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No. 473.–OCTOBER, 1922.
No. 474.—JANUARY, 1923.
Art. 1.—THE GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN ALLIANCE.
1. Erlebnisse im Weltkrieg. Von M. Erzberger. Stuttgart:
Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1920. 2. Unser oesterr.-ung. Bundesgenosse im Weltkrieg. Von
A. von Cramon, Generalleutenant a. D. Berlin: Mittler, 1920. 3. Kaiserliche Katastrophenpolitik. Von Heinrich Kanner.
Wien : Tal, 1922. 4. Vom alten Kaiser. Von Albert Freiherrn v. Margutti. Wien: Leonhardt-Verlag, 1921.
The alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary was from the very beginning an unequal partnership. Germany always led, while Austria-Hungary had to be satisfied with a subordinate position. This political inequality was, of course, to a certain extent inevitable, as Germany was destined to play the more important part in the alliance, not only by reason of her much larger population (exceeding Austria's by 12 millions, and subsequently by 14 millions); but also by virtue of her political and military prestige, her economic superiority, and the generally higher level of her standard of living. To these advantages must be added the dominant personality of Bismarck, in the face of which even such an able statesman as Count Kalnoky found it difficult to hold his own.
After Bismarck's downfall, it might, indeed, have been possible for Austria-Hungry to adjust those unfavourable conditions somewhat more to her advantage; but Count Goluchowski was not the man to achieve
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that adjustment, and although neither Count Caprivi no Prince Hohenlohe rose above the average level of states manship, Bismarck's influence was, nevertheless, still so strong that Austria-Hungary continued to be over shadowed by her ally. She was universally regarded as no more than a satellite, timidly following in the foot prints made by Germany in her great strides, or as the pale, subservient moon, receiving all her light from the dazzling Teutonic sun.
This continued to be the case until Baron, afterwards Count, Aebrenthal took the helm of the ship of state in the Ballplatz at Vienna. The modest rôle in the European Concert hitherto played by the Dual Monarchy, was not at all to the liking of so ambitious a man as the Count, on whom, after the annexation crisis, the excessively complimentary title of the Austrian Bismarck was conferred. He had no desire merely to pipe pianissimo in the concert, to be nothing more than an accompanist: he wished to play solo, and not to take the tempo from his allies. He wished to be the leader, and not the led. This was shown not long after he entered upon office, by the manner in which he took the initiative in the Sandjak railway affair, and—in the autumn of the same year, 1908-by the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a step which surprised Germany no less than the other Powers.
The annoyance felt in certain circles in Germany at Aehrenthal's conduct in regard to the annexation found expression through an article in the Hamburger Nachrichten,' which had been Bismarck's organ. In the spring of 1909, this paper reproached the German Government for having submitted to Aehrenthal's guidance and, thereby, sunk to a condition of vassalage to Austria-Hungary. In reality, there could, of course, be no question of such a thing ; but Germany had become so accustomed to regarding the Habsburg Empire as her docile subordinate who would not venture to take any step in the political arena without having previously obtained her implied consent, if not her expressed permission, that Aehrenthal's independent move was regarded as outrageous and inadmissible. It was, however, not only in such expressly Nationalist organs as the Hamburger Nachrichten,'that Aehrenthal's independence
was adversely commented upon, as was evident from an article in the Kölnische Zeitung,' a newspaper not uncon. nected with Prince Bülow.
Germany's support of the Monarchy at that time in the annexation crisis has received unstinted praise and been represented as an act of disinterested friendship. This was, however, very far from the truth, for Germany's intervention on behalf of her menaced ally was prompted at least as much by her own political interests as by a sense of loyalty to her pact. At a later date, no less a person than Prince Bülow confessed that the German sword was thrown into the scales of European decision; indirectly on behalf of our Austro-Hungarian ally, directly for the maintenance of European peace, and, above all, and in the first place, for the sake of German prestige and Germany's position in the world.'
The well-known Nationalist publicist, Maximilian Harden, made this truth plainer still when, in a lecture delivered at Vienna after the annexation, he said : 'Germany had no other alternative at that time, and there is therefore the less cause to praise with such emphasis a loyalty which was in full accord with her interests. Thus, on a closer and calmer inspection, Germany's vaunted «Nibelungen loyalty' (Nibelungentreue) is somewhat robbed of a splendour, which is further diminished by the fact that the Emperor Franz Josef had previously given such a proof of good faith as far outweighed that of the Kaiser Wilhelm, and reduced German support of the Austrian Monarchy to a mere act of common gratitude; for it was solely owing to the unshakeable loyalty of the Emperor Franz Josef, that Germany had not to face her united enemies singlehanded.
What it was that King Edward offered to the Austrian Emperor at the much-discussed meeting at Ischl (Aug. 12, 1908), on condition that he severed his connexion with Germany, has never been revealed; nor, since no third person was present, and both parties to that interview are dead, is likely now to be revealed. That it must have been something of considerable importance is unquestionable, and one would probably not be far wrong in assuming that the aged Emperor might have saved his Empire from destruction if he had accepted the proposal made to him then by the King of England. By steadfastly resisting the inducements of King Edward, he did indeed give striking proof of his absolute loyalty to Germany and of his steadfastness; but while al honour for this is due to him as a man, the same cannot be said for him as a statesman. It is probable that he would have better served the future welfare of his Empire if he had acted less honourably and more prudently. Outside Germany, Count Reventlow would find no support for his view that, in accepting the English proposal, Franz Josef would have committed political suicide. Be that as it may, there is no question that, at Ischl, the Emperor Franz Josef gave a far greater proof of his good faith than did the Emperor Wilhelm at the time of the annexation crisis ; for while it was much in the interests of the former to break faith, the Emperor Wilhelm would have done 80 to his own detriment.
Count Aehrenthal was not in the least affected by the adherence of Germany to the terms of her treaty in the annexation affair; but he quietly pursued his own
Thus, at the time of the Agadir incident, he showed no inclination to embroil himself with the Western Powers. His premature death finally closed the question as to how Austria-Hungary's relations with Germany would have developed had he remained at the helm. Even if he had lived, that question could hardly have been answered, for it was practically certain that he would not have remained in office for long, as his weak, obsequious policy in regard to Italy had drawn down upon him the just wrath of the Archducal heir to the throne, who had made up his mind to bring about his removal.
Aehrenthal's successor, Count Berchtold, was far less striking as a personality ; but, in spite of that, there was no reason to fear that the Monarchy would revert to
* Baron Margutti, who was in cominand of the Emperor's Household Guard, referring to this last interview between the two sovereigns, which appeared to have been of a satisfactory nature, relates that Sir Charles Hardinge, who was in King Edward's suite, remarked to an officer at the station, as the King was about to leave : That old Emperor is a ino and uncommon man! But I think he has just let slip one of the most favour. able opportunities ever offered bim in the course of his long life!'