How "Willy" & "Nicky" Failed To Avert World War I

Tyler Durden's picture

Originally posted at Agence France Presse,

In the four days before World War I broke out, the Russian tsar and his cousin the German emperor -- "Willy" and "Nicky" as they nicknamed each other -- traded telegrams in a last-ditch bid to save peace, even as their army chiefs readied for battle.


On July 29, 1914, a day after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia's Nicholas II sent the first of these oddly surreal English-language telegrams to Wilhelm II, pledging his affection and commitment to peace.

"I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure forced upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war," read the first message from Nicholas II, sent hours before Russia ordered a general mobilisation that would in turn pull Germany into the war.

"To try and avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far," the tsar wrote.

Writing the same day, informed that Russia was about to mobilise -- a clear casus belli for Germany's army chiefs -- Wilhelm II pleaded with his cousin to stay out of the Austria-Serbia conflict.


"With regard to the hearty and tender friendship which binds us both from long ago with firm ties, I am exerting my utmost influence to induce the Austrians to deal straightly to arrive to a satisfactory understanding with you," the German wrote, signing off: "Your very sincere and devoted friend and cousin. Willy".

The first two telegrams crossed one another, like most that followed.

"Willy" went on to urge "Nicky" for "Russia to remain a spectator of the Austro-Serbian conflict without involving Europe in the most horrible war she ever witnessed."

Nicholas thanked Wilhelm for his attempts to mediate, and appealed to "the wisdom and friendship" of his German cousin to put an end to Austria's war preparations.

- 'On your shoulders now' -

But on July 30, Wilhelm -- having received news that Russia was mobilising its troops -- warned Nicholas this would endanger his role as mediator and force Germany to take "preventive measures of defence".

The next day came the admission from Nicholas II that -- while he hopes mediation with Vienna can still bear fruit -- he was powerless to reverse the military march.

"It is technically impossible to stop our military preparations which were obligatory owing to Austria's mobilisation," he wrote, signing off: "Your affectionate, Nicky".

By this point Wilhelm II had become markedly less affectionate, laying the responsibility for the looming disaster squarely with his cousin.

"The whole weight of the decision lies solely on you(r) shoulders now, who have to bear the responsibility for Peace or War," he wrote on July 30.

"The responsibility for the disaster which is now threatening the whole civilised world will not be laid at my door," he warned the following day, with Berlin poised to enter the war.

Still, Nicholas II seemed to believe until the last that war could be averted, sending an SOS on the morning of August 1 in which he asked Wilhelm II to confirm that Germany's mobilisation did not mark the end of efforts for peace.

"Our long proved friendship must succeed, with God's help, in avoiding bloodshed. Anxiously, full of confidence await your answer. Nicky."

But the die had been cast.

"Willy" replied tersely that he could no longer discuss the matter short of "immediate affirmative clear and unmistakable" message calling off the Russian mobilisation -- something he already knew to be impossible.

"As a matter of fact I must request you to immediatly [sic] order your troops on no account to commit the slightest act of trespassing over our frontiers."

That evening, at 7:00 pm, "Willy" declared war on "Nicky" and the "horror", "bloodshed" and "disaster" foretold by the courteous cousins had begun.



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DoChenRollingBearing's picture

I just hope that ZerObama and Puti-Pute are not cousins...

TeamDepends's picture

If it is revealed as fact that Putin is a member of the Indonesian cult of Subud, we will eat a shoe*.

*We choose the shoe.

knukles's picture

Try this on for size.. some independent confirmation of my own impressions with CNN the last days.


Seems as though they're a shill for whatever power in DC, pro war...
Ted Turner and Jane Fonda should be proud

Headbanger's picture

Watch this to learn what REALLY happened and you might disagree with the above story:

max2205's picture

Let's stop re fighting old wars here.

gh0atrider's picture

gh0atrider should be stacking more at these levels but has been getting side-tracked with his gun and bayonet collection.

At least Solingen steel will always have value just like silver.

Cap Matifou's picture

As I recall some Chief of Staff like apparatchik of the German emperor worded in his name some harsh response, that got too early and against the will of Willy leaked to a newspaper, and kicked the war into rolling, all to the joy of TPTB.

Ckierst1's picture

That's similar to WW 1 where JPMorgan bought the major papers to shill the war for the banksters, to the point of preventing publication of warnings to Americans about traveling on the oceanliner cum munitions ship Lousitania.  It was sunk with much loss of life getting the US into the war as planned.  See Patrick Buchanon's book.

fleur de lis's picture

All the Monarchs on Earth could not avert WW1 for it had been meticulously planned by central bankers for decades. US AgriSec HHoover organized food to be loaded onto specially marked ships controlled by NavSec FDR. This takes long term planning, especially since everything was on paperwork long before the first shot was fired. The IRS and Fed scams were conveniently set up before the war so the money kept pouring in. All wars are central banker wars.

MeMadMax's picture

That's BS... Germany was handing out papers saying the ship was gonna be attacked for carrying ammo to the passengers as they were buying their tickets and boarding the ship...




kchrisc's picture

We really should be calling them the "complicit media," instead of the way too soft term "mainstream media," or the harder, but still not fully on the mark, "propaganda media."


