Austrian collapse in 1916, armistice and in what terms?

I've been mulling a timeline for an Italian breakthrough at the sixth battle of Izonzo (according to MacMillan at least, if Cadorna et al had pressed they might have reached as far as Ljubjana, rather than stopping at Gorizia) and the broader impact of the war given a plausible Austrian implosion in the end of that year.

The situation is rather complicated- Turkey still holds most of her territory, Bulgaria and Germany are still strong and in the field, and Russia is already teetering on the brink of revolution, while the US is solidly neutral and Romania about to be steamrolled. Put simply what's to stop the Italians from taking their gains and walking away if the Entente dont make a damned good counter offer? AFAIK they didnt partake in the pledge not to make a separate peace. And I'm skeptical that the Entente would be willing to offer any gains juicy enough to keep Italy in the war if their determined to leave, given that they resisted giving the scraps promised OTL. If Germany sued for an armistice (as they might if Austria is seemingly about to collapse) they are unlikely to give up territory first, notwithstanding the Entente demands for suxh german morale and material are still mostly intact, and (from their perspective) the occupied territories are the only thing stopping a vengeful Franco Russian alliance from carving up Germany proper.

So-
The Entente can try to demand Turkish territory, and offer this to keep russia in the war, but they dont have any ability to make that happen. Both Britain and Italy may well be having second thoughts about the war, given the probable demands made by Russia in the Balkans and Levant, to say nothing of floated partitions of Germany (and for that matter Austria-thr Italians were naively hoping to keep a eump Austrian empie intact to limit Sebian and Russian pan slavic ambitions, and Emperor Karl was relatively pro wntente/pro italy due to his wife and liberal sensibilities) erself who both nations would probably want to keep reasonably intact. The trick is if an armistice happens... that's probably it, and the battle lines stay where they are while the horse trading begins. What is the most probable outcome here assuming a negotiated settlement? Italian separate peace and eventual turncloaking when Russia collapses the following year? Russia and Germany throwing their respective allies under the bus to save their own empires? Status Quo ante for the Turks, and anschluss in return for Alsace Lorraine and the German colonies? Or maybe germany surrenders alsace in return for say Morocco or the Congo or something (not likely since Britain holds most of the cards here).
 
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To say something straight up - Austria collapsing before Russia is only good for the Entente. It's not going to lead to a war ending where Germany gets anything.

If Austria collapses in August 1916, Russia is a lot more likely to stay in the war - in St Petersburg and Moscow, it will be seen that the Brusilov Offensive was what knocked out the Austrians, not the Italians on the Isonzo.

In this scenario, Italy will indeed get - and keep - Dalmatia and so on. How does Hungary and Serbia react ? Hungrily, to use an obvious pun.

I think the Italians will send *some* divisions into France in this scenario, but not more than five or so - the view will be they've done their bit, as well as got what they came for (humiliate Austria, bring glory, grab territory).

Romania isnt going to be steamrolled with Austria gone. For a start, the direct link between Berlin and Constantinople is now cut.

The Turks still won at Gallipoli, but are losing in the rest of their Empire, and none of this changes that. There won't be a faster sea route to Russia.

Obviously, Germany is going to need to take troops from the West to replace the Austrians against Russia, and they don't have a lot in reserve in 1916 (or, indeed, ever). On the other hand, it's going to free Russian divisions from the Carpathian front to face Germany (or, if they are really dumb - and thats 50/50 - to face Turkey in Armenia).

Falkenhayn still resigns, and is replaced by Ludendorff and Hindenburg. They then have a terrible decision - they don't have the troops to go on the offensive in the West, and in the East their ally has just collapsed. They need to find divisions to go East, and can expect some Italians to go into France.

I think they build the Hindenburg Line, retreat to it, hope to wear out the Entente armies and then a desperation win-the-war Operation Michael type offensive happens in 1917.
 
