Essays academic service

Why did a war between austria hungary

During the crisis that followed, Europe's leaders made a series of political, diplomatic and military decisions that would turn a localised conflict in south-east Europe into a global war.

Austria-Hungary, with German encouragement, declared war on Serbia on 28 July. Russia's support of Serbia brought France into the conflict. Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August and France on 3 August. Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality and British fears of German domination in Europe brought Britain and its empire into the war on 4 August. These actions reflect the fears, anxieties and ambitions of the European powers.

The decisions for war were made in the context of growing nationalism, increased militarism, imperial rivalry and competition for power and influence.

World War I

Europe's leaders were willing to go to war to defend or extend national interests and their choices were shaped by a combination of long and short-term foreign policy goals, political pressures at home, previous crises, and the system of opposing alliances that had developed over the previous 35 years.

In 1871, German unification dramatically altered the balance of power in Europe. This new power bloc at the heart of central Europe strengthened further when Germany formed an alliance in 1879 with neighbouring Austria-Hungary, which Italy joined three years later. German ambitions to build a battle fleet initiated a naval arms race with Britain that seriously strained relations between the two. Britain had long seen France and Russia as potential enemies, but from 1904 it negotiated agreements with them, aiming to secure its empire by settling colonial disputes.

Imperial rifts worsened these divisions and tensions. Austria had long seen Serbia as a threat to the stability of its multi-ethnic empire. Austria's annexation of Bosnia in 1908 and Serbian ambitions to unify south-east Europe's Slavic people further strained relations in this volatile part of Europe.

Following the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, Serbia emerged as a larger and more assertive presence in south-east Europe. Suspecting Serbian backing for the assassination, Austria-Hungary was determined to use the royal murder to crush the Serbian threat once and for all. International tensions had been why did a war between austria hungary, but in every previous crisis a continental war had been avoided.

The outbreak of war

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand stoked old tensions beyond the Balkans. The crisis spread as other powers pledged support for either Austria or Serbia. Austria knew that conflict with Serbia would likely involve Russia, which saw itself as Serbia's protector. Austria-Hungary turned to its own ally. On 5 July, Germany promised Austria full support for a severe response against Serbia. Austria-Hungary's aggression towards Serbia and Russian support for Serbia in the aftermath of the assassination stemmed from fears that, if either backed down, they would lose credibility and prestige as great powers.

Germany's ambitions, its perception of its own isolation and its increasing fear of 'encirclement' drove its foreign policy. The preservation of Austria-Hungary - its only reliable ally - as a great power became an important part of German policy. Austria rejected the Serbian reply, which conceded to all the ultimatum's terms except the involvement of Austro-Hungarian officials in an inquiry into the assassination.

On 28 July, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. It was determined to take decisive action against Serbia and, by now, knew this risked war with Russia, Serbia's supporter.

Austria-Hungary was prepared to risk war because it had the guarantee of German support.

The Balkan crisis now threatened a European-wide war. Britain saw its Royal Navy as its 'sword and shield'. Most of the European powers maintained mass armies through compulsory military service and embarked on large-scale arms programmes. They formulated war plans which they expected to bring swift victories if war came. But some powers were more prepared to start a war than others. German politicians saw the Balkan crisis in 1914 as an opportunity to inflict a diplomatic setback on Russia and France, but its Generals feared Russia's growing military power and were ready to strike before it was too late.

While the Russians viewed this mobilisation as a precaution in case war broke out, the Germans saw it as an aggressive act of war directed against itself and Austria-Hungary. Germany's war plan was time-sensitive, being based upon beating France before Russia could get its army fully into action. The next day, this ultimatum expired without a reply.

Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia

Germany declared war on Russia and ordered its own general mobilisation. France knew that it faced German invasion, but was clear that it must stand or fall with Russia.

Many Frenchmen also hoped that war could settle old grievances with Germany stemming from the 1870s. Germany declared war on 3 August. Throughout the crisis, Russia and France were putting increased pressure on the British to declare their support. But under the terms of its agreements with Russia and France, Britain had no obligation to fight.

What we do

News of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was met with shock and surprise in Britain, but it was regarded as a distant crisis. As the crisis grew, British involvement remained uncertain, even as the threat of war spread across Europe. Many did not want to fight and believed that Britain should not get involved. The government was divided over Britain's involvement in what was regarded by some as a purely European affair.

It had authority over the military in making final decisions for war — unlike in Germany where the military high command had immense power.

Austria-Hungary and Russia Stand Down

Britain's foreign policy was based upon maintaining a balance of power in Europe. Britain was also determined to protect its vast global empire and its sea trade. It feared Germany's domination of the continent and its challenge to British industrial and imperial supremacy.