100 YEARS SINCE WWI – JULY 30 1914 – RUSSIA TRAPPED BY ITS OWN PLANNING

Tsar Nicholas had authorized a partial mobilization of Russia’s military because he wished to make it clear that although his nation had to stand firm against Austria-Hungary’s aggressive stance, he did not wish to provoke a German response, which might occur if he authorized a general mobilization. But on the afternoon of July 30, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazanov, conveyed to the Tsar the bad news which the general staff had given him that morning: the Russian military had never drawn up plans for a partial mobilization, and to attempt to do so now would force an improvisational handling of the army, probably throwing the military into such confusion and disarray as to defeat the purpose of mobilization.

Sazanov’s meeting with the Tsar “was a long one, with the foreign minister arguing the generals’ case. Austria, Sazanov said, was preparing to destroy Serbia and refusing to talk. Germany was playing a double game, appearing to restrain the Austrians but really just trying to buy time for its own preparations: Germany was far along with an undeclared mobilization of its own. Russia could not afford to respond. Russia also could not mobilize in any way short of fully—the result of trying such a thing could be disastrous. Sazanov was wrong about almost everything except Austria’s determination to attack Serbia. He was not lying, but he was dangerously misinformed.”

~G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918 (New York: Delacorte Press, 2006), 66.

Though stubborn and reluctant, the Tsar finally agreed after Sazonov suggested that a general Russian mobilization would not necessarily drive Germany to war . . . another erroneous belief.

In Russia’s general mobilization, 900,000 active-duty troops were added to the near-inevitable conflict, and 4,000,000 more reserve troops were also called up. French President Raymond Poincaré did his best to restrain the military, knowing that France’s best chance to bring Britain into the war on France’s side was to make Germany appear the aggressor. British foreign secretary Edward Grey abandoned all previous vagueness in declaring that “unless Austria is willing to enter upon a discussion of the Serbian question, a world war is inevitable,” adding that he expected such a war to bring Britain in on the side of France and Russia. When Austro-Hungarian diplomats, themselves bent on war, stubbornly refused to talk to Russia, it seemed only a brief matter of time before the final domino of the July crisis fell: the mobilization of mighty Germany’s military.

#100yearssinceWWI

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