Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Berchtold to Count Szogyeny, 28 July 1914

On 28 July 1914, Leopold Count Berchtold (pictured), the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, sent a telegram to Laszlo Count Szogyeny, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Germany, in reply to the Ambassador’s telegrams from 26 July. In his telegram, Berchtold tells Szogyeny to inform the German government of the mobilisation of the Russian army. Berchtold asks for German support in dealing with the mobilisation.

Leopold Count Berchtold

Leopold Count Berchtold

Count Berchtold to Count Szogyeny. Vienna, 28 July 1914.

Cyphered telegram.— Strictly private.

Received your Excellency’s telegram of 26 July.

I have had analogous reports on the Russian armaments from the Imperial and Royal military attaché in Petersburg.

I ask your Excellency to go immediately to the Imperial Chancellor or the Minister of Foreign Affairs and inform him in my name of the following:

Concurrent news from Petersburg, Kiev, Warsaw, Moscow and Odessa, shows that Russia is making extensive military preparations. [The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Herr Sazonov and the Russian War Minister both gave their word of honour that a mobilisation had not up to the present been ordered, but the latter told the German military attaché that the military districts which come in question where Austria-Hungary is concerned, Kiev, Odessa, Moscow and Kasan, would be mobilised as soon as our troops were to cross the Serbian border.

Under these circumstances, the [Austro-Hungarian] Chief of the General Staff [Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf] considers it positively necessary to obtain certainty on whether we can march against Serbia with strong forces, or whether we must reserve our main army to use it against Russia. From this question depends our entire plan of a campaign against Serbia. If Russia is really mobilising the military districts in question, the time it is gaining makes it absolutely imperative that Austria-Hungary, and under present circumstances Germany also, should immediately take comprehensive countermeasures.

I consider this view of Baron Conrad most worthy of consideration and I request the Berlin cabinet to reflect, whether Russia should, in a friendly manner, be reminded that the mobilisation of the above-mentioned districts is equal to threatening Austria-Hungary and would have to be answered by countermeasures of a military character, not alone by the Monarchy, but also by the allied German Empire.

To facilitate a withdrawal on Russia’s part, we think that such a step should be undertaken by Germany alone to begin with; but, of course, we are prepared to take our share in it.

I think that plain language would at this moment be the most effective means for showing Russia the consequences of a threatening attitude adopted in the present situation.

It might also be taken into consideration whether the favourable dispositions reported from Bucharest to Berlin should not be made use of to influence Russia through Romania.

With this aim in view, I think the German minister in Bucharest might, without loss of time, be instructed to approach King Carol with the request to consider that in the case of a European conflagration Romania would stand on the side of the Triple Alliance. This could be done either by a solemn démarche in Petersburg (eventually through a private telegram from King Carol to Tsar Nicholas) or simply through the publication of the fact that Romania has joined the Triple Alliance.

This explanation should, to be effective, be made at the latest on 1 August.

Your Excellency will conclude by saying that I trust the German factor in authority will, in view of the threatening attitude of Russia against both Empires, agree with my propositions.

Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits. Italics are from original.


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