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THE PROBLEM OF AUSTRIA-HUNGARY 1
THE WAR, as far as the land campaign is concerned, may end in three different ways. It may end in the victory of Germany and of Austria-Hungary, it may lead to the exhaustion of the land Powers engaged in it, and may thus remain undecided, or it may result in the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary. In each of these three eventualities, the question as to the position and future of the Dual Monarchy will be of the very greatest interest and importance not only to all Europe but to the world.
The War has yielded a twofold surprise to all who are interested in military affairs. The Germans have fought far better, and the Austrians infinitely worse, than was generally expected. At the beginning of the War the Austrian armies utterly collapsed. It was expected by the German General Staff that their Austrian allies would be able to hold back the Russian hosts from the Austro-German frontiers until the Germans had destroyed the French armies, taken Paris, and occupied the most valuable portions of France. Instead of this, Austria suffered at the hands of Russia the most disastrous defeat in her history, a defeat compared with which her defeat at Königgrätz and France's defeat at Sedan appear unimportant. Galicia, the Bukovina, and part of Hungary, districts inhabited by about 10,000,000 people and possessed of enormous resources of every kind, with Lemberg, the third largest Austrian town, were overrun by Russia, and even the little army of poor and war-exhausted Serbia utterly defeated the numerically far stronger Austrian forces sent against it. Prince Lichnowsky, referring to Austria-Hungary, said, not without reason, to a friend shortly before leaving London: ‘Germany goes to war with a corpse hanging round her neck.'
1 The Nineteenth Century and After, November, 1914.
Owing to the initial collapse of the Austrian army and the truly wonderful achievements of the Germans against heavy odds-achievements which one could frankly admire, had the German soldiers by their brutality and unspeakable crimes not covered the German name with everlasting infamy -Germany took the conduct of war completely into her own hands and Austria became a mere cypher. The Austrian army commanders and the Austrian Chief of the General Staff were dismissed, and for all practical purposes the Austrian army became an adjunct and a subordinate portion of the German army. Austria's dependence upon Germany was formerly disguised. Berlin did not wish to hurt the susceptibilities of Vienna, and allowed the Austrians to make a brave show and to pose as a Great Power. To humour their vanity, Austrian statesmen were permitted to 'lead off' when the War for the hegemony in Europe and the mastery of the world had been resolved upon in Berlin. But the relations between Germany and Austria-Hungary will never again resemble those which existed before the War. The rulers and people of the Dual Monarchy have become aware that they depend upon Germany's good will for their very existence. The German people, and especially the German officers, refer to beaten and decadent Austria with undisguised contempt. Austria's independence is a thing of the past. She is at present a German vassal. What will be her future ?
If Germany should be victorious in the War on land, or if the campaign should end undecided, Austria-Hungary will continue to be a German appendage and for all practical purposes a subject State. There may still be an Austrian Emperor in Vienna, but he will be a German puppet, not only in all questions of foreign policy, but in domestic, administrative, and military matters as well. Germany will certainly not relinquish her present control over the Austrian army. Machtpolitik, the policy of power, will exact payment and punishment from Austria's weakness and failure. We must, therefore, reckon with the fact that if the War should end in a draw, Germany and Austria-Hungary will form a single State, possibly even in outward form. It is conceivable that Austria-Hungary will have to enter the German Federation. At any rate, it seems likely that the German Emperor will, in case of a drawn war, rule in the near future over 120,000,000 people and dispose of an active army of 12,000,000 men in case of war ; that Pola, Fiume, and Cattaro will be German war harbours in addition to Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, and Emden ; that a vigorous policy of Germanisation will take place throughout AustriaHungary; that the Austrian Slavs will gradually become Germans ; that the power of Germany will be doubled even if she should not be able to retain any of her conquests. If, on the other hand, Germany and Austria-Hungary should be victorious on land, Germany's predominance would become not merely European but world-wide. In that case, she would retain in the West all Belgium and a large part of Eastern France ; and Holland, wedged into German territory, would undoubtedly be compelled to enter the German Federation. In the East she would annex Russian Poland, and the formerly German Baltic Provinces of Russia, Livland, Esthland, and Courland. In addition, Germany would very likely take the French colonies. AustriaHungary would receive a portion of Western Russia and all Serbia, and she would probably punish Italy's desertion by once more converting Lombardy and Venetia into Austrian provinces. For all practical purposes Germany and Austria-Hungary would thus be a single State of 150,000,000 inhabitants, or more.
As France and Russia would be crippled for many decades, the great German Empire would dominate the Balkan States and Turkey, and these would become German protectorates. Stretching from Calais, from Havre, or perhaps from Cherbourg, to the vicinity of Petrograd, and from the Italian plain to Constantinople, and to the lands beyond the Bosphorus far into Asia, Germany, together with her protectorates, would form a gigantic and compact State of more than 200,000,000 inhabitants. It would control the most valuable strategical positions in Europe and on the Mediterranean. It would dispose of unlimited armies, unlimited resources, and unlimited wealth. The Hohenzollerns would rule a State far larger than the Empire of Charlemagne. William the Second would rule the world, for the British Empire and the United States combined would scarcely be able to resist Germany for long. Although in the present war Great Britain should be victorious at sea, her ultimate downfall and that of the United States would probably be merely a question of time. Germany would rule the world, unless the power she had gained was wrested from her in a still greater war than the present one by the combined Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Slav nations. A subordinate Austria-Hungary, which would vastly increase Germany's population and army and which, besides, would form a bridge between Germany and Constantinople, would evidently play a very important part in enabling Germany to recreate the Empire of Charlemagne on a vastly increased scale.
The military weakness of Austria-Hungary and her internal divisions may lead to her absorption into Germany if the land war should prove indecisive or if it should end in a German victory. In either case, Austria-Hungary might gradually become a homogeneous, centralised, Prussianised, and powerful, though dependent, State, a kind of Greater Bavaria, and her accession would enormously increase Germany's power on land and sea.
However, it seems unlikely that Germany and AustriaHungary will be victorious, or that the War will end in a draw. In these circumstances it is worth while considering closely the future of Austria-Hungary in case of an Austro-German defeat.
Austria-Hungary is not a modern State but a medieval survival. Modern States are erected on the broad basis of a common nationality. In modern States, State and nation are synonymous terms, and the people feel that they constitute a single family in a world of strangers. In Austria-Hungary, as in Turkey, the State is not formed by a politically organised nation. Austria-Hungary, like Turkey, is a country which is inhabited, not by a nation, but by a number of nations which have little in common and which hate and persecute one another.
The Habsburg family possesses certain very marked hereditary peculiarities. The hanging Habsburg lip and the long narrow jaws may be traced back through generation after generation as far as the fifteenth century. King Alphonso of Spain curiously resembles his great ancestor, the Emperor Charles the Fifth, who ruled four centuries ago. Certain traits of character of the Habsburg family are equally persistent, and among these the spirit of acquisitiveness is particularly marked. The Habsburgs have been the most successful family of matrimonial and land speculators known to history. While most dynasties rose to eminence by placing themselves at the head of great nations and by conducting successful wars of conquest, the Alsatian family of the Habsburgs rose from obscurity to the greatest power by acquiring territories in all parts of the world by judicious purchase, by exchange, and especially by highly profitable marriages. Spain and the countries of the New World were one of the dowries gathered in by the Habsburg princes. Four and a half centuries ago the witty Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus wrote the distich :
Bella gerant alii! Tu felix Austria nube.