"Russia First" German strategy in ww1?

This is based on my simple even if simplistic reasoning:

OTL Germany deployed 2 armies in the east and 7 armies on the west. What if that changed?

ATL Germany avoids any offensive war in the west and deploys 3-4 more armies against Russia

Does this change the course of the war? Can the additional German armies make a difference? Does Britain even enter the war without violation of Belgian neutrality?

I am not an expert on the matter - maybe the Germans can trounce Russia just badly enough that it gets tired of war faster and either sues for peace or collapses due to internal weaknesd?
 
Last edited:

Germaniac

Donor
The Germans deployed a single army on the eastern front, the 8th under von Pritwitz. It was only later the 9th army was created. I think the general consensus is that Russia cannot be defeated as quickly as France "could" be. Britain will find an excuse to join the war in my opinion, but again thats up for debate.

Here are some threads already dealing with this
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/ww1-aufmarsch-ii-ost-in-maps.502420/
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/what-if-germany-goes-east-first-on-wwi.479816/
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/germanys-1914-eastern-plan.385711/
 
Does Germany have the logistics to deploy 3 or 4 more armies in the east with a completely different rail system which they can't utilise without conversion and with the vast distances involved.
 
Does Germany have the logistics to deploy 3 or 4 more armies in the east with a completely different rail system which they can't utilise without conversion and with the vast distances involved.
That is the tricky part with an east front first advance. Its going to be slow to convert rails from the wider Russian gauge. Perhaps due to geography the Polish bulge could be taken, and the Vistula and the Niemen rivers could be utilized to help supply there, along with Baltic ports.

But yes defeating Russia would take years which is why they didn't want to do it first.
On the other hand an east first plan makes it a lot easier to reach a German favorable compromise peace, but the 1914 German military wasn't thinking in Bismarckian terms like that, was looking for a total victory.

(In hindsight if you knew the war would last over 4 years you would do east first, it would make sense then).
 
Last edited:
If I was considering a war where going east was an option I would

1. Train an additional 3 Railway Engineere battalions for the army
2. Buy and stockpile 500 additional locomotives and 3000 rails cars to support the army in the East (distance and lack of captured Belgian locomotives).
3. Buy and stockpile 2,000 miles of rails (in case of rails being ripped up by retreating forces).

I believe that i priced points 2 and 3 above at around 20 million sterling in 1910 money a few years back. (Used sterling as a base cost as I figure more people have a better sense of sterling than marks).

Edited to add
4. Fortify the hell out of the French border. You want your border to be a death zone for attacking British and French.
 
Last edited:
Could they bait the French enough to be insane enough to themselves violate Belgian neutral and really put the Brits in a bad spot? It’s way too crafty and long-game for Willie, but a French Rape of Belgium would be a HUGE propaganda victory.
 

Garrison

Donor
Also not sure about the wisdom of driving into Russia, it changes the dynamic of the Russian's war and of course what happens if the Germans are still fighting when winter comes?
 

Garrison

Donor
Could they bait the French enough to be insane enough to themselves violate Belgian neutral and really put the Brits in a bad spot? It’s way too crafty and long-game for Willie, but a French Rape of Belgium would be a HUGE propaganda victory.
Vastly unlikely. The French and the British are on friendly terms and honestly the French just aren't that reckless.
 
I think the general consensus is that Russia cannot be defeated as quickly as France "could" be. Britain will find an excuse to join the war in my opinion, but again thats up for debate.

That's pretty much my thoughts.

An offensive out of East Prussia with 3 or 4 armies would easily defeat the 2 Russian Armies within striking distance and capture the fortresses and anything else without about 100 miles of the border. However Germany couldn't engage and therefore hope to defeat any more than 40% of the Russian Armies extant in August 1914 nor reach St Petersburg and/or Moscow so no matter how well they do it wouldn't be enough to hope for a short war.

In contrast in the West 7 German Armies faced 5 French, the small BEF and small Belgian Armies with Antwerp and Paris within marching distance. This presented an opportunity where the comprehensive defeat of a field army or two could lead to the collapse of the entire front and capture of Paris as well as Antwerp. This is an opportunity too good to pass up.
 
Could they bait the French enough to be insane enough to themselves violate Belgian neutral and really put the Brits in a bad spot? It’s way too crafty and long-game for Willie, but a French Rape of Belgium would be a HUGE propaganda victory.
Iirc the French agreed not to enter Belgium unless Germany does it first.
 
If I was considering a war where going east was an option I would

1. Train an additional 3 Railway Engineere battalions for the army
2. Buy and stockpile 500 additional locomotives and 3000 rails cars to support the army in the East (distance and lack of captured Belgian locomotives).
3. Buy and stockpile 2,000 miles of rails (in case of rails being ripped up by retreating forces).

I believe that i priced points 2 and 3 above at around 20 million sterling in 1910 money a few years back. (Used sterling as a base cost as I figure more people have a better sense of sterling than marks).

Edited to add
4. Fortify the hell out of the French border. You want your border to be a death zone for attacking British and French.
Certainly if you didn't build a Battleship a year, that is a lot of money and steel for fortresses and spare rails. (Take some of the freed up crews and make another Marine division to make an early conquest of the Sworbe peninsula, and help the supply as you push toward St Petersburg. The German navy would be focused on assisting the German advance and delivering supplies forward, along with river flotillas to use rivers like the Divina.

