Thomas Otte: July Crisis:
Like most Magyar magnates, Tisza was a staunch supporter of the German alliance, as indeed he was an admirer of Bismarck. Berlin’s support for any action against Belgrade was thus necessary also to overcome the internal obstacles in Habsburg decision-making. That Tisza would not easily be moved was well understood at Vienna, as Franz Joseph’s request that Berchtold arrange a meeting with the Hungarian premier underlined.
For his part, Tisza was influenced by the views of Baron István Burián von Rajecz, a career diplomat, one-time joint finance minister and now the Hungarian representative at the imperial court, who was his closest foreign policy adviser. Burián had consistently argued for developing closer relations with Bulgaria as a counterpoise to the one-sided dependence on Bucharest; and in the early summer of 1914 he still thought that some form of accommodation with Russia in south-eastern Europe was in the realm of the possible.
This was very much the line that Tisza developed when he met with Berchtold in the afternoon of 30 June. He demanded a calm and measured response. Belgrade ought to be given time to demonstrate good behaviour: ‘Further, it ought to be considered whether the international situation might not in future be developed in a more advantageous direction for the Monarchy.’ In this context, he reverted to the notion that Bulgaria should become the pivot (‘Stützpunkt’) of Austria-Hungary’s Balkan policy. Berchtold dismissed this scenario as hypothetical. Remaining passive now, he warned, would call into question the alliance-worthiness of Austria-Hungary for Bulgaria. He also deployed Conrad’s argument: ‘Once mobilized, we need to persevere. The army would not stomach a third mobilization [after 1912 and 1913] which did not lead to action.’ No decision was arrived at at the meeting between the foreign minister and the Magyar premier, however.
On the following day, 1 July, Tisza was received by the Emperor at Schönbrunn. The prime minister spoke out against Berchtold’s idea of ‘making the abominable deed of Sarajevo a pretext for settling scores with Serbia’. It would be ‘a fatal mistake’ to do so, and he refused to share responsibility for it--an implicit threat of resignation if Hungary’s constitutional right to be consulted was ignored. If Berchtold’s plan were acted upon, the Monarchy would be internationally isolated. It might ‘unleash a great war under unpropitious circumstances’, now that Romania was as good as lost and Bulgaria was exhausted from the latest round of fighting in the Balkans. Tisza returned to the idea of a fresh diplomatic initiative to pivot towards Sofia. There were two options: either combined Austro-German pressure to coerce Romania to remain wedded to the Dreibund, or a combination with Bulgaria to force Bucharest back into the fold. To a large extent this was the familiar Magyar scenario already outlined in Tisza’s March memorandum, albeit now adapted to a dramatically altered context. Tisza emphasized the need for ‘energetic action’, though this was clearly not meant to be a unilateral strike against Serbia. Indeed, as before, he urged that Austro-Hungarian diplomacy seek closest coordination with Germany to ‘secure active support for our Balkan policy’. At the time, Tisza assumed that Wilhelm II would attend the archducal funeral, thus allowing for some form of funereal diplomacy to prepare a more active Balkan policy. This was not to come to pass.
Following Tisza’s meetings with Berchtold and the Emperor one thing was beyond doubt: there was divided counsel at Vienna. The Habsburg Empire had, in effect, two foreign ministers, each with very clear and distinctly different views. Whatever else would happen, Austria-Hungary would not move any time soon. The attitude of Germany thus acquired critical importance. At this point, it was by no means certain how Berlin would react. Anti-Serb recriminations and pro-Habsburg protestations in the German press were only to be expected. But the initial response by German officials was more ambiguous. The situation was complicated by the fact that the German capital was practically deserted. Many of the leading civilian and military officials were absent from Berlin; some of them would remain so for much of July....
Zimmermann’s initial comments to foreign representatives were circumspect. He was in no doubt, he told the British chargé d’affaires, Sir Horace Rumbold, that the murder was ‘the outcome of a plot hatched by partisans of a greater Servia’. At the same time, he dissociated the authorities at Belgrade from ‘this dreadful crime’, but suggested that it was for them now openly to condemn the murder. This was also the line he took with other foreign diplomats. Zimmermann agreed with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Nikola′evich Sverbe′ev, that there could be no question of collective Serb responsibility for the assassination. Yet it was incumbent on the Serbian government to help to solve the crime, and if the trail led to Serbia proper, ‘the guilty had to be subjected to severe punishment’. Zimmermann stuck to this position and impressed upon the French chargé, Gustave Henri Benoît, Comte de Manneville, that he expected Belgrade to comply with any demands for prosecuting those implicated in the crime. If it acted otherwise, it would have against it the ‘opinion of the whole civilized world’.
In conversation with Riccardo Bollati, the Italian ambassador, he confessed that ‘the principal danger’ of the current situation was that Austria-Hungary’s ‘legitimate indignation’ might lead to ‘very vigorous and provocative measures against the neighbouring kingdom’. It was ‘continuous labour’ for Berlin to prevent Vienna from taking ‘compromising decisions’. There are no notes by Zimmermann on any of the conversations in those early days after Sarajevo, but the tone and arguments attributed to him in the reports by foreign diplomats are remarkably similar. Zimmermann, in fact, made much the same observation to the Habsburg envoy at Berlin, Count Ladislaus Szögyény-Marich. A desire for energetic steps against Serbia was understandable. The ‘general sympathies of the whole civilized world’, after all, were on the side of Austria-Hungary. And yet he emphasized the need for ‘great caution’ and warned ‘against addressing humiliating demands to Serbia’.... Zimmermann was by no means sanguine, however, about the more immediate future: ‘The main difficulty for German policy was caused by the alliance with Austria-Hungary; but we could not now back off and had to ensure that the allied empire did not drive us into a too difficult situation.’