Starting 7 July, the German Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, Heinrich von Tschirschky, and Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Berchtold held almost daily meetings about how to co-ordinate the diplomatic action to justify a war against Serbia. On 8 July, Tschirschky presented Berchtold with a message from Wilhelm who declared he "stated most emphatically that Berlin expected the Monarchy to act against Serbia, and that Germany would not understand it, if ... the present opportunity were allowed to go by ... without a blow struck". At the same meeting, Tschirschky told Berchtold, "if we [Austria-Hungary] compromised or bargained with Serbia, Germany would interpret this as a confession of weakness, which could not be without effect on our position in the Triple Alliance and on Germany's future policy". On 7 July, Bethmann Hollweg told his aide and close friend Kurt Riezler that "action against Serbia can lead to a world war". Bethmann Hollweg felt such a "leap in the dark" was justified by the international situation. Bethmann Hollweg told Riezler that Germany was "completely paralysed" and that the "future belongs to Russia which is growing and growing, and is becoming an ever increasing nightmare to us". Riezler went to write in his diary that Bethmann Hollweg painted a "devastating picture" with Russia building rail-roads in Congress Poland that allow Russia to mobilize faster once the Great Military Programme was finished in 1917, and that an Austro-Serbian war would probably cause a world war, "which would lead to an overthrow of the existing order", but since the "existing order was lifeless and void of ideas", such a war could only be welcomed as a blessing to Germany. Bethmann Hollweg's fears about Russia led him to credit Anglo-Russian naval talks in May 1914 as the beginning of an "encirclement" policy against Germany that could only be broken through war. After Anglo-French naval talks had taken place, the Russians demanded the same courtesy be extended to them, which led to inconclusive Anglo-Russian naval talks.This far I agree.
Actually what written sources we have agree on Russia taking very early on after the asassination a stance that stated that Serbia can not be made responsible and punsihed for the asassination. Way before anyone knew what the result would be of the austrian investigation. France also accepted this stance. When poincaré expressed his condolescences to Austria he already likened the assassination of the murder of a former french president to an italian anarchist - the point being that there was no qustion of Italy being made responsible for that.
Disagree. Bulgaria was always ready to choose Russia ower the CP's as long as Russia did not prioritize Serbian interests ower Bulgarian ones. Also Russia could have gone into the conflict for example with telling Austria the limits of punishment they are willing to be mated on Serbia. I mean from Russian POV Serbia was a russia dependency that has acted way out of the line and created a crisis without the knowledge and leave of Russia that threatened and actually did result in Russia being involved in the greatest war in history that far. It would hav ehurt russian policy and position on the Balkans whatever happened - but would not have destroyed it.
Most of all Russia needed to have some kind of actual control ower its quasi protectorates on the Balkans if they wanted to take responsibility for them.
I stated earlier if Russia made it known - either by signing a treaty with Sebia or making a declaration - even if they only mobilized officially after the Austrian ultimatum - I would agree with you. As it was the germans and the austrians went into starting the war against Serbia hoping that it can be localized but ready to fight it even if it couldnt be. The ultimate evidence for this is that Austria started the war with their Serbia only warplan - this resulted in them totally botching their mobilization as when Russia got into the war they tried to switch on the run to the Russia and Serbia warplan. If they knew Russia was protecting Serbia for sure they would have not committed such a gigantic level of idiocy.
As I said I do not think the Germans and the Austrians wanted a general european war. They were willing to fight one if the entente powers didnt back down but they were not looking for that conflict. I have to cite again the austrian mobilization - it only makes any sense if Austria has started the war under the impression/hope that it will fight a localized conflict against Serbia.
Russia on his part decided that it will back Serbia without any threaties or obligations. It did very little and even that baddly to try to solve the crisis diplomatically but instead started to prepare for the military solution of it before any of the great powers - and in secret which had no diplomatic use but only a military one and which undermined any trust the CP's might have had in Russia's peaceful intentions.
Again I dont believe the CP's wanted a great war (there were some people in every country who wanted just that but they were nowhere in power). Austria at the very least wanted a war with Serbia and not WWI. But they wanted that war against Serbia even if it turned into WWI. They were wiling to take that chance - as were the germans. They bear full responsibility for that.
But if you dont suggest that the CP's would have attacked France and Russia even if they backed down on the serbian question it was the decision of Russia to protect Serbia that turned the austro-serbian war to WWI.
On 8 July, Tisza informed another meeting of the Crown Council that any attack on Serbia was bound to lead to "intervention by Russia and consequently world war". On the same day, Kurt Riezler's diary has his friend Bethmann Hollweg saying: "If the war comes from the East, so that we are marching to Austria-Hungary's aid instead of Austria-Hungary to ours, then we have a chance of winning it. If war does not come, if the Czar does not want it or France dismayed, counsels peace, then we still have a chance of maneuvering the Entente apart over this action."
So, both the Germans & Austrians wanted a war with Serbia and expected it to lead to a war with Russia. The Germans wanted a war with Russia in the hopes of shifting the balance of power in Europe. This also shows they were lying to the other powers about their intentions.
