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  • Russian Strategic Options

    Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
    Russia's Great War: the Imperial Army meets its Fate with Dr. John Steinberg




    I must say that I am always sceptical about claims about blunders .I am not convinced by the claim that Russia made big blunders and that these caused the collaps of Russia in february 1917 : there was still the successful Brusilov attack after the fall of the Tsaristic regime .

    Given the paucity of the Russian means :manpower,weapons,etc,I don't see how Russia could have done better .

  • #2
    Lj...

    Norman stone states, quite catagorically, that russian industry was not up to war service requirements, but managed to equip far more of the russian army during the GW than outside observers gave it credit for.

    the chief problems for the Imperial Army was the lack of artillery in all calibres. Russian offensives had no "Teeth". Large guns were just not in quantity, and field artillery was short of ammunition of all types.

    But, thats not what caused the collapse of 1917.

    Stone points to two factors...

    1/ lack of railroad track and a SEVERE lack of engines and rolling stock.

    This problem meant that Russian reserves could not be simply entrained and then detrained to fill gaps as on the western front. It also meant they were slow to build up stores and ammunition for larger offensives. One of the reasons Brusilov's offensive was so effective was simply no real extant build-up of supply, men and material to telegraph intentions. Bombardment would be concentrated, to take advantage of existing ammo dumps, and very short, for there was a shortage of shells, and Alexei Brusilov himself had never set much store by long bombardments telegrahping offensive moves in advance.

    the very success of the Brusilov Offensive actually set back the course of the war for the Russian Army, because it cost them over a million casualties by the end of it, and the front bounded back to it's starting point, (eventually), as CP counter attacks and Russian shortages started to bite.

    The effect on Army morale was great at first, but once it was realised that the Offensive wasn't going to change the overall picture of the Eastern Front, morale started to crumble..

    2/ The shortage of rail engines and rolling stock was exasipated by the Russian Army's many cavalry units need for FODDER, especially in the winter of 1916.

    The flow on effect was that their internal food supply system for large cities actually broke down that winter. food riots resulted, morale plumetted further, the Tsar would not listen to advisors telling him of the trouble, and instead, lectured them on the need for absolute obediance from the civil population.

    Then Lenin arrived in St. Petersburg, crossing germany in a sealed train. The effect on morale of their prpaganda was stunning.

    The Army started to wonder where the war was going, and why they were fighting for the western powers to begin with. Soldiers units started to suffer desertions, they were suppressed, but the news from home convinced more and more Imperial Army troops that their leadership was running the war as a farce, and that it was time for CHANGE....

    Thus, the February revolution, a popular uprising, and the downfall of the Tsar. But he was replaced by a man called alexander KERENSKY, who's policy was NOT to come to terms with Berlin, but to continue the war effort.

    the resulting Kerensky Offensive was farcical, and spelt the death knell of any democratic posssibilities in russia.

    Lenin commenced the Bolshevik Revolution, and coup d' etat that most ordinary russians were not aware of until it had occurred.

    By then it was too late of course. Lenin negotiated the Treaty of Brest Litovsk....and that was that for the next 4 years, as Civil War, anarchy, foreign intervention and an ill judged war with Poland in 1920-21 guaranteed that Lenin would be an enemy of the west, rather than a benevolent cousin.

    Drusus
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    • #3
      1) This is not the point : the point is the claim that Russia made strategical blunders,claim I find very questionable .

      Exemple : in 1914 ,Russia lost at Tannenberg against the Germans (I don't see a strategical blunder) and won in Galicia against the Austrians .

      I do not see big Russian strategical blunders during the war . I don't see that Russia had other options which could produce better results .


      2) I disagree with your last comment : =that the war with Poland guarenteed that Lenin would be an enemy of the west and not a benevolent cousin .

      Communism always would be an enemy of the west .

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      • #4
        I agree with your assessment.

        It begs the question, "What was Russia doing in the war to begin with?"

        She had no great need of strategic gains, with the possible exception of access to the Med.

        She mobilized when her borders were not threatened. Austrian moves were entirely defensive on her sector in terms of deployment. the bulk of the Austro-hungarian military forces went to the Serbian front. Only 20 divisions faced russia.

