Britain, Wednesday, 29th July
Morning Grey asks Lichnowsky if Germany itself can make a mediation proposal as the British ambassadors' conference proposal has been rejected and direct talks between Russia and Austria-Hungary seem unlikely.
Lichnowsky repeats the German view that Russia should not interfere in a fight between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Austria-Hungary does not intend to annex Serbia. Grey points out it is possible to turn Serbia into a vassal state without annexation.
Grey also asks if it might be possible to bring about an understanding as to the extent of Austro-Hungarian military operations and political objectives so some reassurance can be given to Russia.
11.30 A.M. - 2.30 P.M. Cabinet Meeting Reflecting the military view that if Germany attacks France it will be through Belgium the cabinet discuss the Belgium treaties of 1839 and 1870.
Each signatory of the 1839 Treaty is obliged to act to maintain the neutrality of Belgium even if the others do not but what the action should be is not specified. The cabinet decides British action will be based on policy rather than any treaty obligations. In effect they "decide not to decide" what they will do.
They agree Grey continues his ambiguous stances with France and Germany. He says he will tell Paul Cambon "Don't count upon our coming in" and he will tell Lichnowsky "don't count on our abstention".
Though some members are keen Britain should do nothing "of a provocative character" the cabinet agrees the "Warning Telegram" should be sent to all naval, military, and colonial stations, ordering a state of readiness. [More]
Afternoon The chairman of the Liberal Foreign Affairs Group, an unofficial committee of backbench Liberal MPs, writes to Grey saying Britain should tell Russia and France "Great Britain in no conceivable circumstances will depart from a position of strict neutrality". [More]
Afternoon Mensdorff finally gives the British Foreign Office the Austro-Hungarian dossier on Serbian involvement in the Sarajevo assassination. It is too late to have any influence.
Grey points out to Mensdorff if the other powers are to ask Russia to refrain from action it is equivalent to giving Austria-Hungary a free hand. Russia will not accept this.
Afternoon Following what the cabinet agreed Grey tells Paul Cambon the dispute between Austria and Serbia, even if it brings in Russia, is not one in which Britain feels involved. British policy has always been not to be drawn into a war over a Balkan question.
If Germany and France become involved Britain has not decided what to do. France would have been drawn into a quarrel which was not hers. Britain is free from engagements and would have to decide what British interests required.
Afternoon Grey sends for Lichnowsky. He tells him even though it is too late to stop Austro-Hungarian military action it might be possible to have mediation after they occupy Belgrade. This resembles the Kaiser's "halt in Belgrade" idea even more than Grey's earlier suggestion to Lichnowsky that Austria-Hungary limit its military operations. This comparison is picked up in Berlin.
Grey goes on to say he wishes to make a private communication to Lichnowsky. He says if Germany and France become involved in a conflict the British Government would find itself forced to make up its mind quickly.
In that event it would not be practicable to stand aside and wait for any length of time. Grey is finally making it as clear as he can Britain will come to the aid of France. [More]