I'm not certain that the war would continue beyond 1916 in the event of a complete Austrian collapse- Tuekey still holds Mesopotamia and Palestine at this point (Jerusalem fell in 1917). This would be an armistice in late august early September 1916, when Turkey still holds the prisoners at Kut and all of her core territory.

German divisions are likely to fall back to a Hindenberg line, I agree. They are probably going to double down on the east first approach, IRC Falkehayn favores the west, but Austrias collapse will force them to go east regardless. I suspect Russia would still see revolution if the war dragged into the next year.

I think that Italy would be very reluctant to send divisions to the meat grinder in France without guarantees of territorial gains beyond the Treaty of London- specifically I think they would demand more colonies, either from Germany or in the Levant. Perhaps Cilicia, or maybe Lebanon (if France is really desperate). Palestine is unlikely given the British attitude. More likely is that Italy decides to make a play for her allotted territories in Asia Minor.

Russia apparently had aims on East Orussia, while France had an interest in detaching the Rhine and/or Bavaria. Neither will be on the cards IMHO.

The ironic thing is that both Italy and Russia wanted to preserve a rump Austrian monarchy, precisely to avoid the proliferation of self determination that OTL saw, including the risk of Austrian union with germany. This is why Italy left Rijeka out of the treaty of London for instance.

Basically I'm imagining an alternate Versailles with many more moving parts and the Germans in a somewhat stronger bargaining position, ending in a decidedly less wilsonian peace- meaning either a harsher treaty or a less punitive one. The former does not strike me as plausible given the inability and lack of will to dismember germany among the victorious Entente, so a negotiated settlement is the probable outcome, one in which the germans may have a bit more room to maneuver (mainly by throwing their allies nder the bus.)
 
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If Austria collapses its game over for Germany as well. Even if they can reach an agreement with Italy that keeps Italian troops from attacking Germany through Austria without the millions of men Austria put on the field against Russia there is no way Germany can hold both fronts.
 
Basically I'm imagining an alternate Versailles with many more moving parts and the Germans in a somewhat stronger bargaining position, ending in a decidedly less wilsonian peace- meaning either a harsher treaty or a less punitive one. The former does not strike me as plausible given the inability and lack of will to dismember germany among the victorious Entente, so a negotiated settlement is the probable outcome, one in which the germans may have a bit more room to maneuver (mainly by throwing their allies nder the bus.)
Yeah you are, and an Austrian collapse in 1916 isn't the way to get it.

Austria collapsing will be taken - correctly - as the signal in Paris, Rome, London and St Petersburg that the Allies are winning.

If the will was there in Germany to admit defeat in 1917, then you might get a negotiated solution ... if the Germans are willing to accept reparations, territorial losses, limits on their fleet and limits on their army. Which, until the defeat of the German army in the field in 1918, they weren't. And in the scenario you've painted, the German Army hasn't been defeated in the field, only the corpse they were shackled to.

If Turkey leaves the war as well, then it's even worse for the Germans.

I don't think they have the divisions to think they can hold the Hindenburg Line if they go on the offensive in the East.

They've also got to make the decision about unrestricted submarine warfare - abandon it, and you abandon a way to knock Britain out of the war.

If you want an alternative Versailles with more moving parts, I'd keep Italy neutral, and have the troops that went to the Italian front defeat Russia faster - say, a failed Brusilov offensive leading to Russian armies being encircled.
 
If Austria collapses its game over for Germany as well. Even if they can reach an agreement with Italy that keeps Italian troops from attacking Germany through Austria without the millions of men Austria put on the field against Russia there is no way Germany can hold both fronts.
There is essentially a single pass to defend, so the situation is not that desperate. And there is a difference for suing for peace with Italy only, and becoming a battlefield for rest of the war.
 

Stenz

Monthly Donor
Are we certain an Italian advance to Ljubljana will result in Austria dropping out of the War? Can the Italian exploit the breakthrough with any success, or will they be cut off and starved out by an Austrian counter-attack? What's to stop the Germans utilising this "early opportunity" to completely take over the Austrian War effort and remove certain figures from command in Austria?
 
