How valid is to claim that “Europe stumbled into a war in 1914”?
With the Treaty of Versailles, the Allied Commission declared Germany guilty for the design of the war started in 1914. Many historians have debated for years on whether this accusation was accurate, and the war was premeditated and caused by Germany’s and Austria’s aggressive policy, or if the events that unleashed from 1914 to 1919 were the result of a misfortunate accident, worsened by the fact that the Allied powers did not make an effort to prevent the war because of their own interests.
Under the lead of Kaiser Wilhem, Germany became extremely militaristic. Since 1892, Germans had expected a war with Russia and France, and had actually built a plan of action called the “Schlieffen Plan” to prevent a two-front war. The Schlieffen plan, mastered by Count Alfred von Schlieffen, stated that Germany would first perform a quick, massive attack against France, considered the most dangerous, and then go on to eliminate the Russian forces. Because France had fortified its frontier with Germany to prevent any invasion similar to the one that had taken place in 1870, the Plan said the German forces were to go through Holand and Belgium and then head directly to Paris. Furthermore, the historian Fischer argued that German policy saw war as the answer to its existent domestic and international problems. Internally, socialism was a threat to the Kaiser’s reign. Externally, their Weltpolitik was aggressive and created problems with France, Britain and Russia, three of the great powers. The Moroccan incident and the military race had produced disagreements between Germany and France, while the naval race made Britain suspicious of Germany’s attempt to gain world power and overthrow their Empire. Fischer also believed that Germany wanted to go to war with Russia before the latter became too strong, as the country was still in the process of developing. Moreover, at a German war council in 1912 it was agreed that because war would come eventually, it was better to fight at that moment, with Germany at its peak. In addition, Germany’s “Blank Cheque” in 1914 encouraged Austria to attack Serbia. This granted Austria “permission” to follow an aggressive behaviour that would knowingly create a conflict with Russia, the protector of the Serbs. What is more, in the verge of war, Germany made no diplomatic attempts to negotiate with the other countries , and gave ultimatums demanding Russia to stop mobilization and France to remain neutral. At their refusal, Germany declared war on them.