With startling suddenness war has been declared by Austria against Servia, and a serious situation has arisen which will need all the patience, cool-headedness and discretion of the statesmen of Europe to prevent developing into a great European conflagration.
That Austria has a legitimate grievance against Servia will not be denied, but after Servia’s reply to her demands we do not think she was justified in putting the matter to the awful arbitrament of the sword.
We are, however, less concerned with the means taken to settle the quarrel than we are with the effect it will have upon Europe.
Sir Edward Grey at once attempted to bring about a conference of the five great powers not immediately concerned in an endeavour to localise the war.
In this he was unsuccessful, as Germany failed to see how such a conference could affect the object in views with which, however, she was in entire sympathy.
It is probably that the real reason why Germany would not enter the Conference was to be found in the fact that Austria was in direct communication with Russia.
Should Russia decide to come to the assistance of her sister Slav State Germany, it will certainly assist Austria.
France in this case will take the field in support of Russia, and Italy, the third party to the Triple Alliance, will then be forced by her treaty obligations to enter the lists.
In this eventuality, England, the third party to the Triple Entente, may deem it her duty to go to the aid of Russia and France, but this is a contingency which should not arise if the situation is handled with that discretion which the country expects from its Foreign Minister.
An Englishman’s first duty is to his own country, and the Government should take the earliest possible opportunity to let it be clearly understood that we mean to maintain our attitude of strict neutrality.