        I have always believed the russians were simply fighting for moral asthetics, to appear to be good partners to their alliances. the course of the war showed that there wasn't much to be gained by their involvment at all. However, the French had a lot to gain. Their war effort depended entirely on Russian participation, whereas russia could have easily stayed clear of the conflict and still come out ahead.

        Up until the invasion of Belgium, Russo French diplomacy was seen by Britain as untrustworthy. Germany had the moral high ground. They failed to reign in their austrian neighbours, and payed the price.

        Was communism to be an enemy of the west from the outset?

        Probably. But Lenin wanted Communism for export, something that Polish Russian war put a stop to very quickly. The Red Army had not the capabilities of its master's plans.

        Could we have changed Russian attitudes?

        Could we have embraced their revolution instead of condemning it?

        The fault for alienation of the russian 'new' regime was partly our attitudes in the western world.

        When the Eastern Front was done and dusted, Russians expected to be seen as full partners, to have their large share of the fighting freely acknowledged. Did we do that? No.

        We carried on as if we had won the conflict with or without russian sacrifice, and that must have hurt every russian person a great deal, all the way to the top.
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        • #5
          Let's not restart the discussion about the origins of WWI,on which, I am certain, we disagree .

          Let's also not discuss the communists revolution .

          But,let's limit ourselves to the question : were the Russian generals inept ? Did they make strategic blunders?

          IMO the answer is negative : the Russian strategy was dictated,imposed by the events,by geography . Due to its geographical situation,Germany could transfer forces from the east to the west,from the west to the east,and choose a Schwerpunkt .The Allies could not do this . Russia could not remain idle if the Germans launched a big offensive in the west, B +F could not remain idle if the Germans launched a big offensive in the east . They were obliged to attack continuously and to wage a war of attrition,hoping that these attacks would weaken Germany and would,in the long run, result in a German defeat . (For propagandistic reasons each attack was presented as the decisive one who would result in the end of the war .)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ljadw View Post
            Let's not restart the discussion about the origins of WWI,on which, I am certain, we disagree .

            Let's also not discuss the communists revolution .

            But,let's limit ourselves to the question : were the Russian generals inept ? Did they make strategic blunders?

            IMO the answer is negative : the Russian strategy was dictated,imposed by the events,by geography . Due to its geographical situation,Germany could transfer forces from the east to the west,from the west to the east,and choose a Schwerpunkt .The Allies could not do this . Russia could not remain idle if the Germans launched a big offensive in the west, B +F could not remain idle if the Germans launched a big offensive in the east . They were obliged to attack continuously and to wage a war of attrition,hoping that these attacks would weaken Germany and would,in the long run, result in a German defeat . (For propagandistic reasons each attack was presented as the decisive one who would result in the end of the war .)
            Could we take this discussion to a thread of its own, please? Mods?

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            • #7
              Maybe we could first examine the Russian strength at the mobilisation in 1914 .

              Following my calculations,based on "The Russian Army in 1914 (by Mark Conrad),the mobilisation ,based on plan 19 (A) gave the following figures :

              North West Front : 2 Armies( 9 AC) : 20 ID and 5 CD


              South West Front : 4 Armies ((16 AC): 33 ID and 10 CD


              Caucasian Front : 1 AC: 3 ID


              There was also a Central Front (which was still forming) :2 Armies (9 AC) :20 ID and 5 CD .


              But,it took months for these units to be available,as there were 3 Siberian AC,1 Caucasian and 1 from Turkestan .

              Total : 76 ID and 20 CD .

              As the peace strength of the Russian Army was 71 ID and 24 CD/Cossack Divisions, the conclusion is that Russia started the war with its peace army (the number of additional divisions that were mobilised and became available in 1914 was limited ) .

              Other point : I have found that there was no conscription for the Asian ppulations of the Russian Empire (there was a big revolt when they were conscripted in 1916),this limited even more the available Russian manpower .