If Germany pulls back in the west, they lose Ostend, and thus, U-boats have a reduced patrol range. And it's not just a few miles either. Basing out of Wilhemshaven instead of Ostend adds something like 300 miles each way to their travel distance, thus reducing patrol radius by 600 miles.
 
There is essentially a single pass to defend, so the situation is not that desperate. And there is a difference for suing for peace with Italy only, and becoming a battlefield for rest of the war.
If we are speaking of a total austrian collapse as in they stopped fighting than not only means a new front for Germany in the south - however short that will be - but the complete disappearence of half the CP fighting forces from the east and the austrian part of the front. Like I said even if they can manage the situation with Italy without Austria the east is open and Russia in a very massive numerical adventage - and now moral adventage as well. Germany - even if in some quasi miracolous way manages to stop them and stabilize some frontline is utterly without hope of winning this. Whats the point to continue if you cant win?
 
One must also consider the fact that in OTL Italy declared war to Germany the 28 August...1916, basically at the time of the end of the sixth Isonzo offensive there were no state of war between the two nation.

Are we certain an Italian advance to Ljubljana will result in Austria dropping out of the War? Can the Italian exploit the breakthrough with any success, or will they be cut off and starved out by an Austrian counter-attack? What's to stop the Germans utilising this "early opportunity" to completely take over the Austrian War effort and remove certain figures from command in Austria?
Just Italy effort no, but during this time the Brusilov offensive was still going on and a collapse of the italian front big enough that Ljubjana is lost mean that a lot of A-H forces in the east will need to be relocated, making russian job much more easier and Romania will also enter the war with A-H losing in this manner making Wien position much worse and i, not considering the material lost and the prisoners lost due to the more succesfull italian offensive.

The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria are in deep troubles as the logistic line with Germany is now cut and frankly the imminent collapse of A-H will probably made the Greeks things to join the fray; in any case with the much more greater probability that Russia will continue the war they are for a much more problematic and frankly the Monastir Offensive of Novemember 1916 will be much more succesfull in this scenario as the probability of an earlier serbian uprising making the bulgarian position much more weaker.

Italy will proabably remain in the war and send some division in Germany, balkan and Sinai...not as many as the Entente want and in the range of what as been sent in OTL (probably a little more) later in the war; after all there is still the question of loan, coal and food delivery and frankly after A-H demise and the similar fate that the OE will face, people in Rome will want to remain on speaking term with the remaining great power of the continent in the postwar.
Still, people (both military and civilian) are not very happy with the situation so the massive scale down of the military effort will ease a lot of social tension and
 

Stenz

Monthly Donor
Just Italy effort no, but during this time the Brusilov offensive was still going on and a collapse of the italian front big enough that Ljubjana is lost mean that a lot of A-H forces in the east will need to be relocated,
The Brusilov offensive ran out of steam on its own, it wasn’t stopped by Austrian commitment to defeating it. Brusilov got as far as he could before traditional Russian inertia slowed it back to a crawl. Evert and the others prevented it from being a war-winning offensive.

The Brusilov offensive commanded by Brusilov himself went very well, but the overall campaign, for which Brusilov's part was only supposed to be a distraction, because of Evert's failures, became tremendously costly for the Imperial army, and after the offensive, it was no longer able to launch another on the same scale. Many historians contend that the casualties that the Russian army suffered in this campaign contributed significantly to its collapse the following year.

The Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria are in deep troubles as the logistic line with Germany is now cut
Only if A-H actually drops out.

and frankly the imminent collapse of A-H will probably made the Greeks things to join the fray;
How does Austria possibly dropping out of the War resolve the Greek internal situation that had kept them out of the War so far? The National Schism prevented Greece from doing anything until 1917 and Italian ‘victory’ won’t make Constantine a supporter of the Allies overnight.

in any case with the much more greater probability that Russia will continue the war they are for a much more problematic and frankly the Monastir Offensive of Novemember 1916 will be much more succesfull in this scenario as the probability of an earlier serbian uprising making the bulgarian position much more weaker.
Slightly optimistic, no? Russia was spent after Brusilov nothing here changes that.

