Stop the Trains: War in the West averted in 1914

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by ScottColo, Sep 14, 2010.

  1. ScottColo Well-Known Member

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    This is an idea I've had kicking around since I studied World War I in high school, and the irrational paranoia with which everyone proceeded at the beginning. I've had the rather heretical hypothesis (but not unfamiliar on here I'm sure) that a German victory in WWI would have been a more positive outcome, as it would have avoided the Weimar period, the rise of the Nazis, and WWII. Germany winning WWII is certainly the most common theme in alternate history, but I haven't heard of much exploring WWI. The other question that stands out is why the conflict between the Central Powers and Russia escalated into a continent-wide war. It seemed to me that France, and by extension Britain, were in no mood to get into a war, and it could easily have been limited to the east.

    The key moment is the confrontation between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Helmuth von Moltke the younger on the night of August 1, 1914. Having received some diplomatic dispatches indicating Britain and France were prepared to stay neutral in the already declared Russo-German war, the Kaiser declares "We march then, ...only to the east." Moltke replied, "It cannot be done." The troop trains were already on their way towards Belgium, and the precise coordination of the railway schedules made it impossible to stop them. Wilhelm famously snapped at Moltke, "Your uncle would have given me a different answer."

    The POD: Seeing Moltke stunned and wounded by this reproach, the Kaiser demands to be put in touch with the head of the railway division, General von Staab, to hear from him whether the westward bound trains can be stopped. Von Staab (known for writing a book refuting Moltke's position), informs the Kaiser that they can. Greatly relieved, Wilhelm orders an immediate change in course, and the trains grind to a halt before any German troops have crossed into Belgium. Following von Staab's design, three armies are left near the French border to guard against any attack, and four are redeployed to the east, arriving by August 15.

    Having avoided a two-front war, Germany repulses the initial Russian attack on East Prussia and advances quickly into Russian territory. By the end of 1914, at the latest, Russia is defeated. A treaty is signed similar to Brest-Litovsk, and Germany sets about establishing its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe much as it did in OTL 1917-18.

    Europe in 1915 looks like this:

    stoptrainsmap.png

    Germany annexes the Polish Border Strip, with the remainder of Congress Poland becoming a client kingdom under Archduke Karl Stephan. The rest of the territory taken from Russia is formed into five client states:

    the Kingdom of Lithuania (Wilhelm of Urach)
    the United Baltic Duchy (Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg)
    the Kingdom of Finland (Frederick Karl of Hesse)
    the Ukrainian State
    the Belarusian Republic

    German troops remain stationed in all except Finland, while Austria-Hungary occupies Bessarabia and Serbia.

    Part 2 to follow soon.

    stoptrainsmap.png
     
  2. anon_user anonymous member

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    France had to go to war - otherwise it's lost its big counterweight against Germany. Maybe Britain stays out if Germany doesn't invade Belgium, but I imagine an excuse could be found at some point.
     
  3. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    Oh lookie, yet another CP-wank/Russia-screw with 1960 Ukrainian borders AND a Belarus.

    Congratulations.

    And what happened to Petsamo anyway?
     
  4. mowque Banned

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    Well, surely Russia would give up in a year against the awesome might of the German military war machine!
     
  5. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    It's probably because the wind was blowing east and thus they ran out of human waves.
     
  6. Typo Banned

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    No, the thing is France's offer to remain neutral depended on Germany accepting a bunch of demands they never would accept IIRC. France is committing strategical suicide if they abandon Russia at that hour. In other words, it's pretty ASBish.
     
  7. RGB Unqueering the Academia

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    And the fighting starts in AUGUST....and after fighting through the autumn...the Russians surrender. Before January rolls around, too.
     
  8. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

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    Yes, that is true.;)

    But Mowque(that sound like Mosque in some way...) have some of Right... Russia will take atl least three year to Collapse(both External and Internal) thanks to the war(maybe Early if the Ottomans joins thanks to Russian Antagonitzation or Desire of Revenge) and after that.... the postbellum scenario will be interesting.

    And Anon is Right true.. is almost Impossible avoid war with France(that was the French political desire since 1872) but easily without Britain... because being a British politician, try to sell a war who become a massacre in the Trenches to the people who is more worried with a possible Civil War in Ireland via the Home Rule and doesn' want to lose their son/husbands/boyfriend and family in a continental war(the british will make demand like avoid warfare in the English Channel) but without the Invasion of Belgium... are very grundly Neutral.. anti-german but neutral
     
  9. ScottColo Well-Known Member

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    There don't seem to be many good maps available showing Ukraine and Belarus in the OTL post-Brest-Litovsk period, but from what I could tell the occupation line ran pretty close to the Ukrainian borders of today. A Belarusian government was certainly set up at the same time, though I'm not sure how closely the Germans were involved with it, or why/if they were content with it being a republic.