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              • #8
                Germany OTOH started the war with 51 active ID and 11 CD and 41 reserve divisions = 92 ID ,which were reinforced in 1914 by another 26 ID and 10 temporary divisions = 128 ID on 1 january 1915 .

                In the east,Germany had at the start of the war 9 ID and 1 CD,these were reinforced in 1914 by 11 ID and 6 CD .= a total of 20 ID and 7 CD .


                If someone has the figures for Austria, we could have a clear picture of the force relations in august 1914 and january 1915,and we could look if Russia had other options in 1914 than the choices who were made in the OTL .


                I suspect that the force relations will debunk the myth of the inexhaustible russian manpower .

                To not complicate things, units lower than division are not included .

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                • #9
                  I agree with ljadw that on the battlefield per se, Russia didn't made major errors. Of course there were Tannenberg, Mazurian lakes, the postional phase of Brusilov's offensive but those weren't critical. The defeat lies in shortages of industry and weakness of propaganda.


                  If someone has the figures for Austria, we could have a clear picture of the force relations in august 1914 and january 1915,and we could look if Russia had other options in 1914 than the choices who were made in the OTL .
                  In august 1914 Russian had 72 division against 42 of Central Powers.

                  By january 1915 it changed to 104 vs 74. By mid 1915 the number was around 106 on each side.
                  There are no Nazis in Ukraine. Idiots

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
                    Lj...

                    Norman stone states, quite catagorically, that russian industry was not up to war service requirements, but managed to equip far more of the russian army during the GW than outside observers gave it credit for.
                    I'm not completely aware of the degree of credit from foreign observers, but it's generally accepted in Russia the Russian war industry was unable to meet the requirements of the front.

                    the chief problems for the Imperial Army was the lack of artillery in all calibres. Russian offensives had no "Teeth". Large guns were just not in quantity, and field artillery was short of ammunition of all types.
                    From what I learned at school I remember that Russia had quite good, effective and maneuverable light field artillery, which was developed based on Russia's experience in the Russo-Japanese war, but unfortunately it proved nearly useless in the positional war.

                    One of the reasons Brusilov's offensive was so effective was simply no real extant build-up of supply, men and material to telegraph intentions. Bombardment would be concentrated, to take advantage of existing ammo dumps, and very short, for there was a shortage of shells, and Alexei Brusilov himself had never set much store by long bombardments telegrahping offensive moves in advance.
                    I can't see why an offensive was effective because of insufficient supply of materiel. It was successful because of the innovative tactics and strategy employed by the general, and the overextension of supply lines was what stopped it, along with the deficient logistics.

                    the very success of the Brusilov Offensive actually set back the course of the war for the Russian Army, because it cost them over a million casualties by the end of it, and the front bounded back to it's starting point, (eventually), as CP counter attacks and Russian shortages started to bite.
                    From what I've learned the offensive was meant to be supported by the other fronts, which for some reasons did not join Brusilov in their offensives which allowed the Germans to shift their reserves to the south and check Brusilov's advance. General Evert was said to remark that "he wasn't going to fight to let Brusilov earn his laurel wreath".

                    Then Lenin arrived in St. Petersburg, crossing germany in a sealed train. The effect on morale of their prpaganda was stunning.
                    Lenin arrived to Petrograd a full month after the Emperor's abdication.

                    Thus, the February revolution, a popular uprising, and the downfall of the Tsar. But he was replaced by a man called alexander KERENSKY, who's policy was NOT to come to terms with Berlin, but to continue the war effort.

                    the resulting Kerensky Offensive was farcical, and spelt the death knell of any democratic posssibilities in russia.
                    Actually had Kerensky been a real democrat, which sort of means expressing the will of the people, he would've started peace negotiations, but that's a moot point, of course. His authority was based on the support of rich industrialists who profited from war contracts and Entente powers which desperately needed to keep Russia in the war by hook or by crook.

                    Kerensky's offensive was an important reason for the "collapse of the Russian democracy", but far from the only or the single most important one. The Provisional Government completely failed to give any effective answers to the most urgent needs of the people, and what I consider a major turning point was the dissolution of a 500 000-strong demonstration on July 3, 1917 when at least several hundred people were killed, more than during the February Revolution.

