above the maintenance of the Triple Entente. But he did not. (My emphasis) Although Buchanan at St. Petersburg in the early part of the crisis attempted to exercise restraint upon Russia, no such effort was made from London. (my emphasis) The British Foreign Office took the stand expressed in a minute by Sir E. Crowe on July 25th”:

    'The moment has passed when it might have been possible to enlist French support in an effort to hold back Russia.
    It is clear that France and Russia are decided to accept the challenge thrown out to them. What ever we may think of the merits of the Austrian charges against Servia, France and Russia consider that these are the pretexts, and that the bigger cause of Triple Alliance versus Triple Entente is definitely engaged.
    I think it would be impolitic, not to say dangerous, for England to attempt to controvert this opinion, or to endeavor to obscure the plain issue, by any representation at St. Petersburg and Paris . . .
    Our interests are tied up with those of France and Russia in this struggle, which is not for the possession of Servia, but one between Germany aiming at a political dictatorship in Europe and the Powers who desire to retain individual freedom.'
    (B.D., 10)

    Indeed, no "representations" were made at St. Petersburg and Paris - only at Berlin. Among the veritable bundle of blank cheques from France to Russia and the single one from Germany to Austria, this is the one that counted. It was the crucial British consent of silence that gave the Russian warmongers the confidence to roll the dice and order general mobilization. It should be the final nail in the coffin of German war guilt.
    "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

  • #2
    Originally posted by peterhof View Post
    The most striking thing about the July Crisis of 1914 is the very conspicuous failure of Lord Grey to moderate either France or Russia – especially in view of the fact that any such moderation would almost certainly have stopped the countdown to war in its tracks.


    In The Origins of the World War, Vol 2, p 379, S.B. Fay wrote:

    "From Buchanan in St. Petersburg came a long telegram:

    '. . . For ourselves position is a most perilous one, and we shall have to choose between giving Russia our active support or renouncing her friendship. If we fail her now we cannot hope to maintain that friendly cooperation with her in Asia that is of such vital importance to us.'"

    Fay continues:

    “This telegram, indicating that ‘Russia, secure of support from France, will face all risks of war,’ might well have prompted Sir Edward Grey to the conclusion that it was high time to attempt to exercise a moderating influence at St. Petersburg, if he preferred to place the preservation of peace above the maintenance of the Triple Entente. But he did not. (My emphasis) Although Buchanan at St. Petersburg in the early part of the crisis attempted to exercise restraint upon Russia, no such effort was made from London. (my emphasis) The British Foreign Office took the stand expressed in a minute by Sir E. Crowe on July 25th”:

    'The moment has passed when it might have been possible to enlist French support in an effort to hold back Russia.
    It is clear that France and Russia are decided to accept the challenge thrown out to them. What ever we may think of the merits of the Austrian charges against Servia, France and Russia consider that these are the pretexts, and that the bigger cause of Triple Alliance versus Triple Entente is definitely engaged.
    I think it would be impolitic, not to say dangerous, for England to attempt to controvert this opinion, or to endeavor to obscure the plain issue, by any representation at St. Petersburg and Paris . . .
    Our interests are tied up with those of France and Russia in this struggle, which is not for the possession of Servia, but one between Germany aiming at a political dictatorship in Europe and the Powers who desire to retain individual freedom.'
    (B.D., 10)

    Indeed, no "representations" were made at St. Petersburg and Paris - only at Berlin. Among the veritable bundle of blank cheques from France to Russia and the single one from Germany to Austria, this is the one that counted. It was the crucial British consent of silence that gave the Russian warmongers the confidence to roll the dice and order general mobilization. It should be the final nail in the coffin of German war guilt.
    I think that the initial premise is incorrect.

    What makes you believe that an appeal by Britain to either would have made any difference ? Neither France nor Russia went to war in the certain knowledge that London would be automatically involved.

    Above all, neither Buchanan nor Crowe, professional diplomats, were members of the Asquith Cabinet.

