24/7/1914 “Then Russia will make war on Austria”

Sazonov’s busy day continues. The Russian foreign minister lunches with the British and French ambassadors. Sazonov again predicts that the ultimatum will lead to European war. Paléologue of France urges firmness on Russia’s part and gives assurances that France will stand by its ally. Britain’s Buchanan is more equivocal. Britain has no interests in Serbia or the Balkans, he says.

The Council of Ministers meets that afternoon. Sazonov places ultimate blame for the crisis on Germany. The council formally agrees to begin planning for partial mobilisation against Austria-Hungary and the repatriation of funds from Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Baltic and Black Sea fleets are to prepare for combat. The Tsar is to be asked to agree partial mobilisation in principle. The council also decides to call on Austria-Hungary to extend the ultimatum’s deadline.

At 6.00 pm Sazonov meets Spalaikovitch, the Serbian ambassador. Spalaikovitch says that Serbia is in a desperate state and is open to concessions towards Austria-Hungary. Sazonov advises Serbia to accept all of the ultimatum terms bar the contentious articles that would have Austro-Hungarian officials operating on Serbian soil.

Sazonov also meets Pourtalès. The German ambassador proposes that the crisis be localised, leaving Austria-Hungary and Serbia to sort it out among themselves. Sazonov is having none of this. He sees Vienna as intent on devouring Serbia, but if Austria-Hungary moves against Serbia, “then Russia will make war on Austria”.

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