25 July 1914 – The Last Chance For Peace Slips Away

The Serbian cabinet under Prime Minister Nicholas Pasic has been discussing the Austrian note for 24 hours, and has agreed to almost all of its demands, when word arrives from the Tsar’s Summer palace: Nicholas II is bellicose, and Russia has begun its pre-mobilization phase to support their Slavic friends against Austria. Emboldened, Pasic’s government rejects Austria’s demand for access to the investigation of the Archduke’s assassination and attaches conditions to the other terms. Austria’s diplomatic team leaves Belgrade for the imperial frontier with a discouraging response letter. Diplomacy has failed, and the last, best chance for a peaceful solution is gone.

Although the war is not officially declared yet, the Tsar’s awful timing will now lead to war. Last-ditch efforts in capitals around the continent cannot put the brakes on a crisis that has spun out of control as armies begin mobilizing in reaction to each other. The staff colleges of Europe have planned their future conflict to run on precise timetables with mathematical precision, and once they are moving these war machines have no brakes.

She will be under fire soon, but Serbia will not see the worst of war for fourteen months. The nation where war begins is to become a mere sideshow.