    France certainly had plenty of revanchist sentiment dating from the defeat of 1870, but its leaders seemed to realize that they were overmatched and wanted to avoid fighting if possible. They pulled their troops back several miles from the Alsace-Lorraine border on July 30 so they wouldn't bee seen as provoking Germany.
     
  10. anon_user anonymous member

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    France mobilized August 1, 1914 in OTL - they had no reason not to do so, and in fact ordered the mobilization July 30. As for Britain, it already was seizing Agincourt and Erin even before it declared war; further, I don't see the British willing to give up the alliance with France.
     
  11. Ariosto Populist Republican

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    Well, the Western Front would then be limited to just the border between France and Germany, with little to no movement for two to three years. The Germans will have the advantage since they are not going to try any major offensive operations if they are concentrating upon winning the war in the East, so it is the French who will be bloodied, and without the support of the British Empire. When it comes time for the Germans with Austrian aid to actually punch through the French lines, morale might have rotted through to the point where peace is accepted with small German gains in Africa (rather land, actually, but the land would be useless. Paint on a map.)

    Now, I am going to post here a map of the German demands in 1915, just to show you what exactly they desired at the time. Since the war likely would have gone into 1916 or 1917 in the East, with the costs rising in terms of lives, I would add the All the territory in a line along the boundary of the Baltic States to Austria-Hungary. Any other territorial expansion would only come at the expense of a Russian Civil War, which may or may not still happen. Only in that case can you in this scenario justify the seizure of the Ukraine and White Russia. White Russia would not be its own state, however, likely being incorporated into Lithuania.


    [​IMG]
     
  12. anon_user anonymous member

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    I still don't see the British not going to war - especially if the French and Russians look like they might lose. Britain cannot allow Germany to dominate Europe. If Germany tries to attack French commercial shipping, Britain will probably find an excuse to go to war (if it hasn't done so already).

    That's my opinion, anyhow.
     
  13. rast Well-Known Member

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    The Germans not immediately trampling through Belgium will give the British war party a hart time to incite their nation to war. But I guess, some naval incident could easily be fabricated.
     
  14. I Blame Communism Banned

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    The scenario is an old one, missing the following key facts:

    1) Kaiser Wilhelm was driven by his own often irrational prejudices including Anglophilia and was thoroughly and increasingly marginalised. He can't magic away the German war-plan.

    2) If Germany attacks Russia, France is bound to assist both by a treaty of alliance and by strategic logic - quite apart from the issue of Germany attacking her. The mood in France, of course, was quite ready for war, being in fact disastrously overconfident in the capacity of the French army to wage an offensive war.

    3) If France, Belgium; if Belgium, Britain. That's simple enough, even without the fleet agreements, which made it pretty certain that, France's existence as a great power being threatened, Britain would come in sooner or later.

    So for these reasons, one can't simply freeze the war in the west. In the east...

    1) The Russians weren't just going to keel over and die. They spent 1914 on CP territory and their army isn't going to evaporate.

    2) When circumstances do begin to swing against Russia, the regime, not actually being committed to a policy of national suicide, would, you know, make peace, resulting in at most what we see in Ariosto's map.

    3) And of course, bleedin' Ukraine again. Time to write an essay, so I can quote myself later. :D

    The Germans never showed any attention of marching into the Ukraine and establishing a state. Prior to the Bolshevik revolution, of course, German-occupied Ukraine consisted of one little sliver of Volhynia (Russian-occupied Ukrainian Galicia reached as far as "all of it" and still included the city of Tarnopol up until Kerensky's offensive) so the whole thing was a non-issue. Bethmann-Hollweg wanted a white peace with Russia in 1916 - and Ludendorff was unwilling to give up Poland, not Ukraine, a country they didn't actually possess. If the war ends without a total meltdown of the Russian army, the Germans won't even see Kiev.

    What happened in 1918 was that the Germans found that there was basically no effective military resistance in front of them, so they advanced, occupied the territory, and set up a government that was to their liking - one consisting of landowning tsarists in ill-fitting blue-and-yellow clothes.

    That the war years - that hundreds of Ukrainian schoolmasters and seminarists had gone to the front as subalterns and spent time in Galicia as occupiers or prisoners, that thousands of conscripted Ukrainian peasants had carried home their weapons and a bitter resentment of "officers" of any description, that the landlords preferred the erstwhile national foe to Trotsky - might have contributed to a unique situation in 1918 Ukraine never seems to cross anyone's mind.
     
  15. DuQuense Commisioned Officer CSN

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    There have been numerous War games that replay the start of WW1.
    Despite the players knowing how it ends, when the Personalities of the Players/Positions are matched with the Politicians/Positions of OTL, War Happens.
    When the Positions/Personalities are mixed up Diplomacy wins, and War seldom Happens.
     
