‘England’s promise to France makes dreaded conflagration inevitable’

With the Austro-Hungarian empire having declared war on Serbia, La Stampa’s Rome correspondent insists Italy must intervene in the war to protect its interests

‘Let God avert this’: Italian infantry march through the desert near Tripoli, Libya, in 1915, during the first World War. Photograph: PA

‘Let God avert this’: Italian infantry march through the desert near Tripoli, Libya, in 1915, during the first World War. Photograph: PA

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 01:00

OPTIMISM IS RAPIDLY FAILING, EUROPEAN CONFLAGRATION ON THE WAY

Rome: We simply don’t know what is happening on the Austro-Hungarian border with Serbia, in the wake of the [Austrian] declaration of war, because telegraphic communications have become very difficult and the Austrians are also imposing a heavy censure...

Even in normally optimistic circles, optimism is fading rapidly with people worried that this European conflagration is about to become ever more extensive and more serious. Diplomatic circles are agreed that an eventual armed intervention by Russia on behalf of Serbia will inevitably prompt a general conflagration...

Those who argue that Italy must not get involved clearly do not have an exact notion of either contractual obligations or Italian interests. It may well be that the text of the Triple Alliance Treaty has never been published but it is also true that we know its main points. In other words, in current circumstances the casus foederis [requiring Italy to intervene militarily on behalf of its allies, Germany and Austro-Hungary] may apply. Italy would be obliged to send its troops to the Balkan peninsula to fight against Serbia and Russia...

At the same time we must also acknowledge that Italy cares very much that Serbia is not destroyed or greatly weakened. Italy cannot accept that war would allow Austria to make gains in the Balkan peninsula because that would alter the current balance of power, at the expense of Italy. That is why, even if Italy did not have contractual obligations with Germany and Austro-Hungary, it could still not stand idly by.

Intervening, as is its duty, Italy would be able to protect its most vital interests in the Balkan peninsula, in the Adriatic and elsewhere and that way Italy’s allies would have to reckon with Italy both during the war and the peace. If Italy does not enter the war, it would dishonour itself by not respecting freely stipulated Treaties ... and at the end of the war, it would be made to pay by betrayed allies...

Given her geographic position, Italy simply cannot stand idly by especially when all the Great Powers are at war, that is unless it wants to return again to becoming a “geographic expression”... paving the way for the re-establishment of French, Austrian, Greek, Spanish or maybe even Arab domination over her fair land...

I can assure you today that the situation is much more serious than it was yesterday because it seems that England has assured France that it will intervene. England appears to be working as feverishly for peace as Italy, stubbornly maintaining that the ambassadors of Germany, Italy and France are working hard with [British Foreign Secretary] Sir Edward Grey in order to localise the war.

Yet, at the same time, England is mobilising its army and navy and it continues to give assurances to France. During the [1912-1913] Balkan Wars, a European conflagration was avoided because England refused to support Russia and France but now England’s promise to France makes the dreaded conflagration inevitable. Quod Deus Avertat [Let God avert this]