Italy will proabably remain in the war and send some division in Germany, balkan and Sinai...not as many as the Entente want and in the range of what as been sent in OTL (probably a little more) later in the war;
I doubt it. Italy could barely manage what it did OTL, let alone put two or more Expeditionary Forces in the field. Sinai? What does that have to do with anything? If the Italians are going anywhere (and they’re not) it’ll be to Dalmatia or Albania - somewhere their public will support.

after all there is still the question of loan, coal and food delivery and frankly after A-H demise and the similar fate that the OE will face, people in Rome will want to remain on speaking term with the remaining great power of the continent in the postwar.
Still, people (both military and civilian) are not very happy with the situation so the massive scale down of the military effort will ease a lot of social tension and
Exactly this. If Italy ‘defeats’ Austria, that’s it. Italy has “won the War” and will be preoccupied with getting troops into the parts of the Austrian Littoral and Dalmatian coast that they want. Not galavanting across Europe on some “Frenchman’s Crusade”.
 
Would austria completely collapse is perhaps the key question. Italian success in Carinthia doesn't necessarily entail a Russian breakthrough in Galicia.
If Austria can avoid complete collapse lkg enough to be reinforced (and the Germans were already transferring troops west to deal with Galicia and Romania) then that cokld.lead to a stalemate, and then a separate peace with Italy. As Luke Falton, Italy technically wasn't even at war with Germany at this point. If Austria is desperate enough to give them everything promised under the Treaty of London I can absolutely buy Rome taking the deal and walking out on the Entente, but only if the Entente don't seem to be on the verge of outright victory any longer. A stall on the Brusilov offensive would potentially do just that.
If italy leaves I think that they would stay out entirely in 1917 until/unless Paris fell. The most probable result seems some sort of negotiated settlement, unless the US joins.
 
I doubt it. Italy could barely manage what it did OTL, let alone put two or more Expeditionary Forces in the field. Sinai? What does that have to do with anything? If the Italians are going anywhere (and they’re not) it’ll be to Dalmatia or Albania - somewhere their public will support.
It send what she sent because Cadorna concentrated everything that we have in fighting the austrians, without the necessity there is a lot of free troops and it was clear that if we want have some influence about the future of that territory (Balkan and ME) plus have some say in colonial matters and redistribution, a military contribution was necessary.


plus:

the first were sent in OTL during the first months of 1918 while the italian army was still under rebuild and the front was still in danger as the last Austrian offensive demonstrated, so with a much much better situation i doubt that there will be many problems to send troops in other place.


Slightly optimistic, no? Russia was spent after Brusilov nothing here changes that.
A lot less than hoping that A-H whose leadership already is searching way to get out of this mess can easily survive his own Caporetto while at the same time fighting on 3 front. Sure OTL the Brusilov offensive was spent but with the Isonzo front collapsing and in immediate necessity to reinforcement troops will need to be diverted there and this can create an open, especially as Romania will enter the war as OTL...this also create a big morale drop for A-H (both leadership and population) and a much needed shoot in the arm for the Russian that can see the light at the end of the tunnel
And no, the Hasburg leadership will never give Italy what she demand, she refused to give her much much less to keep her neutral, she refused to give her something to sign a separate peace when everyone already realized that even in case of victory the empire was doomed, so in that case IMVHO at most and after great deliberation they will offer more or less (probably less) what negotiated for neutrality (and even that is a strech) but Orlando and the rest of the italian goverment will refuse, things are gone too far and too much blood and treasure has been spent for accept that pittance
 
I've always thought that no negotiated settlement was possible in WW1 post-1915 (probably post-1914). Put simply, everyone involved has lost too much for anything short of victory to be acceptable. If the Russian, Austrian or German governments (and probably the French and Italian ones too) agree peace without victory (effectively admitting that hundreds of thousands of their soldiers have died for nothing) what they will get is immediate revolution - and the governments know this. So they will fight on until it's clear that further fighting will gain them nothing.