Since the Germans know they might provoke a long war a strategic supply stockpile would make some sense as well (Copper, Nickel, Aluminum, Nitrates)
 
If Germany goes East first, how much does France gain when they inevitably go on the offensive in 1914/15?
The Germans OTL were able to raise a lot of reserve formations by October 1914, with the short front, fortresses and difficult terrain I just don't see the French breaking through later.
 
This is based on my simple even if simplistic reasoning:

OTL Germany deployed 2 armies in the east and 7 armies on the west. What if that changed?

ATL Germany avoids any offensive war in the west and deploys 3-4 more armies against Russia

Does this change the course of the war? Can the additional German armies make a difference? Does Britain even enter the war without violation of Belgian neutrality?

I am not an expert on the matter - maybe the Germans can trounce Russia just badly enough that it gets tired of war faster and either sues for peace or collapses due to internal weaknesd?

I'm a bit confused about the preset, are we talking about phoney war period here? OTL they deployed 2 armies to the east, at peace time with the east. They deploy 7 at the west, during war with the west. if they don't go on the offensive in the west they can divert some armies to the east but not leave only 2, since there is a war going on and they have to protect a lot of border(not just with France) so how would that help?

Are you suggesting they launch an attack on the USSR in 1940 instead of defeating the west first? Because there is a reason they didn't do that OTL. Like, 20 reasons actually.

Then there is the Italians.
 
That's pretty much my thoughts.

An offensive out of East Prussia with 3 or 4 armies would easily defeat the 2 Russian Armies within striking distance and capture the fortresses and anything else without about 100 miles of the border. However Germany couldn't engage and therefore hope to defeat any more than 40% of the Russian Armies extant in August 1914 nor reach St Petersburg and/or Moscow so no matter how well they do it wouldn't be enough to hope for a short war.

In contrast in the West 7 German Armies faced 5 French, the small BEF and small Belgian Armies with Antwerp and Paris within marching distance. This presented an opportunity where the comprehensive defeat of a field army or two could lead to the collapse of the entire front and capture of Paris as well as Antwerp. This is an opportunity too good to pass up.
OTL if the Germans were convinced of a long war, they could gone west first still, and have just stopped and held the line Abbeville to Amiens to Verdun and secured most of the mines and much French industry. Amiens was lightly held by the Germans in September 1914. Instead of swinging south to the Marne secure the channel there on a (relatively to OTL) short front then transfer forces to go east .
 

NoMommsen

Donor
Does Germany have the logistics to deploy 3 or 4 more armies in the east with a completely different rail system which they can't utilise without conversion and with the vast distances involved.
,,, strangely though ... they did IOTL :
from July to November 1915 the german​
8th Army​
9th Army​
12th Army​
11th Army​
Armygroup Woyrsch​
advanced something between 300 to 400 kilometers from west of the Vistula up to​
10th Army​
somewhat less "only" about 200 kilometers from East Prussia up to Lake Narocz​

exactly that ... conversation the german railway engeneering units were quite capable . ... though I admitt there could well have been more of them.
 
,,, strangely though ... they did IOTL :
from July to November 1915 the german​
8th Army​
9th Army​
12th Army​
11th Army​
Armygroup Woyrsch​
advanced something between 300 to 400 kilometers from west of the Vistula up to​
10th Army​
somewhat less "only" about 200 kilometers from East Prussia up to Lake Narocz​

exactly that ... conversation the german railway engeneering units were quite capable . ... though I admitt there could well have been more of them.
Ok in 1914.

As the war started additional railway engineering units were added. The entire production of new rails and rail cars and locomotives since the start of the war were dedicated to army use. Also of course 400km is small potatoes on the Eastern front in terms of winning a war.
 
I'm a bit confused about the preset, are we talking about phoney war period here? OTL they deployed 2 armies to the east, at peace time with the east. They deploy 7 at the west, during war with the west. if they don't go on the offensive in the west they can divert some armies to the east but not leave only 2, since there is a war going on and they have to protect a lot of border(not just with France) so how would that help?

Are you suggesting they launch an attack on the USSR in 1940 instead of defeating the west first? Because there is a reason they didn't do that OTL. Like, 20 reasons actually.

Then there is the Italians.
This thread is about ww1 not ww2
 
OTL if the Germans were convinced of a long war, they could gone west first still, and have just stopped and held the line Abbeville to Amiens to Verdun and secured most of the mines and much French industry. Amiens was lightly held by the Germans in September 1914. Instead of swinging south to the Marne secure the channel there on a (relatively to OTL) short front then transfer forces to go east .

I think there's a bit of misunderstanding about short war, the whole 'defeat France in 6 weeks' thing. In the 1912-13 Russian Plan 19G and the 1914 hybrid Plan 19/20 2 armies were available to deploy against East Prussia in 2 week but the 3rd and 4th armies were not available until 6 weeks after mobilisation. Therefore the plan was to do enough damage to the French within 6 weeks that the Germans would be able to deploy 2 or 3 armies from west to east to counter the late-arriving Russian armies with the remaining 4 armies finishing off the French.

In 1914 there was no 'war planning' per se, where military capabilities and potential campaigns were matched to political goals. General Staffs created campaign plans and looked downwards at what tactics to use rather than upwards to see if the campaigns were meeting political/diplomatic goals. That's why plans were made to defeat armies rather than capture strategic points like ports and rail hubs.
 
Top