"Conundrum: How can they cover the actions of my guillotine while they are waiting their turn?!"

Amish Hacker's picture

"Complicit Media" really got its start in the 1890s, with William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal) and Joseph Pulitzer (New York World) fighting for circulation.  Hearst had sent the artist Frederic Remington to Cuba just before the outbreak of the Spanish American War. Remington wired the home office that everything seemed quiet in Cuba and there would be no war. Hearst famously wired back: "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." This whole period around the birth of "yellow journalism" became the template for relations between powerful media and powerful politicians. Same as it ever was.

booboo's picture

Beware the Six Degrees of Retardation

TeamDepends's picture

Proof positive World Wars are fought for honorable and legitimate reasons.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

Not to mention the selection of leaders should be made based on family dynasties.

We should replace the primary system with a discussion session which the prostitute parties decide which of their dynasties will run against each other and which should win.

rtalcott's picture

Willie was not really trying to stop it he was trying to start it...well..maybe he was trying to stop it after it was too late.

This article is a really bad Cliff's Notes version of how WWI started.

Headbanger's picture

I agree it's a really bad Cliff's Notes about it but according to this documentary, the German generals rushed to start the war without Willie's consent cause he was a dope!

rtalcott's picture

I find this hard to believe (but I can be wrong...)...the relationship between Germany & Russia was historically VERY strong...this was a BIG piece of Bismarck's strategy (google Reinsurance Treaty)...and don't forget Russia let Austria take (Herzagovina?  my bad spelling and it may have been another country) a few years back and was humiliated...the situation was complex and 'effed up..and I do agree Willie...well he reminds me of barry...

rtalcott's picture

IIRC Von Moltke (The Younger) was Chief of the General Staff and I can not imagine him starting a war....not from everything I have read about him...

nickels's picture

Read the definitive history of WWl "The Sleepwalkers" by C. Clark. A meticulously researched and microscopically examined account of events leading up to the war-( mostly Serbian history). When you're done I think you'll agree that nobody has any friggin clue as to what exactly "caused" the war.

Newsboy's picture

These are different days. Demand destruction en-masse is required by the elites, while keeping an intact industrial base for about 10% of the global population, just those essential to serve their needs.

What kind of "neutron bomb" strategy are they devising?

I think pestilence might serve them best, but it's so hard to accurately predict, isn't it?

duo's picture

The Great War killed or maimed half the French men between 17 and 50 years old, creating a "labor shortage".  Don't give Yellen or Obama any ideas.

nmewn's picture

Were the other half in hiding? ;-)

knukles's picture

No, they'd already surrendered

nmewn's picture

Three squares and a cot.

Vive le France! ;-)

Sorry_about_Dresden's picture

In the South we say "3 hots and a cot" but isn't; really.

More t like fighting to keep your cot ,the baloney and pseudo cheese sandwich and noodles if you have canteen cash.

highly debtful's picture

Sorry, had to downarrow you both on this occasion. Ever been to a WW I ossuary in France? Ever read name after name on the enormous walls on French war sites? Although I have a difficult relationship myself with the French these days, you should not demean their courage and their sacrifices. 

duo's picture

I was going to say the same thing.  From Napoleon until Verdun they had a pretty strong military.

weburke's picture

verdun, well, at least after the war americans werent so fooled as we are now about verdun.


mjcOH1's picture

"I was going to say the same thing.  From Napoleon until Verdun they had a pretty strong military."


Patton had the right idea.....Silver Star or above awarded to a soldier, and you ship him home.   You want him in your nation's gene pool.

The French, as you pointed out, had a pretty strong military from Napolean until Verdun.   But they burnt the seed corn.  It was showing by WWII.

You could argue the US has done the same thing since the end of the Vietnam War.   The best sign up and ship out.   Homeslice gets the EBT and a monthly check to breed stateside.

graneros's picture

Actually the French had the largest and strongest Army in Europe and most likely the world right up til 1940.  The French Army alone outnumbered the Germans by almost 2 to 1 when the Germans came through the low countries around the Maginot line. What beat the French and The BEF was piss poor military leadership and their own politicians.

duo's picture

Save that discussion for the 100th anniversary of the Somme, and after that, Third Ypres.

Analyse2's picture


I agree with you, but it was not the only cause : The strength of Hitler's army, particularly the Air Force, was largely underestimated.

In 1939 and 1940 France was let alone (apart from only 8 British divisions, which succeeded to quickly re-embark at Dunkirk thanks to the sacrifice of the soldiers of the 1st French Army of the North ).

France was let alone facing a nazi-fanaticized country with a population of 80 million (vs. 40 million in France), a particularly well prepared war-industry, and an air superiority of 5 vs 1. 

At the same time the “US ally” refused to sell planes on credit to France !

Contrary to what has often been said, and is a result of the Nazi propaganda of that time, and the neo-cons hatred in 2003, the German advance (Blitzkrieg) encountered serious resistance from the French troops.

