Balkan League - Reaction of The Great Powers

Reaction of The Great Powers

These developments did not go unnoticed by the Great Powers, but although there was an official consensus between the European Powers over the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, which led to a stern warning to the Balkan states, unofficially each of them took a different diplomatic approach due to their conflicting interests in the area. As a result, any possible preventative effect of the common official warning was canceled by the mixed unofficial signals, and failed to prevent the outbreak of hostilities:

  • Russia was a prime mover in the establishment of the League and saw it as an essential tool in case of a future war against her rival, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But she was unaware of the Bulgarian plans over Thrace and Constantinople, territories on which she had long-held ambitions, and on which she had just secured a secret agreement of expansion from her allies France and Britain, as a reward in participating in the upcoming World War I against the Central Powers.
  • France, not feeling ready for a war against Germany in 1912, took a totally negative position against the League, firmly informing her ally Russia that she would not take part in a potential conflict between Russia and Austro-Hungary if it resulted from the actions of the Balkan League. The French however failed to achieve British participation in a common intervention to stop the upcoming Balkan conflict.
  • The British Empire, although officially a staunch supporter of the Ottoman Empire's integrity, took secret diplomatic steps encouraging the Greek entry into the League in order to counteract Russian influence. At the same time she encouraged the Bulgarian aspirations over Thrace, preferring a Bulgarian Thrace to a Russian one, despite the assurances she had given to the Russians in regard of their expansion there.
  • Austria-Hungary, struggling for an exit from the Adriatic and seeking ways for expansion in the south at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, was totally opposed to any other nation's expansion in the area. At the same time, the Habsburg empire had its own internal problems with the significant Slav populations that campaigned against the German-Hungarian control of the multinational state. Serbia, whose aspirations in the direction of Bosnia were no secret, was considered an enemy and the main tool of Russian machinations that were behind the agitation of Austria's Slav subjects.
  • Germany, already heavily involved in the internal Ottoman politics, officially opposed a war against the Empire, but in her effort to win Bulgaria for the Central Powers, and seeing the inevitability of Ottoman disintegration, was playing with the idea to replace the Balkan positions of the Ottomans with a friendly Greater Bulgaria in her San Stefano borders, an idea that was based on the German origin of the Bulgarian King and his anti-Russian sentiments.

For the Balkan League the opportunity was too good to be missed, as the Ottoman Empire was weak and riddled with internal strife. The allied governments intensified their military and diplomatic preparations. During the last days of September, the Balkan states and the Ottoman Empire mobilized their armies. The first state to declare war was Montenegro, on October 8, 1912, starting the First Balkan War. The other three states, after issuing an ultimatum to the Porte on October 13, declared war on Turkey on October 17.

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