Though Jagow's pretence was not widely believed, it was still believed at the time that Germany was aiming for peace, and could restrain Austria. General Helmuth von Moltke of the German General Staff again strongly approved of the idea of an Austrian attack on Serbia as the best way of bringing about the desired world war.
On 20 July, the German government informed the directors of the Norddeutscher Lloyd and Hamburg America Line shipping companies that Austria would soon present an ultimatum that might cause a general European war, and they should start withdrawing their ships from foreign waters back to the Reich at once. That same day, the German Navy was ordered to concentrate the High Seas Fleet, in case of a general war. Riezler's diary states Bethmann Hollweg saying on 20 July that Russia with its "growing demands and tremendous dynamic power would be impossible to repel in a few years, especially if the present European constellation continues to exist". Riezler ended his diary noting that Bethmann Hollweg was "determined and taciturn", and quoted his former Foreign Minister Kiderlen-Waechter who "had always said we must fight".
The German shipping tycoon Albert Ballin recalled that when the German government heard a misleading report that Serbia had accepted the ultimatum, there was "disappointment", but "tremendous joy" when it learned that the Serbs had not accepted all of the Austrian terms. When Ballin suggested Wilhelm end his North Sea cruise to deal with the crisis, the German Foreign Ministry flatly stated the Emperor should continue his cruise because "everything must be done to ensure that he [Wilhelm] does not interfere in things with his pacifist ideas". At the same time, a message was sent to Berchtold from his ambassador in Berlin reminding him "Here every delay in the beginning of war operations is regarded as signifying the danger that foreign powers might interfere. We are urgently advised to proceed without delay."
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov sent a message to all of the great powers asking them to pressure Austria to extend the deadline of the ultimatum. Sazonov asked the Austrian government to back its claims of Serbian complicity in the killing of Franz Ferdinand by releasing the results of its official inquiry, which the Austrians refused to do as they lacked any conclusive as opposed to circumstantial evidence. Several times, the Austrians refused Russian requests to extend the deadline, despite warnings that an Austro-Serbian war could easily cause a world war. Sazonov accused the Austrian ambassador of intending to war with Serbia.[note 13]
Britain offers to mediate (23 July)On 23 July, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made a mediation offer with a promise that his government would attempt to influence Russia to influence Serbia, and Germany to influence Austria-Hungary as the best way of stopping a general war. Wilhelm wrote on the margins of Lichnowsky's dispatch containing Grey's offer that Britain's "condescending orders" were to be totally rejected, and Austria-Hungary would not retract any of its "impossible demands" on Serbia. He continued: "Am I to do that? Wouldn’t think of it! What does he [Grey] mean by ‘impossible’?" Jagow ordered Lichnowsky to tell Grey of the supposed German ignorance of the Austrian ultimatum, and that Germany regarded Austro-Serbian relations as "an internal affair of Austria-Hungary, in which we had no standing to intervene". Jagow's statement did much to discredit Germany in British eyes. Lichnowsky reported to Berlin "If we do not join the mediation, all faith here in us and in our love of peace will be shattered."
At the same time, Grey met with opposition from the Russian Ambassador who warned that a conference with Germany, Italy, France, and Britain serving as the mediators between Austria and Russia would break apart the informal Triple Entente. Sazonov accepted Grey's proposal for a conference despite his reservations about the dangers of splitting the Triple Entente, Grey wrote to Sazonov that Britain did not have a cause to war with Serbia, but subsequent developments might drag Britain into the conflict.[note 14]
Both Britain & Russia were trying to mediate the crisis, while the Germans & Austrian wanted war.
Starting 23 July, all of Germany's leaders returned secretly to Berlin to deal with the crisis. A division opened between those led by Bethmann-Hollweg who wanted to see what would happen following an Austrian attack on Serbia, and the military led by Moltke and Falkenhayn, who urged that Germany immediately follow an Austrian attack on Serbia with a German attack on Russia. Moltke repeatedly stated that 1914 would be the best time for starting a "preventive war", or the Russian Great Military Programme would finish by 1917, making Germany unable to ever again risk a war. Moltke added that Russian mobilization was regarded as an opportunity to be sought rather than as a sort of threat, as it would allow Germany to go to war while presenting it as forced on Germany. The German military attaché in Russia reported that Russian preparations for mobilization were on a much smaller scale than was expected. Though Moltke at first argued that Germany should wait for Russia to mobilize before beginning the "preventive war", by the end of the week he urged that Germany should launch it anyway. In Moltke's view, in order to invade France successfully, Germany would need to seize the Belgian fortress of Liège by surprise. The longer the diplomatic action continued, the less likely Moltke thought that Liège could be stormed by surprise, and if Liège were not taken, then the entire Schlieffen Plan would be unhinged.
So, the German General Staff wanted to attack Russia in a preemptive war if they mobilized or not. Russian mobilization was only important as a pretext for war. In the end there was last minute cold feet by the German political leaderships, but with prodding by the military WWI was on. "Hey, we have to get too it before 1917. This is our last best chance to crush our enemies, before they get too strong." Paranoid, reckless, and aggressive. A really great combination in a national leadership.