    I see that you have commenced another thread arguing along the same lines quoting Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg-he of "Scrap of Paper" fame.

    Don't you believe that he might have had an agenda ?
    Last edited by BELGRAVE; 16 Sep 12, 23:07.
    "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
    Samuel Johnson.

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    • #3
      Buchanan and Crowe were members of the British Foreign Office and served under Grey.

      British support was not "certain" because Grey could not promise such support lest he discourage the Central Powers. His purpose was to allow the opposing alliance systems to collide.

      The fact is that beginning on July 28th, Germany made strenuous efforts to moderate Austria, even going so far as to threaten her with abandonment if she failed to agree to negotiate. By contrast, France encouraged Russia in her secret mobilization measures right to the end while London failed to moderate Russia even though Grey admitted in his memoirs that Russia's general mobilization was a serious, possibly fatal, escalation.
      "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

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      • #4
        Only because the situation was getting out of hand and it looked as if the war would remain localised. Germany was a month late in holding back Austria and made one diplomatic miscalculation after the next. Germany had ample opportunity to restrain Austria for an entire month prior to the first shells landing in Belgrade, even as late as approving the ultimatum to the Serbs, which everyone in Berlin knew meant war.
        The Purist

        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by peterhof View Post
          Buchanan and Crowe were members of the British Foreign Office and served under Grey.

          British support was not "certain" because Grey could not promise such support lest he discourage the Central Powers. His purpose was to allow the opposing alliance systems to collide.

          The fact is that beginning on July 28th, Germany made strenuous efforts to moderate Austria, even going so far as to threaten her with abandonment if she failed to agree to negotiate. By contrast, France encouraged Russia in her secret mobilization measures right to the end while London failed to moderate Russia even though Grey admitted in his memoirs that Russia's general mobilization was a serious, possibly fatal, escalation.
          Certainly they were, but Buchanan and Crowe were career Civil Servants who made recommendations:- not determined policy.

          War could only be declared by a decision by Asquith's Cabinet: and that was a near-run thing.

          And Russia mobilized regardless.

          Fundamentally. unless Britain was actually committed to war it really didn't matter what Grey said or thought: His memoirs, as are all, were written in retrospect. In any case, why would Grey possibly want to allow, "the opposing alliances to collide" and trigger a European war ?

          Despite Bethmann "Scrap of Paper" Hollweg protestations what really triggered Britain's entry into the war was the German invasion of Belgium :- as he knew all too well. Hence his speech.

          Germany, as the Kaiser declaimed, stood by her ally Austria, "in shining Armour", which seems a strange way of voicing a moderating influence.
          Last edited by BELGRAVE; 17 Sep 12, 02:59.
          "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
          Samuel Johnson.

          Comment


          • #6
            Who gave a rat's ass about the British position in either Paris or St Petersburg at the time?

            Russian participation in a war against Germany was a deal-breaker for the French. No Russia, no war. What the British might do was of no comparable consequence. It might join them or stay out, and it wouldn't change any French or Russian war-plans either way. The UK joining the Germans might put noses out of joint, but there weren't even long odds on that happening anyway.

            So the British could please themselves, since it didn't matter for the French and Russian decisions about war or peace. It seemingly mattered more to the Germans however.

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            • #7
              What the British might do was of no comparable consequence. It might join them or stay out, and it wouldn't change any French or Russian war-plans either way….
              Assuming British neutrality, the world sees a war that Germany must win.

              Therefore, the destruction of the Russian Empire is seen by all as inevitable and any country (Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, Greece, Japan) that later enters the war will do so on the side of Germany to take territory from defeated Serbia or Russia. Italy will enter first in order to take Tunisia, Albania, strips of Serbia, and perhaps even a strip of southern France. The Bulgarians and Turks will join in next, to smash Serbia and to smash the Russian Empire - for why else will Germany allow these pair to annex territories, if they did not help in the war?

