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The July Crisis and the Causes of the First World War Revisited: civil-Military Threat Perceptions of Germany and russia

오인환 1

1육군사관학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study aims to research the decision-making process of Germany and Russia during the July Crisis in 1914, focusing on the threat perceptions analysis from the political and military leader's standpoint of both Great Powers. Specifically, it argues that Russian decisions during the July Crisis-including preparatory mobilization measures as well as the general mobilization-became a major causes for escalating the July Crisis into the outbreak of the First World War. The study also tries to help resolve the controversial issue which was brought up with no clarification of the two parties views on the German and Russian decisions by making sure the difference of the threat perceptions of statesmen and the military, especially those of military intelligence operations,The Germany's proclamation of support to Austria, so-called the “Blank Check” was based on the assumptions that Austria would defeat Serbia shortly and the crisis would be over. Furthermore, German Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, was concerned that he might lose the only factual Germany’s ally, Austria surrounded by Trifle Entete's countries. This threat perception led the Chancellor to pursue the local fight during the July Crisis, and persuade Russia not to intervene. However, Russia’s preparatory mobilization measures near German borders, was detected and reported by German intelligent Agency, which strengthened the threat perception of the German military leaders towards Russia, especially the more aggressive position of Erich von Falkenhayn and Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. Sang-Soo Jung has asserted that Sergey Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, pursued the European War after the Austrian ultimatum against Serbia. Jung emphasizes that Sazonov’s remark that Russian mobilization was only aimed at Austria, not at Germany, was a kind of deterrence measure. However, this argument is somewhat simplistic and little bit exaggerated, because his study did not take into account that Russia just attempted to deter Austria and Germany through mobilization in the beginning. As Samuel Williamson and Ronald Bobroff have argued, Sazonov tried to deter both Austria and Germany with preparatory measures and partial mobilization, without knowing that preparatory measures were actually parts of a general mobilization program. Having realized that deterrence had failed, Sazonov soon persuaded Nicholas Ⅱ to decide to order a general mobilization with the help of the military leaders who thought that partial mobilization was meaningless. In short, the Russian mobilization, including preparatory measures and the general mobilization, prompted Germany to mobilize its troops, finally escalating the July Crisis into the continental war and ultimately the First World War. Though Jack Levy contends that the British rejection of the German request on the 29th and the 30th the July was a more direct factor in the shift of German decision, the Russian mobilization still had a significant influence in terms of the German military leader's threat perception. The gap between political-military leaders' threat perceptions helps to elucidate and analysis the decision-making process during the July Crisis. It also contributes to challenging the German Paradigm, refocusing on the roles of countries other than Germany in the outbreak of the First World War.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.