So, in this case - sure, the Italians would love to make a separate peace that gives them everything they wanted, but there's no way the Austrians government could sign away the South Tyrol (German-speaking territory in Austria proper) and hope to survive. Even giving up Trieste and Dalmatia is pushing it (giving up Hungarian territory in Croatia and expecting the Hungarians to keep fighting for Austrian Galicia is likely to be a big no-no). And Italy, on the back of a major victory, isn't going to settle for half the territory they entered the war for, when they can see a shot at all of it.

So if the Austrians can cobble together a new defence line in Carinthia and keep fighting, they will, as the Russians did after Gorlice-Tarnow. This probably means a major diversion of German troops to the south, but otherwise the war goes on.

If the Austrians can't form a new defence line, it's because their army has disintegrated completely. Austria-Hungary is done, the Italians spread out through Carinthia/Istria/Dalmatia grabbing everything grabbable before the Serbs get it, the Galician front shuts down as the Austrian army disappears.
Russia gets a breather, Romania no longer has a German threat and will happily turn to grabbing Transylvania, the Bulgarians go "eep"
and try to cut a deal before the Romanians turn on them (Greece would probably be happy to join a dogpile on Bulgaria).

And Germany? If they're prepared to make big enough concessions (Alsace-Lorraine, colonies, a limitation on their fleet) they might buy their way out of this without any territorial losses in the East (Russia has a victory and they need peace more than they need more Poles) and maybe even make gains in Austria and the Sudetenland. But could the Kaiser and the Grand General Staff survive a "surrender" of the magnitude? Unlikely. So what's more likely is an early Operation Michael - all-out U-boat warfare and a final push to win in the West, before the Russians can re-organise. This is likely not to work, and we get Versailles in 1918, with the variation that Italy gets what was promised at London (and hence may avoid Mussolini), the Serbs/Yugoslavs get screwed (as they see it) and have a permanent grudge on Italy and the Ottoman Empire survives mostly intact because no-one cares enough about Cicilia or Syria to want to continue the war.
 
I'm not convinced that the Hungarians wouldn't be terrified of seeing their state dismembered alongside Austria. Admittedly the Hungarian leaders of the time were remarkably short sighted....

Something to consider is that Caporetto had two factors no longer in play- German reinforcements and the beachhead across the Izonzo. Even if Austria doesn't use for peace the Italian front probably remains quiet until and unless Italy commits to a further offensive towards Vienna- and there just won't be the political will to do that IMHO. The fact that Italy (alone of all the belligerents) had essentially gained her objectives, and hasn't technically declared war on Germany, means they have a hell of a lot of leverage, and wholw the regime is unlikely to play its cards well the Entente are going to have to make one hell of an offer to get Italian bodies on the western front. But what can or will they offer, that doesn't contradict their own ambitions and cost them colonies? Just about the only prize that seems enticing enough would be something like part of the Dutch Indies (a partition with Britain a la the Portuguese colonies) or a big slice of Syria, or perhaps tunisia.

An austrian collapse in 1916 could look a bit like the Italian civil War in 1943- Austria trying to bolt and getting split in two, Austria proper annexed and a rump Hungarian state propped up by the german army.
 
Russia’s victory in WWI was built around getting land from both Germany and A-H to ethnically cleanse and then settle, to ameliorate “land hunger” among the peasantry. If any Russian faction is in the war that opposes full-on radical domestic land redistribution, they’re gonna need something to appease their domestic situation or risk revolution (And a military coup, most likely) . That means at minimum IMO East Prussia and Galicia.
 
It would be interesting if Italy got a separate peace in August. They would be free to carve up the Ottoman Empire, or attack Germany in exchange for more rewards from the Entente, or even to betray the the Entente in 1917 or 1918 (provided Austria is able to rebuild for 1917 after losing to Italy).
 
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