                    Lenin commenced the Bolshevik Revolution, and coup d' etat that most ordinary russians were not aware of until it had occurred.
                    To be honest, people normally tend to be not aware of events before they happen. As Lenin succinctly put it, the "power was laying by the roadside", and the Bolsheviks appeared to be the only party able to pick it up and hold it.

                    By then it was too late of course. Lenin negotiated the Treaty of Brest Litovsk....and that was that for the next 4 years, as Civil War, anarchy, foreign intervention and an ill judged war with Poland in 1920-21 guaranteed that Lenin would be an enemy of the west, rather than a benevolent cousin.

                    Drusus
                    Ill judged war with Poland? I hope you remember who started it. As for the benevolent cousin, Lenin was never going to be one - where did you get this idea from?
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ShAA View Post
                      I'm not completely aware of the degree of credit from foreign observers, but it's generally accepted in Russia the Russian war industry was unable to meet the requirements of the front.
                      Russian industry improved dramatically by 1916 and into early 1917 especially with respect to munitions (though not food). Projections indicated that there would be a industrial curtailment in 1918, but that does not count for the entry of the USA into the war. Once the Americans were in, Russia would have been awash with new shoes! Sorry ljadw, I couldn't help myself with that one.

                      Anyway, as has been mentioned above, correctly, perhaps the single biggest theoretically solvable problem was the Russian railways. The US Treasury authorized $325 million in loans to the provisional government, and the US intended to send 2,500 locomotives and 40,000 wagons to Russia. Considering Russia had only about 10,000 running locomotives in early 1917 (see Gatrell's Russia's First World War at 95), this would have been a nice addition (given the Americans had their own transportation crisis, I don't know where these trains would've come from, but that's another issue altogether). Anthony Heywood at University of Aberdeen is the Anglophone expert on Russia's railways. Additional information can be found in Jennifer Polk's PhD dissertation Constructive Efforts: The American Red Cross and YMCA in Revolutionary and Civil War Russia, 191724, which is available online here, and Leo Bacino's Reconstructing Russia: U.S. Policy in Revolutionary Russia, 19171922, which is not as far as I know. Normal Saul's War and Revolution: The United States and Russia, 19141921 is on my list of things to read.

                      The above trivia aside, the real reason for my post was to ask if anyone has read Uchastie Rossiiskoi Imperii v Pervoi Mirovoi Voine (1914- 1917) volumes I and II by Oleg Airapetov. I've seen these books referred to in positive fashion, and I know the historian is a good one. Thanks
                      Last edited by The Ibis; 02 Jan 16, 21:27.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                        Could we take this discussion to a thread of its own, please? Mods?
                        Whoever split this off

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                        • #13
                          Hello Shaa....

                          with regard to Brusilov, or any other offensive for that matter, the best indicator for the enemy of an offensive buildup are large numbers of trains delivering suppies to dumps near the offensive 'zone' Brusilov had no real buildup, because there just wasn't enough to go around, and other commanders did not consider his effort to be especially worthy of consideration.

                          With the exception of a short bombardment, which tactical innovations are you referring to? I've not heard much of the offensive being much different in that respect to any otehr allied offensive of the war. Tactical innovation on all fronts was sadly lacking as a whole. Don't you think that SURPRISE ans SCALE may have had more to do with any offensive success?

                          I am aware of the excellence of russian artillery, but i'm also aware that much in the way of ammunition just wasn't available to give these excellent weapons their due. Heavy artillery would seem to be concentrated at few points. Nothing to compare with German, austrian, or British and French heavy arty.

                          I'm a big fan of vladimir ulyanov. I have much respect for the intellect of the man. I don't believe for a second that Lenin wanted russia to be shut off from the outside world as happened under stalin. Internal purging could well have been followed by a change of heart from a man who thinks like Lenin. Ioesef Stalin was a good disciple of lenin, but had none of vladimir's intellectual dynamics. Lenin's stroke in the mid twenties was a national tradgedy amongst a whole lot of other suffering. The russian people deserved someone better than stalin, and they were robbed of a man that could have turned things around for them.