In the six week Battle of France, from May 10 to June 22, 1940, the French lost, in military personnel alone, 260,000 wounded and 108,000 killed. A total of 368,000 casualties in six weeks is not something to pass off lightly.

This is 5 times more than the losses of the American army in three months of battles in Normandy in 1944 (21000), and nearly the same amount than the US deaths in 7 months of WW1 (116700) !

It is the air superiority (over 1,000 Stuka bombers knocked out the troops defending Sedan) and the intelligent use of the German panzers that broke the defenses and made ineluctable the defeat.

Since WW2, air superiority is always the winning key of all battles …

The 1940 campaign was the most intense of all the battles that will take place later on the Western Front:

the Germans suffered heavy losses in just 6 weeks - approximately 60,000 killed 111 000 injured and above 1250 planes were destroyed which will be greatly missed by the Luftwaffe during the battle of Britain.

Struggling one against five, the French fighter planes weakened the Luftvaffe (defeating two German planes for one loss). 

Yes, the Germans gave the French a terrible beating. But it took the combined strength of the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Russia, Canada, etc., to beat the Germans.  It’s asking rather a great deal of France to match such strength against hers – with an air inferiority of 1 vs 5. ”

The US never faced mor than 15% of the Wehrmacht – 80% were in the East -  when France had to face alone 100% of Hitler's war machine in 1940 – plus 22 Italian divisions in the south. In fact, the Germans would have walked straight over the British or American armies if any of these places would have been directly adjacent to France.


optimator's picture

1871 Franco-Prussian war  weakened their military enough to lose that war.

nmewn's picture

It seems to me the French (today) go out of their way to impugn the integrity & character of us (Americans) these days. I just return the favor every chance I get.

Quid pro quo Clarice ;-)

FeralSerf's picture

Thanks to the many military adventures that America has involved itself and started since the end of WW2, it's not very difficult for the French or anyone else for that matter "to impugn the integrity & character of us (Americans)".

Since Harrys' war on the Korean peninsula, American military aggressions have just gone from bad to worse. The current debacles are typical.

Pure Evil's picture

While we're at it. Let's try to overlook the military misadventures of the French in Indochina, North Africa (Algeria), and the British-French coup attempt on the Suez Canal which had to be put down by Ole Bubble Head.

nmewn's picture

I see, we're going to focus on a short period of time.

So the French get a free pass on their empire building, "theft of resources" and wealth accumulation for hundreds of years and we get to "protect" their sorry ass after the fact.

Now you know why I want ALL of our troops out of europe.

graneros's picture

I'm with you Brother. If we picked up our toys and went home we wouldn't have to even hear the acronym NATO mentioned again. The USA IS NATO. Without us it would disolve overnight.  None of the NATO members have an Army even worthy of being called an Army. Not only do American taxpayers pay the tab for our own defense but we are the lion's share of Europe's defense as well.  I am sick of it.

nmewn's picture

I'm sick of it too.

And there is nothing worse than an unappreciative cocksucker sitting around bitching about another who provides them with the security to bitch. Lets see what their tax rate becomes when the US pulls out.

They're good "socially minded" folks they surely have a plan ;-)

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

knukles's picture

What the fuck is this place turning into?


Deer Hunter's picture

They are all in the grave, who cares?

FeralSerf's picture

No, the French don't get a free pass on their sordid colonial empire building anymore the the British do. Why should they?

You would think that America could learn from this sorry time of empire building. But no, America seems to have learned nothing. At least there isn't any American military bases in France (no thanks to the Americans). Why are Americans in Africa helping the French with their colonial empire (although the French no longer call it that)?

I think the troops should have left Europe long ago. But I don't think the bankers and multi-national corps. would agree.

Analyse2's picture

Not funny

More precisely World War I cost France 1,697,800 dead and 4,266,000 wounded (of whom 1.5 million were permanently maimed) and 537,000 made prisoner or missing - exactly 73% of the 8,410,000 men mobilized (for a total population of 40 million).

This means that 60% of men between the ages of 18 and 28 died or were permanently maimed.

You can have an idea of what these figures woud represent for the present population of the US:

13,412,000 dead and 33,701,400 wounded (of whom 11,850,000 permanently maimed) and 4,242,000 made prisoner or missing. Can you imagine US reaction to casualties on that scale?

And the French DID NOT SURRENDER (Your stupid Jay Leno's style jokes are really not funny) …

In fact, these jokes reflect the hate of american warmongers against France. It remains still there, well alive, even in ZH.

They have not forgiven the offence of the firm refusal of the French to join America in Irak, in 2003, and their stale hate still show through "innocent good jokes" about the “surrender monkeys”.

Flakmeister's picture

Not in WW I....

Not even close...

ILLILLILLI's picture

You can be sure genomic bioweapons are being developed. Not a thing indiscriminate about that...

duo's picture

IIRC, the August 1 telegram was delayed by a Russian general who wanted war (either boredom or for advancement).  Either way, the telegram was delayed beyond Nick II's last opportunity to reverse the mobilization order.