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PROGRESS OF THE WAR, Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2470, 25 May 1915
PROGRESS OF THE WAR
After hovering long on the brink of war, Italy has made the plunge suddenly, and with a decision which seems to have staggered her former allies and present enemies as much as it has pleased her friends of the Entente. It has been evident for days that war between Italy and Austria (which involves war also with Germany as a matter of course) was almost inevitable, but there was still* a danger that in her anxiety to appear in the role of the party assaulted Italy might continue for a time to temporise with Austria in a fashion not calculated to inspire confidence in her strength and decision of purpose. Fears of this kind have been swept away by the declaration of war issued on Sunday, to take effect yesterday. Italy still has to show what she is capable of doing in war, but it cannot be denied that she has made a good beginning. At a stroke she has cut herself free from the clogging associations of an alliance which wa-s never anything better than a compact of expediency, serving no nobler purpose than to avert, or rather postpone, war with her traditional enemies. Apart from this' temporary advantage, the Triple Alliance represented nothing better to Italy than dishonourable bonds which made it impossible for her to lift hand or foot in working out her salvation as a nation. So long as she was tied to Austria there could bo no question of the redemption of unredeemed Italy—the northern and Adriatic provinces, peopled by Italians, which have suffered under the worst forms of Austrian misrule. The union of Austria and Italy in the Triple Alliance was a iinion of the spoiler and the spoiled. The formation of this unnatural union was ma do possible in the first instance only by Italian weakness, and there is a splendid promise of expanding strength in _ the effort which has burst the union asunder. Some importance must bo attached to the fact that in her aggression upon Servia, and through Servia upon Russia, Austria grossly and wantonly violated her obligations to her erstwhile ally.
Struggling for emancipation from the mistakes of the past, the Italian nation has had to combat lingering traces of internal weakness as wdl as foreign machinations. The intrigues of the Ciolittians threatened recently to oppose as great an obstacle to the adoption of a bold policy making for national redemption as the temporising devices of Austria and Germany. Now, however, there can be no doubt that a united and resolved army and nation stand at the back of the patriotic Ministry which has given cffcct to its belief that an appeal to the sword is the only course consistent with. Italian honour, and the welfare of the Italian nation. United internally, Italy has definitely and unreservedly allied herself with nations which so far from desiring to oppose any obstacle to her expansion and development as 'a nation are in the main in sympathy with her aspirations. She has shaken off allies who not only occupy provinces which are hers by natural right, but have made it always their policy to restrict her to a condition of unimportance. Her new allies demand of her nothing more than her aid in the war they are waging for the preservation of civilisation. So allied, she has every prospect of extending her frontiers and reclaiming the communities in Istria and the Trcntino whose members have remained loyal to the land of their birth, in spite of all that tyranny could do to smother and suppress their nationality.
Available particulars of ■ the impression created in Germany and Austria by the addition of Italy to their circle of enemies make very interesting reading. In Germany an assumption of indifference as to tho material consequences involved is couplcd with expressions of furious anger against Italy which may possibly culminate in another Hymn of llair. The professed indifference is, of course, palpably feigned. Already considerable German forces have' had to be detailed for service against Italy, and if the latter country presses the war with any vigour she will keep many German army corps engaged until the issue is decided. Also, the German war lords are no more blind than other people to the probable influence of Italy's action upon the Balkan countries now standing neutral. Since tlie Gorman rulers seldom act without. purpose, it must be assumed that they are trying hard to maintain public confidence in their own country anil in Austria, in face of a very definite menace. Austria, wjih her temporising and timewinning devices, suddenly cut short hv the Italian dee|.ir.iti'Mi, seems ns yet to he suspended ia uu absurdly
[ inappropriate attitude suggestive of injured innocence. There is an interesting story, however, that Count Burian dk_ Eajecs, the Austrian Foreign Minister, has resigned. It is quite likely that this is true. An equally bare announcement heralded the downfall of Count Bkrciitold,_ the predecessor of the present Foreign Minister. * * * * ;• It is strictly natural that a failing tyranny should be incapable of finding Ministers able to give effect to its will. The retirement of Count Berchtoi.d synchronised with the assumption by Germany of practically unlimited control over Austria's military affairs. Count Berchtold was reported to be a man of strong purpose, little inclined to bend before the German Emperor, and it was plausibly alleged that German influence procured the appointment tf a more pliant Minister in Count Bl'juan de Rajecs. The rupture with Italy is the best proof that the German interposition and the substitution of Ministers have failed to achieve their intended purpose, and it will not be at all surprising if the later Minister becomes a scapegoat and shares the fate of his predecessor in office.
At the time of writing no actual conflict on the Austro-Italian frontiers has been reported, but news of military movements and preparations goes to show that tho campaign in the main will follow the lines which have been generally predicted. Subject always to the reservation that with the considerable naval and military forces at her command Italy may very well be able.to spring a surprise campaign upon her enemies, it is likely that there will be for a time something of a deadlock on the borders of the Trentino, and much more pronounced developments on the approach to Istria, beyond the Italian north-eastern frontier. The Germans are moving forces from Bavaria into the Trentino, and Austro-Germans in the latter region are posted on strongly-forti-fied lines with every advantage of natural position owing to the fast that the Italian frontier here lies south of the mountains and is devoid of natural barriers. Italy has little incentive to ]jress the attack in this region meantime, because she can reasonably hope to do it against weaker opposition later on. It is on the approach to Istria that developments are most likely to occur in tho near future. There is every reason to expect that the intervention of Italy will from the outset sensibly reduce the pressure bearing upon the Allies in the two main theatres, and particularly, at the moment, in Galicia. A direct relation no doubt exists between the reported slackening of _ the German offensive in that region ancl the necessity of reinforcing the troops stationed on the Italian northern and north-eastern frontiers.
