On 23 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured) sent a letter to the Austro-Hungarian Functionaries in Copenhagen, The Hague, Brussels, Dresden, Munich, Stuttgart, Berne, Madrid and Lisbon. In his letter, he informs the Functionaries of Austro-Hungarian policy towards Serbia.
Letter from Count Berchtold to the Imperial and Royal Functionaries in Copenhagen, The Hague, Brussels, Dresden, Munich, Stuttgart, Berne, Madrid and Lisbon. Vienna, 23 July 1914.
The propaganda for Greater Servia, which has been busy for a number of years, and whose sole aim was to remove the southern border provinces from the Monarchy, has developed in an alarming manner during the last Balkan wars [1912-1913].
The iniquitous deed of Sarajevo, which has caused horror and indignation all over the world must be regarded as a direct consequence of the agitation spread abroad from Belgrade. The inquiry, which has been instituted, has shown that the crime is not the deed of a single insane individual, but the work of a complicated plot and conspiracy, the origin of which readies across the border to the neighbouring kingdom.
The agitation, which does not shrink from using the most despicable means to reach its ends, cannot have been a secret to the leading circles of Belgrade, since it is proved that a great number of well-known government officials took an active part in it.
The friendly toleration with which the Servian government regarded this criminal activity has caused me to address a number of demands to the Servian government, contained in the decree [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia] which you received at the same time as this letter, and which are intended to re-establish normal relations with the neighbouring kingdom.
During latter years the attitude of Servia might repeatedly have given cause to defend our prestige with an armed hand. But the Monarchy [i.e Austria-Hungary], feeling to be the stronger, and with the sincere wish of maintaining the peace, showed the greatest patience and self-denial. We have found to our misfortune that our love of peace was interpreted in a mistaken way; it created doubts in the strength and unity of the Monarchy and increased the conceit of our enemies. By encouraging the belief in the weakness of the Monarchy and in the possibility of its dissolution, the Belgrade government and its organs hope to prepare the ground for a favorable moment, when —the Great Powers being perhaps at cross purposes with each other—Servia might succeed in obtaining what it is striving for.
The conservative tendencies of our policy, counsel us to dispel with every means in our power the belief that the small neighbouring country could, at its pleasure, conjure up a European war with a view towards realising its ambitions by disjoining the monarchy. We are therefore convinced that we are doing the interests of Europe a real service, when we extinguish Servian aspirations by showing a strong hand, if need be an armed hand, to ensure lasting peace on our southern border.
We will not give up hope that the Servian government, by unconditionally accepting our just demands, will lay the foundations for a peaceful development of our reciprocal relations.
I leave it to you to judge, when you have obtained knowledge of the step we are about to take in Belgrade, whether in conversation with the statesmen in your capital you should use the arguments contained in the above.
Accept the assurances etc.
Source: 1919 Austro-Hugarian Red Book, with minor edits.