              Rumania must also conclude which way the wind is blowing and honour its alliance with Austria, as gains towards Odessa are better than no gains at all. Japan, after seeing the Russian army collapse, will move to annex Vladivostok and part of Siberia in the aftermath. Unless you are proposing UFO’s steal the whole German, Italian and Austrian navies, British neutrality means the French Empire is now completely at the mercy of the Central Powers. Spain declaring war on France would assist the High Seas Fleet in establishing a forward base, but it would not be necessary for Germany to win the war at sea and conquer the French empire.

              Aside from Tunisia going to Italy, Germany will obviously annex Morocco and probably one or two other colonies. The only real question is whether Austria-Hungary shall also take a colony off of France!

              This outcome is all immediately evident from any war where Britain remains neutral. Therefore I presume your conclusion assumed madmen or idiots guided the hand of France and Russia in 1914. But I see no basis for that conclusion. Out of curiousity, how did you come to it?
              Last edited by Glenn239; 22 Sep 12, 08:56.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Glenn239 View Post
                Assuming British neutrality, the world sees a war that Germany must win.
                Are we talking complete British neutrality or a delayed entry into the war? The BEF's contribution to disrupting the German attack via Belgium may be overstated. I can definitely see the war going on for at least two years. This may be enough to prompt the US to come in.
                Therefore, the destruction of the Russian Empire is seen by all as inevitable and any country (Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, Greece, Japan) that later enters the war will do so on the side of Germany to take territory from defeated Serbia or Russia. Italy will enter first in order to take Tunisia, Albania, strips of Serbia, and perhaps even a strip of southern France. The Bulgarians and Turks will join in next, to smash Serbia and to smash the Russian Empire - for why else will Germany allow these pair to annex territories, if they did not help in the war?
                Italy will enter on the side that gives the biggest promises. Bulgaria is likely to jump toward the CP, as it did in the OTL. Romania will likely stay neutral: not enough big players to present cheques that can't be cashed. The Ottoman's behaviour will depend on whether Britain releases the battleships under construction or not. Greece and Japan will probably stay neutral, but I can see Japan making that sudden grab for Kiachow - it is just too tempting.
                Rumania must also conclude which way the wind is blowing and honour its alliance with Austria, as gains towards Odessa are better than no gains at all. Japan, after seeing the Russian army collapse, will move to annex Vladivostok and part of Siberia in the aftermath. Unless you are proposing UFO’s steal the whole German, Italian and Austrian navies, British neutrality means the French Empire is now completely at the mercy of the Central Powers. Spain declaring war on France would assist the High Seas Fleet in establishing a forward base, but it would not be necessary for Germany to win the war at sea and conquer the French empire.
                Even in the event of British neutrality, there is still the Anglo-French Naval Convention of 1912: Britain guards the Atlantic coast of France, allowing France to go it in the Med. Italy still won't come in until at least 1915 - that war in North Africa hurt and also laid bare quite a few deficiencies. Spain is still recovering from 1898 - yep. War costs money, plenty of money, and Spain was a significant debtor. You seem to have forgotten the Anglo-Japanese treaty and the eyes which Japan had on China: the German bits of China were much more attractive than Siberia or Vladivostok.
                Aside from Tunisia going to Italy, Germany will obviously annex Morocco and probably one or two other colonies. The only real question is whether Austria-Hungary shall also take a colony off of France!
                Can't see A-H taking any colonies - there'd be too many ructions as to whether it was an Austrian or Hungarian colony. Belgium would lose the Congo to Germany.
                This outcome is all immediately evident from any war where Britain remains neutral. Therefore I presume your conclusion assumed madmen or idiots guided the hand of France and Russia in 1914. But I see no basis for that conclusion. Out of curiousity, how did you come to it?
                Just out of curiosity, what do you see happening to Belgium?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                  Just out of curiosity, what do you see happening to Belgium?
                  Belgium would probably have been reconnected to Holland from which it had been severed by Philip II. This may still happen as the Eurozone continues to self-destruct. The only real problem here would be the status of Brussels - a Dutch city with a majority French population.
                  "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

