Setting the World on Fire: The Start of World War I 2

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Setting the World on Fire: The Start of World War I 2

it felt compelled to honor. If Russia went to war with Germany,

French involvement was also inevitable, for France had been an

ally of Russia since 1894, when ong>theong> two countries joined in an

alliance in which ong>theong>y shared military plans and forged strong

economic links. Their goal was to contain ong>theong> growing power

of ong>theong> German and Austro-Hungarian alliance. Even had Germany

not openly attacked France in ong>theong> early days of ong>theong> war,

ong>theong> French would have joined with ong>theong> Russians.

Britain had no such formal alliance with France or Russia,

but it preferred those countries to ong>theong> Germans and had

agreed to assist France in ong>theong> case of German aggression. Germany

hoped to avoid British involvement, for it did not want

to have to fight Great Britain as well. Early on, Germany

offered not to keep any French or Belgian territory it gained in

war if ong>theong> British would remain neutral, but Britain refused this

offer. On August 3 German troops crossed over into tiny Luxembourg

and neutral Belgium to begin ong>theong>ir attack on France,

and Britain declared war on Germany ong>theong> next day.

Within days of ong>theong> Austrian bombing of Belgrade, all of

ong>theong> major combatants had declared war. Throughout Europe,

people believed that this war would be like ong>theong> oong>theong>rs that had

periodically erupted in Europe over ong>theong> last half century: short

and not terribly bloody. The war plans of every country called

for a short campaign, and most expected that, following a brief

period of fighting, ong>theong> diplomats would settle issues and peace

would return. But ong>theong> conditions that had allowed for short

wars no longer existed, and Europe—and ong>theong> rest of ong>theong>

world—soon found itself in a much larger war than ong>theong> various

countries had imagined when making ong>theong>ir ill-fated war plans.

War Plans

Leading ong>theong> charge to war in each of ong>theong> combatant

countries were military leaders who were eager to test war

plans ong>theong>y had spent years preparing. War plans were detailed

instructions for how a country’s generals should conduct a

war; ong>theong> plans dictated how many troops should be sent to

which areas and in which order. By far ong>theong> most complicated

and ambitious of ong>theong> war plans belonged to Germany. The German

war plan was known as ong>theong> Schlieffen plan, named after

Count Alfred von Schlieffen (1833–1913), who was chief of ong>theong>

24 ong>Worldong> War I: Almanac

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