World War I

Austro-Hungarian War Aims in the Balkans during World War I by Marvin Benjamin Fried (auth.)

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By Marvin Benjamin Fried (auth.)

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It was therefore no surprise that the Second Balkan War proved a ‘near total disaster’6 for the ‘surprised and angry’7 Austria-Hungary as Serbia doubled in size and established a common frontier with Montenegro in the Sandjak, further boosting South Slav irredentism. As Montenegro slipped from Austria-Hungary’s grasp, the situation in Albania became precarious as well. After Albania was established in 1913, Austria-Hungary worked with other Great Powers including Italy to aid Albania against Montenegrin, Serb, and Greek claims to its territory.

29 Although his hopes would later turn out to be misplaced, at least his aim of keeping the South Slavs away from the Adriatic coast would be maintained. Thus, Austria-Hungary embarked on a policy of appeasement and diversion, designed to keep Italy happy and possibly even get it embroiled in Albania. On October 22 the Austrian Ambassador told Rome that in other circumstances Vienna would have actually cooperated with Italy in its efforts to secure Valona but that it supported the independent move30 (though he did not add that this was largely because it had no choice).

45 In short, Austro-Hungarian war aims in the Western Balkans at the outbreak of the war were dominated by fears of Italy. The critical coastal states of Albania and Montenegro were slipping out of the Monarchy’s control, as it lost influence in the former to Italy and was already fighting a war against the latter. The negative war aim of denying Italy influence in these two regions, as espoused by both the AOK and the MdÄ, could not be achieved, not least because of the defeats Austria-Hungary faced against Serbia.

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