Austria-Hungary is falling apart. Four years of war have led to unimaginable privations on the home front and an accentuation of divisions between regions and ethnicities as well as between town and countryside. The army is increasingly unable to continue fighting thanks to supply problems, a breakdown of its cohesion and a collapse in morale following the failure of the Piave offensive.
Emperor Karl and his government fear that the war’s continuance will lead to revolution and social collapse. They have pressed the Germans to seek peace on whatever terms can be obtained, but the Kaiser‘s government and generals have prevaricated. While the Germans are on the back foot on the Western Front, their domestic situation is not quite so disastrous as Austria-Hungary’s, so they do not feel under quite the same pressure. While Emperor Karl is seeking peace at any price, the Germans are still hoping to retain the gains of 1914, terms which are anathema to the Allies.
With Germany’s Ludendorff still talking of pursuing the war to victory, Emperor Karl decides that he has to act. He has Burián, his foreign minister, issue an appeal for peace to the Allies. But alas, the effort avails him nought. The Allies see negotiations with Austria-Hungary as a waste of time, as their real enemy is Germany. And this latest attempt at negotiations serves only to further poison relations between Berlin and Vienna.