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  • WWI: Germany attacks Russia 1st

    What if in WWI, Germany remained on the defensive on the west front (They fortified the boarder with France, and did not attack Belgium). And instead, concentrated on taking out Russia. Would Britain have entered the war? Would Italy have joined the Allies? Stayed neutral? Or go Central?

    Your thoughts?
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  • #2
    I think that if Germany established a limited objective at the beginning of the War, they would very likely have won the war. Now of course "limited objectives" could have very different meanings, but I could see that the following could easily have happened:

    2. For propaganda purposes they would state over and over that they were coming to the aid of their ally Austria-Hungary, and that they were attacked by Russia, and they did not want a war. I'm not saying this would have been sincere, but it could have been altered with a view to British opinion. I don't say American opinion, because for some inexplicable-to-me reason it seemed that Germany was always underestimating the importance of the United States.

    3. They could very easily play mind games with the French. They could act as if they were mobilizing along the Belgian border, etc. and then never go across, probably after they had been " convinced" by Britain not to invade Belgium. They then offer to open negotiations with the French to discuss the future of Alsace-Lorraine, etc. - again, all done cynically.

    4. I'm assume France would follow their long-held plans and attack into Alsace-Lorraine. I would assume they would make little or no headway. This would also be playing to the German strength of being able to fight battles in which they fight with intelligent tactics, so that France would suffer greater casualties.

    5. The Germans way to win, in my view, would not be to occupy European Russia, or to annex the Ukraine, etc, or to reach a line like the Brest-Littovsk treaty line: I would be to drive East and South from East Prussia, with the goal of economically dominating today's Poland, and of moving east/north into today's Baltic States.

    6. The Germans should make it plain to the British that they have no quarrel with them, and as long as the British fleet does not move against Germany, the German Fleet won't leave their home waters.

    7. The German attacks would be coordinated with Austro-Hungarian attacks in the Carpathian Mountains regions. If these were not successful, as I suspect they would not be, or at least not clearly successful, the Germans could send troops, but again with limited objectives.

    8. So, Germany now has increased the lands in the East it can exploit/control - it fights off attacks by from France and Russia. France can't win - if the Germans are smart, they accede to some of the historic French demands, as a means of having a free hand in the east, although, I don't know if they are capable of acting this smart, given history.

    9. The Germans are now facing Russia, with its almost unlimited resources. Given the Russian leadership, it seems doubtful that they will drive the Germans out, especially as no doubt the excellent German logistics will be laying down rail nets as well as setting up supply ports on the Baltic.

    10. The US is not really involved in this. The public, except for Russian immigrant groups, doesn't really care. The war doesn't last long enough for the bankers to get involved with their nefarious goals, so Germany wins the war.

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    • #3
      I figured it would end up like that.
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      • #4
        this has been debated endlessly
        but,IMHO ,it would be a desastre for Germany :
        tthe only chance for Germany to win the war was to prevent a two front war by eliminating (in a short campaign) one of its two enemies.
        It was impossible to eliminate Russia in a quick campaign,thus Germany had to eliminate France in a quick campaign .

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ljadw View Post
          this has been debated endlessly
          but,IMHO ,it would be a desastre for Germany :
          tthe only chance for Germany to win the war was to prevent a two front war by eliminating (in a short campaign) one of its two enemies.
          It was impossible to eliminate Russia in a quick campaign,thus Germany had to eliminate France in a quick campaign .
          I disagree. If Germany remained on the defensive they could have easily held back France. Think about it, the 1914 Frano-German boarder is A LOT shorter than the distance between Switzerland and the Channel, I think it would require Germany like half to men to defend the boarder. Thus Germany could have employed many more men on the East Front. Those men could have backed up AH right away. I don't think Russia would have lasted long.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Destroyer25 View Post
            I don't think Russia would have lasted long.
            Most people don't. Then they invade. So now you have the Russians defending in The Baltics instead of making a haphazard attack into East Prussia without fully mobilized troops. The poor equipment will still plague Russia, and the Germans and Austrians will advance as far as they did in 1915 when the East was their main effort. Guess what, they aren't invading Russia proper, and Russia isn't surrendering.

            France was the way to go, but actuality and the plans were a bit different as history tells.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Stryker 19K30 View Post
              Most people don't. Then they invade. So now you have the Russians defending in The Baltics instead of making a haphazard attack into East Prussia without fully mobilized troops. The poor equipment will still plague Russia, and the Germans and Austrians will advance as far as they did in 1915 when the East was their main effort. Guess what, they aren't invading Russia proper, and Russia isn't surrendering.