A Paris official message states that two Turkish divisions, under the personal command of General Lxmaij von Sanders, made a furious attack upon the British near Gaba Tepe, and wero completely repulsed, with very heavy losses. The British forces in question arc, of course, the Australians and New Zealanders, and the battle referred to is possibly that reported yesterday, in which the Turkish casualties totalled 7000 and those of the Colonials 500. In any case, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps has had the satisfaction of decisively defeating a force under the immediate command of the German officer who heads the Military Mission to Turkey, and fills also, tko chief command at the Dardanelles.
A late Russian message published yesterday presented some very definite evidence in support of its general assertion that the German offensive which has been carried to the point of forcing the passage of the River San is slackening. In its general tenor the dispatch bears the appearance of being a balanced statement of facts, i'or instance, it mentions that the enemy carried some Russian trenches east of Sussakow (probably Husakow, a plate in the marshes of the Dniester, south of Przemysl). Of the section of the front from Jaroslav northward, where the Germans have forced the passage of the San, this dispatch declares that the llussians have recaptured a village within thesalient which the Germans have thrust forward from the eastorn bank of the river. In a- battle which has hitherto involved a continuous loss of ground by the Russians, or at best a stationary dcfcnce, this incident is both suggestive and hopeful. It is stated also that the Germans are roinforcing their defeated forces in Southern Poland, where the Russians have been pushing ahead vigorously during the last day or two, with troops from the battle-line in Galicia. On top of this it is reported chat the Germans on several sections of the Galician front have been thrown back on the defensive. These, as far as they go, are indications of waning German strength and reserve power in the Russians, which go some way towards justifying a belief that the German offensive has already expended its driving force.
Unless the Germans and their allies can regain the upper hand in the battle on the San and further south their latest offensivo will be added to the list of failures. It is true that they have averted for the time being an invasion of Hungary from Western and Middle Galicia, but with the entry of Italy and the distinct possibility that Rumania may follow her lead, the invasion of Sukowina has assumed a new meaning and importance. So long as a, likelihood of Rumania- entering the war remains, the invasion of Bukowina is paving the way for a Russian and Rumanian invasion of Hungary from the east. If the Aus-tro-Germans in Galicia wish to complete and crown their work they must so shatter and drive back the Russian armies on the main front as to compel another evacuation of Bukowina. Unless they can do this, or obtain an absolute guarantee of continued Rumanian neutrality, they have only fastened one door into Hungary (not of necessity for any great length of time), leaving another open.
On the authority of "telegrams from Holland and Paris," it is hopefully declared to-day that the Germans are preparing to withdraw, in the Western theatre, to a. second line with a shorter front, in order to re-
lease troops to act against Italy. The last proviso rather spoils this wholly unofficial prediction. That Germans have been compelled by the growing pressure of the Allied Armies to contemplate the possible necessity of withdrawing to a shorter front is no doubt, very true, niul there is also every reason to hope lint Iho ucccas.it>''of such a rctira-
raeiifc will sooner or later become absolute. But that the.. Germans arc prepared to make this retrograde move meat in order to release troops to act against Italy is in the highest degree improbable. The Germans ancl their Allies no doubt hope to hold Italy while vigorously continuing the struggle in the two main theatres. It is almost certain that they can hold the Trentino with little difficulty for the time being though Istria may be less easily retained. But it is asking too much to expect us to believe that Germany would sacrifice lier present Western line merely in order to avert- the possible, or probable, loss by AnMria of Istvia and to pursue instead an offensive campaign against Italy. Whether she retired to a }••> south from Antwerp or extcndci' lv, r retreat to the western confine. «'i Belgium (and she is as likely as not to adopt the latter alternative when it becomes imperatively necessary to shorten her Western line) Germany would have to resign the greater part of her present occupation of Belgium and France. The loss of prestige thus entailed and the political and other effects in Germany and Austria would far outwoigh the advantages of an offensive, _as against a. defensive, campaign against Italy. It is tolerably safe to assume that Germany will fall back from her present Western line only under direct military pressure, and while the events of the spring and summer campaign have brought this development perceptibly nearer they hardly encourage a belief that it is immediately imminent.
Official news from the Western theatre to-day shows the armies still locked in battle with no other changc of importance than some further gains by the Allies in _ Northern France, in which both British and French have participated. An interesting French review of twentyfour days of battle, to May 18, in the front north from Arras, shows that the enemy was pushed back (though in places for no great distance) practically all along the line. Mention of "a thousand Germans killed and three regiments destroyed" is evidently a detail reference. The total enemy losses on the battlefront as a whole must have been enormously greater. During thrc: days of battle at Nouve Chapclle the German casualties totalled something like 18,000, and the tremendous British and French offensive in Northern France has lasted not for days but for weeks.
PROGRESS OF THE WAR, Dominion, Volume 8, Issue 2470, 25 May 1915
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