                          Russia was a freind to the west for many centuries. Lenin loved history, and that fact could not have escaped his notice. foreign Intervention in the Civil War must have come as a great and grand shock to everyone concerned. Again, Russians deserved a better fate than that.

                          Alexander Kerensky might have been corrupt, but wanting to continue the war can only be described as the wrong policy from the wrong man at the wrong time.

                          Who the hell are WE in the west to judge what happened to russia during the civil War? when your country descends into anarchy, when whole tracts are controlled by different interest groups, when the Czech Legion crosses Russia with a substantial portion of the National Trust in tow, who are we to judge.

                          I firmly believe that at the end of WW2, we in the west had the ability to make up for all of our previous mutual mistakes. all we had to do was to say, in so many words, "Thankyou" to the people of the Soviet Union, "for saving us many, many people."

                          We didn't. And I am ashamed of it as a westerner.

                          Matbe we could find a way with the present War on terror to find closer relations with our russian cousins.

                          after all they have done for us, and all they have been through, they deserve nothing less.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
                            Hello Shaa....

                            with regard to Brusilov, or any other offensive for that matter, the best indicator for the enemy of an offensive buildup are large numbers of trains delivering suppies to dumps near the offensive 'zone' Brusilov had no real buildup, because there just wasn't enough to go around, and other commanders did not consider his effort to be especially worthy of consideration.
                            From what I've read, Brusilov's men were quite well equipped and prepared for the offensive, and sitting idly on your arse just because you don't have the estimated amount of reserves needed for some grandiose plan means losing the initiative to the enemy.

                            How can you conceivably not consider an offensive worthy of consideration when it pushes the enemy a hundred kilometers back, yields thousands of captured POWs and nearly knocks out a major power out of the war? It was not the offensive which doomed itself (although Brusilov shouldn't have focused too much on besieging fotresses), but the criminal inaction of Evert and the anti-hero of the Russo-Japanese war Kuropatkin. What personal consideration of other commanders are you speaking about, when the supporting offensives of the Western and Northern Fronts were ordered by the Stavka decision earlier that year? In the army, failing to comply with the orders of superiors and acting the way one fancies is called sabotage (which it actually was) or even treason.
                            With the exception of a short bombardment, which tactical innovations are you referring to? I've not heard much of the offensive being much different in that respect to any otehr allied offensive of the war. Tactical innovation on all fronts was sadly lacking as a whole. Don't you think that SURPRISE ans SCALE may have had more to do with any offensive success?
                            Short bombardment, dedicated assault storming groups, even distribution of forces along the front meant to confuse the enemy about the main direction of thrust instead of one easily identifiable point of the offensive.
                            I am aware of the excellence of russian artillery, but i'm also aware that much in the way of ammunition just wasn't available to give these excellent weapons their due. Heavy artillery would seem to be concentrated at few points. Nothing to compare with German, austrian, or British and French heavy arty.
                            Well, you spoke of the quality and quantity of artillery, not of ammunition for it.

                            I'm a big fan of vladimir ulyanov. I have much respect for the intellect of the man. I don't believe for a second that Lenin wanted russia to be shut off from the outside world as happened under stalin. Internal purging could well have been followed by a change of heart from a man who thinks like Lenin. Ioesef Stalin was a good disciple of lenin, but had none of vladimir's intellectual dynamics. Lenin's stroke in the mid twenties was a national tradgedy amongst a whole lot of other suffering. The russian people deserved someone better than stalin, and they were robbed of a man that could have turned things around for them.

                            Russia was a freind to the west for many centuries. Lenin loved history, and that fact could not have escaped his notice. foreign Intervention in the Civil War must have come as a great and grand shock to everyone concerned. Again, Russians deserved a better fate than that.
                            Erm... Lenin may have not wanted Russia to be shut off from the world, but it was first and foremost his decision to strike a separate peace agreement with Germany which prompted the Entente Intervention. The whole point of invading Russia was not so much to nip Communism in the bud, which was a secondary objective at best, but to bring to power the people who were ready to continue the war with Germany (and to secure salvageable Russian assets had Germany decided to attack deeper into Russia). Refusing to pay the Tsar's debts was another significant factor. Should I also mention the fact Lenin called for a worldwide revolution which meant bringing down the Western governments, or this goes without saying?