              France was the way to go, but actuality and the plans were a bit different as history tells.
              They don't need to conquer Russia proper, then just have to bleed them enough so that the revolution happens, and with extra troops on the front that's going to happen much quicker. And once it does happen, they can set up Ukrainian and Baltic puppet states, Germany offers protection for resources. A fair trade. Then they can send men back to the west front, and what till France is done exhausting it's self. Then launch a counter offensive and cease Paris. Italy and Spain will probably take this opportunity to grab some land in southern France and North Africa.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by Destroyer25 View Post
                They don't need to conquer Russia proper, then just have to bleed them enough so that the revolution happens, and with extra troops on the front that's going to happen much quicker. And once it does happen, they can set up Ukrainian and Baltic puppet states, Germany offers protection for resources. A fair trade. Then they can send men back to the west front, and what till France is done exhausting it's self. Then launch a counter offensive and cease Paris. Italy and Spain will probably take this opportunity to grab some land in southern France and North Africa.
                You have just crossed over into fantasy. Do you understand the political and ethnic make up of Ukraine at this time? Once revolution hits the Russian Empire good luck with a German puppet state being set up with a government with real authority. Especially for 'resources.'

                Also, not throwing away so many lives in an unprepared assault would slow the seeds of revolution. Also, you are looking at the situation in hindsight. The German command can't count on a revolution. Their plan can't be "lets advance to Riga and take all of Russian Poland and wait for revolution."

                Like has been said this has been discussed to death. It is clear if they were going to win, France had to be knocked out quickly like in the Franco-Prussian War. Didn't happen and we have our history.
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                Это я - Почтальон Печкин!
                Tunis is a Carthigenian city!

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                • #9
                  All good points, Josh, and add to that the fact that mass desertions from the army started mainly for the reasons the soldiers didn't quite understand what they are fighting against. The defence of homeland is an entirely different matter.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                    this has been debated endlessly
                    but,IMHO ,it would be a desastre for Germany :
                    tthe only chance for Germany to win the war was to prevent a two front war by eliminating (in a short campaign) one of its two enemies.
                    It was impossible to eliminate Russia in a quick campaign,thus Germany had to eliminate France in a quick campaign .
                    Originally posted by Stryker 19K30 View Post
                    Most people don't. Then they invade. So now you have the Russians defending in The Baltics instead of making a haphazard attack into East Prussia without fully mobilized troops. The poor equipment will still plague Russia, and the Germans and Austrians will advance as far as they did in 1915 when the East was their main effort. Guess what, they aren't invading Russia proper, and Russia isn't surrendering.

                    France was the way to go, but actuality and the plans were a bit different as history tells.
                    I mostly agree with these points. Going west made more sense than going east. My disagreement is the idea that Germany should have gone west, either. As I've debated with Glenn239 previously, and may well do so again, Germany should have gone in neither direction and simply stayed out of the war - even at the expense of allowing Austria-Hungary to go under and standing alone.

                    In MajorSennef's thread, he asks the question did the German high command make any military (as opposed to political) mistakes? The answer is sure, but over a 4 year war, they didn't make many. Indeed, the war went about as well for Germany as could conceivably be expected, and maybe even better than that. That being the case, it is hard to see how Germany ever had any real chance of prevailing in a war against the Triple Entente. And if thats the case, and I believe it is, the answer for Germany in 1914 is not to go east. Its not to go west. Its to stay home and make itself so strong that no one would want to attack it unless provoked - and then stop provoking its neighbors.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                      I mostly agree with these points. Going west made more sense than going east. My disagreement is the idea that Germany should have gone west, either. As I've debated with Glenn239 previously, and may well do so again, Germany should have gone in neither direction and simply stayed out of the war - even at the expense of allowing Austria-Hungary to go under and standing alone.

                      In MajorSennef's thread, he asks the question did the German high command make any military (as opposed to political) mistakes? The answer is sure, but over a 4 year war, they didn't make many. Indeed, the war went about as well for Germany as could conceivably be expected, and maybe even better than that. That being the case, it is hard to see how Germany ever had any real chance of prevailing in a war against the Triple Entente. And if thats the case, and I believe it is, the answer for Germany in 1914 is not to go east. Its not to go west. Its to stay home and make itself so strong that no one would want to attack it unless provoked - and then stop provoking its neighbors.
                      By not invading France (and Belgium), Germany has a good chance of keeping Britain out of the war. Okay, they'd be a "hostile" neutral, but a neutral nonetheless. This means that Germany doesn't have to worry about the British blockade (which was incredibly effective and what drove the Germans to eventually surrender).

                      By not invading France, the Western Front stays quite short, assuming the French don't get a "free pass" through Belgium. IMHO, if the French had gone through Belgium, Britain would definitely have stayed out, even though technically they were obliged to protect Belgian neutrality.

                      Attacking Russia, in concert with A-H, is not so problematic. The Russian peasantry may have fought to defend the Motherland, but Russia was plagued by serious logistical problems. These are not going to get any better. The Germans can probably negotiate a peace wit the Russians in 1917 without bothering to release Lenin from Switzerland. The price would probably have been Poland.

