To Start a World War, It's Enough for Leaders to Believe It's Inevitable

The fatalist spirit that led to World War I holds a warning for leaders weighing a response to Russia's Ukraine war

Ofri Ilany
Ofri Ilany
Ofri Ilany
Ofri Ilany

On July 28, 1914, the German military leadership held an urgent meeting. The crisis that had erupted following the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian crown prince (on June 28) had reached the boiling point. The continent appeared to be on the brink of war. Yet there was still a way out. Serbia had sent a restrained reply to the Austrians’ ultimatum and had accepted almost all their demands. So reasonable did Belgrade’s response seem that even the hotheaded German emperor was convinced that there was no reason for a collision. “This makes any justification for war superfluous,” Wilhelm II said. Other leaders also thought that war could still be averted, or at least that it could be limited to a small conflict.

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