BERLIN, July 24, 1914 (UP) - A world war is threatened.
All Europe is thunderstruck by the news that Austria has served an ultimatum upon Servia and has given the government at Belgrade until tomorrow night at 6 o'clock to concede the demands made in the ultimatum.
If Servia refuses, and Europe fears she will, then Austria's armies are on her border ready to begin an invasion.
Europe fears that means her greatest nations will be dragged into the war that will ensue.
Germany and Italy are ready to line up with Austria, and Servia counts on the backing of Russia and France.
Servia is known to be taking counsel of Russia. If she turns down the Austrian ultimatum, Europe will feel certain that the czar has promised the small nation his backing.
Otherwise Europe feels Servia would not dare defy a power like Austria. That's why Europe will tremble if so small a power issues its note of defiance.
German officialdom openly acknowledges that Germany will rush to the aid of Austria at the first move Russia makes. The Austro-German alliance is probably the closest among European powers.
The assassination of the Austrian crown prince, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his wife, by a Servian, Gavrio Prinzip, at Serajevo, capital of Bosnia, on June 28, has brought the whole Balkan situation to the most serious crisis in decades.
Ever since that day Europe has been trying to smooth out the situation and stave off the outbreak of the most gigantic war in world history.
The big powers were just beginning to feel easy again when the Austrian ultimatum was sent last night.
Austria demands that Servia publicly disavow all connection with anti-Austrian propaganda that is being circulated in Austria-Hungary; that Servia investigate the part played by the Slavs in the conspiracy which caused the assassination of the Austrian crown prince and his wife and punish all conspirators; that Servia suppress all pan-Slavic societies carrying on a campaign against Austria; and that activities of Servian agents be suppressed in the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which Servia seeks to take away from Austria.
A high government official here stated today that war or peace for all Europe hinges directly on the answer of Servia.
Austria has made all preparations for the war.
She has a great fleet of monitors gathered at Semlin, opposite the Belgrade, the Servian capital.
Austria's troops have been massing on the Servian border for the past two weeks. They are ready to begin the invasion at a moment's notice.
Baron Hoetzendorf, chief of the Austrian army staff, announces that seven army corps are ready for instant action at Temesvar, on the Servian border.
Austria has already established a partial war censorship. Papers are prohibited from publishing news of the movements of troops.
The Berliner Zeitung today declares:
"The ultimatum comes as a startling, glaring lightning flash through the breathless, fearful cloud resting over Europe. Its dazzling sparks spurt from every side. With hearts standing still, the terrible crash which will shake the world is being awaited.
"It was no diplomatic note sent by Austria. It was almost a declaration of war. Between the lines of the Austrian demands spring forth in flaming red letters the mobilization orders. It was the general staff which spoke."
The attitude of the German government was today outlined in this statement from the foreign office:
"If war is declared, Germany will do everything possible to localize the conflict and keep it confined to Austria and Servia.
"Germany will keeps hands off, but should another power seek to interfere, Germany will promptly fulfill its duty as an ally.
"This action of Austria in delivering the ultimatum was taken independently, Germany having nothing to do with the framing of the note."
This warning is aimed principally at Russia.
How imminent Germany regards the war danger was shown today by issuance of orders to all army officers on leave that they be ready to be recalled on short notice.
Germany and Italy have given their tacit approval to the Austrian policy.
The kaiser and Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria have been in constant communication with each other since the assassination of the Austrian crown prince, who was one of the strongest friends the kaiser had among the royalty of Europe.
It was the iron hand of the slain crown prince that held in check the Slavic interests which were seeking to disrupt Austria-Hungary and unite the Slavic peoples into one great nation.
The Slavs regard the assassin who killed the crown prince, and the man who threw a bomb at him in the Russian capital, as martyrs.
Many Slavs believe that a war between Austria and Servia would break up the empire of Austro-Hungary, that it would be seized as the opportunity for the Hungarians to obtain independence, and that the Slavic portions of Francis Joseph's empire would rally to the standard of Servia.
The little kingdom of Montenegro is now ready to be merged with Servia, and only the most radical sort of diplomacy has held that merger back, as King Nicholas of Montenegro publicly announced he is ready to abdicate in favor of the merger.
England has not yet taken sides, except that her diplomats are known to be ready to use their offices to ward off the threatened war of the powers.
The answer of Servia, on which may hinge the world's most gigantic war, will come from a mere boy.
Old King Peter of Servia abdicated a few weeks ago and threw the whole responsibility of handling the greatest of world crises upon the young crown prince, Alexander, who ascended the throne as his successor.
How well fitted this boy-monarch, barely out of his teens, is to cope with such fearful responsibilities as were suddenly thrust upon him remains to be seen.
Europe does not know. Servia is rampant with hatred of Austria. And even if the young king wanted to stop the war and grant the Austrian demands, he might not be able to stem the tide of furious rancor among his people.
Old King Peter came to the throne through the assassination of his predecessors, King Alexander and Queen Draga. The Servian temper is now thoroughly roused to the pitch of assassination if it is thwarted. It has shown that by the murder of the Austrian crown prince.
Hence, Europe doubts that the boy-monarch would dare to oppose the temper of his people, even if he were so inclined.