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                  • #10
                    CONSIDERING THAT ENGLAND HAD CEASED TO EXIST AS A SEPARATE POLITICAL ENTITY MORE THAN TWO HUNDRED YEARS EARLIER, SHE COULD HARDLY HAVE HAD ANY INFLUENCE ON THE SITUATION.
                    Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by the ace View Post
                      CONSIDERING THAT ENGLAND HAD CEASED TO EXIST AS A SEPARATE POLITICAL ENTITY MORE THAN TWO HUNDRED YEARS EARLIER, SHE COULD HARDLY HAVE HAD ANY INFLUENCE ON THE SITUATION.
                      The OP was by a gentleman with a German surname living in a former Spanish colony ruled by a union of rebellious Anglo-Scottish colonies. Of course he's confused and doesn't realise that the area north of Hadrian's Wall wasn't part of the Danelaw, though it may have been part of the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney.

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                      • #12
                        A review of the German political situation, indicates that there were a tremendous amount of political factions in the Reichstag. I always thought it was the evil Kaiser Bill who caused this antagonism towards his own family's countries.

                        On reviewing his memoirs I find myself mistaken. Thank you whomsoever gave me this link:

                        http://archive.org/stream/kaisersmem.../n155/mode/2up

                        The fatal mistake by Kaiser Bill was not realizing that the situation between Austria and Russia had reached boiling point. The French, of course, were trying to goad Russia into war. But this should have been clear during the decade of the Fateful Alliance 1890-1900. Inattention to the rapidly deteriorating international situation ruined the Central powers. Why not let France invade Belgium? This would keep England neutral.
                        When looking for the reason why things go wrong, never rule out stupidity, Murphy's Law Nº 8
                        Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana
                        "Ach du schwein" a German parrot captured at Bukoba GEA the only prisoner taken

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                        • #13
                          Why not let France invade Belgium? This would keep England neutral.
                          If France invaded Belgium, Britain would still have declared war on Germany.

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                          • #14
                            Just out of curiosity, what do you see happening to Belgium?
                            Belgium presumably will be forced to side with Germany, because unless British neutrality is framed in such a way as to preserve its territory from violation in either direction, (ie, the 1870 dual treaties), pretty much any other possibility is eliminated by the fact of Germany’s inevitable victory.

                            Are we talking complete British neutrality or a delayed entry into the war?
                            The distinction is blurred because the situation was so dangerously unstable. If Britain hesitated, Italy may ‘jump’ against France at any moment, Bulgaria and Turkey may do the same and an ‘avalanche’ effect commences. That is to say, too long a delay by Britain and the situation may become unrecoverable, where even if Britain then enters the war it will be defeated.

                            Italy will enter on the side that gives the biggest promises.
                            No, Italy would side with those that will win. If Britain is neutral, that side is Germany’s.

                            Even in the event of British neutrality, there is still the Anglo-French Naval Convention of 1912: Britain guards the Atlantic coast of France
                            You mistake palour games for realpolitik. Germany would respect the Anglo-French naval accord so long as it was convienient for Germany to do so. That is to say, Germany would hold Britain neutral with patty-cakes in the North Sea until it had achieved a decision over Russia (or France), and then, from its new position of strength, with the High Seas Fleet now able to command the French and Russian fleets and base in France or Spain, London and Berlin would sit down and have a long conversation about British hypocrisy, duplicity, and backbiting in the new Europe.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nickuru View Post
                              A review of the German political situation, indicates that there were a tremendous amount of political factions in the Reichstag. I always thought it was the evil Kaiser Bill who caused this antagonism towards his own family's countries.

                              On reviewing his memoirs I find myself mistaken. Thank you whomsoever gave me this link:

                              http://archive.org/stream/kaisersmem.../n155/mode/2up
                              The link was provided by me. These memoirs prove that Kaiser Wilhelm II - far from the moronic, eccentric curmudgeon as Anglo-American historians like to portray him - was actually an educated, highly intelligent, perceptive observer of the European political scene, just as Bismarck has repeatedly observed. These memoirs are a cracking good read and are highly recommended.
                              "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo

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