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                      • #12
                        In 1891,Germany was faced by the danger of a two front war ,which they could not sustain,nor win .
                        They had to force a decision (and VERY QUICK )in the east,or in the west,or loose the strategic initiative .
                        To force a decision in the east was impossible,thus,they had to risk all or nothing in the west .
                        Already in september 1914,they had to transfer units to the east to prevent a catastrophe,and this was repeating in 1915,.....
                        All they were doing was to rob Peter,to pay Paul .
                        Of course,you can think that France would remain idle,giving the Germans the opportunity to finish the Russians,or that Russia would remain idle giving the Germans the chance to finish the French,but my POV is that this is an illusion .

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                        • #13
                          Germany should have just sat tightly and dominated europe economically, something it was perfectly capable of doing, and then dictated it's terms to the other countries or threaten them with economic embargo.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                            By not invading France (and Belgium), Germany has a good chance of keeping Britain out of the war. Okay, they'd be a "hostile" neutral, but a neutral nonetheless. This means that Germany doesn't have to worry about the British blockade (which was incredibly effective and what drove the Germans to eventually surrender).

                            By not invading France, the Western Front stays quite short, assuming the French don't get a "free pass" through Belgium. IMHO, if the French had gone through Belgium, Britain would definitely have stayed out, even though technically they were obliged to protect Belgian neutrality.

                            Attacking Russia, in concert with A-H, is not so problematic. The Russian peasantry may have fought to defend the Motherland, but Russia was plagued by serious logistical problems. These are not going to get any better. The Germans can probably negotiate a peace wit the Russians in 1917 without bothering to release Lenin from Switzerland. The price would probably have been Poland.
                            I agree, Germany won the battle of attrition against Russia. The Russian soldiers and people didn't tolerate such loss of life, and they had their revolution. Germany could get peace in 1917, and occupy some Russian territory, to boost her economy. Meanwhile, France is either doing nothing or throwing forces at Lorain in a futile attempt to take it. German can just take France once the French armies are exhausted.
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                            • #15
                              Well, before we talk about the invincibility of Russia, we should first note that there was indeed a flourishing Ukrainian Independence movement by WWI, made more powerful by Russification and general unrest with the land distribution. Had the Germans been smart, they would have offered the peasants control over their own land, which is the single policy that won the Civil War for Lenin.

                              Whether or not the Tannenberg happens (and it probably would as a change in mobilization would delay the Germans for several weeks, long enough for the cream of the Russian Army to storm into East Prussia), the fact is that the Russian Army has the same weaknesses as the Austrian one. That is, not enough machine guns, not nearly enough artillery, limited loyalty of large minority groups and most importantly, a very good and utterly irreplaceable Officer Corps. Historically the Russians lost theirs at Tannenberg and the Austrians lost theirs in Serbia. Both were crippled after that.

                              Remember too that Brest Litovsk was signed by Lenin ONLY because the Germans were days away from reaching St. Petersburg. Talk all you wish of Russian patriotism, this is a clear case the Motherland needing defending and the army disintegrated nonetheless. In fact it was when the Germans started to reach out of Belarusian the Russian Army heaved and died.

                              One should not underestimate the beneficial effects of going on the defensive in France. One, the Germans had excellent fortifications in the Asance. More importantly, strictly being on the defensive would not reduce the manpower needs by half, it would reduce it by at least two thirds. I say this because the most casualties taken on both sides in France was on the offensive. The trenches were very, VERY good at protecting troops, and besides, the French didn't have the heavy artillery in numbers needed to pound the trenches. Their 75 light field artillery was masterful for open battle, for trench warfare, totally ineffective.

                              And then we need to look at the all important blockade. Germany had to spend a lot of money to develop synthetic nitrates and build the facilities, they also had no way to import food. I could be wrong but Germany as this point was not a food importer in peace, but with all the farm hands gone, it makes for a desperate situation. UNLESS of course the US can sell food to them, which they will.

                              Going East exclusively is a good strategy only in that it's the only thing to do without attack Belgium. And if the Germans want to win, they need to either not provoke Britain, or win the Continental war before the blockade crushes them. This is without the hindsight of America coming in too.

                              Although I will say that while Germany could very well have won WWI (and too WWII), letting Austria die would have been better, because they could have Anschlussed the Austrian part, or most of it and re-oriented it's policies towards Russia. In the 19th century the Three Kings League was made to patch over the tensions between Russia and Austria over the Balkans and ultimately the Germans sided with Austria. But a well played rapprochement with Russia would have completely isolated France. The British would have to think very long and very hard about their commitment to the French. But this is a lot of speculation of happier days.
                              How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
                              275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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