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

By Marvin Benjamin Fried (auth.)

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Never very trusting of Italy, Austria-Hungary wanted to expand its influence into the two Western Balkan states that controlled the eastern Adriatic following the Ottoman retreat from Europe, namely Montenegro and Albania. The largest problem for Austria-Hungary was that Montenegro was a state comprised mainly of Slavs, and therefore generally hostile to Austria-Hungary due to the South Slav irredentist movements in Montenegro and Serbia. Albania, on the other hand, was a predominantly Muslim state established by the Great Powers only in 1913 and assisted by an international commission.

Following two unsuccessful AOK attempts to take Serbia and at the beginning of their third operation on November 16, Tisza visited Berlin and set out – at least partially on his own authority – Austria-Hungary’s war aims July 1914–December 1914 33 against Serbia. Anticipating eventual victory, the Hungarian Prime Minister wanted to ensure that the sums obtained in a reparations settlement would be divided between the Dual Alliance partners based on efforts in the war. Geographically, Tisza finally began seeing a need for territorial growth for the Monarchy, but differentiated between direct annexation and spheres of influence.

84 Although Tisza and the Germans ‘abhorred’ the idea of such a conference of the Great Powers,85 they were in full agreement that if such an event should take place following an Austro-German victory, their war aims might be met and a ‘joint program’86 prepared for the conference in advance. 87 This plan also included an economic ‘connection’ with Belgium, but Bethmann Hollweg insisted that he did not have any additional European territorial ambitions. Understanding German plans was crucial for Austria-Hungary to meet its own goals, which in the Balkans included as much of a reduction and weakening of Serbia as possible without actually annexing much.

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