                            Speaking of Russia's isolation, it happened exactly during Lenin's reign, and ironically it was when Stalin consolidated his power in 1929 a row of diplomatic recognitions of the USSR began. This has little to do with Stalin's persona as a number of other factors was involved, but it's still a fact.

                            Alexander Kerensky might have been corrupt, but wanting to continue the war can only be described as the wrong policy from the wrong man at the wrong time.
                            That's quite right. I don't think he was corrupt at all, but he was all talk and no action when decisive leadership was sorely needed. I guess this is what many people speak of Obama on this forum.
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                            • #15
                              Russian Strategic Options...1914

                              Attack in Galicia only: This was perfectly feasable. German troop numbers in front of Russian positions in east Prussia were minimal. The German General staff would have been quite content to have a mutual "sitting war" in East Prussia. It might have taken all their pressure to perform right out of their operations in Belgium. So, Russian incursions into East Prussia were more about French strategy than Russian requirements.

                              Attacking ONLY the Austrians would have yielded big dividends, possibly forcing an Austrian withdrawl from the Serbian front, or an Austrian collapse altogether, years ealier than was the case. The Carpathian mountain range was not such a barrier to Russian operations. With only 20 divisions facing them, attacking almost exclusively along the Galician front was a real option, pounding the hell out of the Austrians, and forcing a far larger German commitment than was the case.

                              Attack Romania: The Romanians were no friends of Russia in any case. To aid their Balkan friends, attacking Romania, (whose small and antiqued Army would not have lasted long), might have allowed Russia to overun the Balkans, get direct aid to Serbia, and open up the Bosphorus, all in a campaign of about 2-6 months.

                              They had the resources in men, they definately had the horseflesh divisions to make a large cavalry commitment absolutely meaningful, and they had the Black Sea fleet to turn Romanian flanks, getting through to Bulgaria, and keeping Serbia in the contest indefinately. This may have persuaded the Greeks to align with the Allies much sooner, with the Anzacs and others going to Salonika instead of Gallipoii, and the Turks vaciliating about commitment. Turkey could easily have sat out the Great War. Delivery of their two dreadnaughts from British shipyards might have achieved just that.

                              But of course, there was no co-operative policy from the Allies during the GW, or none that can be spoken positively of. I believe the only time they acted in concert with each other was during 1916.

                              Attack Initially into Russian Poland Instead of East Prussia: This option has the best chances for grabbing territory from Germany, but is also the Russian army putting it's head in a noose. Putting this option into practice would have seen Conrad von Hotzendorff rubbing his hands with glee, as he would then set in motion his treasured "grand design", of a German thrust down to Warsaw, and an Austrian push from the south to Warsaw as well., surrounding any Russian units caught moving forward. Not much of an option, but strategically, Russian options really were quite limited.

                              Attack Turkey in the Caucasus: This option might have been used if they also pushed into Romania, as an indirect supporting thrust for their Romanian offensive. Planning might have been a little better than Enver Pasha's, and their cavalry left over from strong commitments in Romania would have been uselful. But overall, this would be a thrust simply to tie down Turkish troops , preventing too many of them from crossing the Bosphorus and coming to Romanian/Bulgarian aid.

                              Use the Baltic fleet for a Landing in Germany: I'm not sure how well equiped the Tsar's navy was for landing from the sea, so I'll just suggest this because it was an option. Whether a realistic option or not, i'm not in a position to comment. So I fully expect this one to be shot down in flames. But, nevertheless, the Baltic fleet must have been good for SOMETHING, other than pointless skirmishing with German Navy ships, or trying to interfear with Swedish iron ore traffic.

                              Thats all I can come up with. As i said, Russian strategic options were, IMHO, quite limited.

                              Drusus
                              Last edited by Drusus Nero; 03 Jan 16, 19:13.
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