  16. ScottColo Well-Known Member

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    Part 2

    Germany seems to have successfully established its domination of Central and Eastern Europe, with German and Austrian nobles installed on the thrones of the new client states and German troops guaranteeing access to their resources. Russia is considered vanquished and not likely to be a threat again anytime soon. In short order, however, the local populations of the occupied countries begin to resent the German military occupation and economic subservience they are kept under. The flow of German settlers into the annexed Polish Border Strip, while ethnic Poles are pressured to leave, fuels particular opposition, and fear that this policy could be extended to all of Poland or beyond.

    Austria-Hungary occupies Serbia, but cannot reach a decision on whether to annex it permanently, in whole or in part. Many in the government are reluctant to bring a large new population of Slavs into the empire. There is even greater ambivalence toward the occupation of Bessarabia, with most quietly expecting it will be handed over to Romania at some point.

    After hesitation lasts into 1918, events catch up. Protests and strikes against Germany and Austria break out in various places from the Baltics to Ukraine, but are particularly concentrated in Serbia and Poland. It is soon followed by armed guerilla resistance, with underground nationalist forces staging attacks against railways, coal mines, and the occupying soldiers. Britain and France, thankful at having escaped Russia's fate in 1914, but remaining fearful and eager to weaken Germany, begin providing covert support to the resistance. While the Germans are initially able to suppress the protests and reinforce their military presence in the countries they occupy, the Austrians can scarcely cope. While they focus on attempting to put down the Serbian opposition, they are caught off guard by an uprising in Bessarabia which declares union with Romania. While both Vienna and Berlin are concerned by the dangerous precedent, they ultimately accept the outcome, having seen little else to do with Bessarabia anyway.

    Their fears prove well founded, as the resistance movements sense Austrian weakness and begin to get bolder. Serbian guerilla attacks spread into Bosnia, and popular protests arise among the Polish and Ukrainian populations of Galicia. As rebel organization and propaganda penetrate into Austrian territory, other ethnic nationalist movements in the empire gain steam as well.

    The brief boost provided by victory in the war is ultimately not enough to save Austria-Hungary from the long downward slide it had already been on. Germany, its own army becoming overstretched by an increasingly expensive occupation and local resistance, can offer little assistance. In 1920, the empire begins to unravel. Uprisings in Bohemia and the Slovak-speaking regions of Hungary lead to the declaration of an independent Czechoslovakia. The ethnic Germans of the Sudetenland rally against the move, and with the help of the few troops Germany can spare, Austria manages to hang on against tough Czech resistance. Serbian rebels, now joined by the Croats and Slovenes, sweep through Bosnia and move further up the Adriatic coast. The Austrians only manage to stop their advance at Fiume and southern Carniola maintaining control of the Istrian peninsula. Polish rebels seize control of Krakow. Finally, the nationalist fever spreads to Hungary. Many Hungarian soldiers had already refused to take part in actions against the other rebels, and popular protests now demand independence or a loosening of the Ausgleich of 1867. The hapless Emperor Karl eventually agrees to a settlement granting Hungary full independence in both internal and foreign affairs, while it remains a kingdom in personal union with Austria with some residual cooperation in customs and trade.

    The situation in 1922:
    stoptrainsmap2.png

    As the whole scene unfolds, Kaiser Wilhelm becomes overwhelmed and demoralized, stunned to see his mighty army that had crushed the Russians just a few years before faltering from slow attrition at the hands of guerilla insurgents. The fiber he had mustered to face down Moltke had long since given way to the weakness and insecurity that had plagued him all his life. His attempts to manage government and military policy prove counterproductive, and his influence over his advisors, generals, and troops seem to be diminishing. Seeing the collapse of his Austrian allies, Wilhelm is increasingly consumed by fear that instability will soon reach the soil of his own empire.

    Part 3 to follow
    (map note: fixed Petsamo)

    stoptrainsmap2.png
     
  17. ScottColo Well-Known Member

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    Why would Germany have, with an earlier victory over Russia, to occupy less than what they did under OTL Brest-Litovsk? The treaty stripped Russia of 90% of its coal mines, how many of those are in Ukraine? Its agricultural resources should have been of interest to the Germans, as well as getting an outlet to the Black Sea.* If they wouldn't have occupied all of modern Ukraine, they ought to have gone as far as the Dnieper.

    *This, of course, raises the question of the Ottomans' degree of involvement, which I would welcome input on.
     
  18. Monty Burns Well-Known Member

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    Because an earlier victory means an earlier peace. And in that peace treaty, the Germans could not demand large parts of Russia they never set a foot into.

    Many. The Donezk bassin is an important site of heavy industry even up to OTL Ukraine.

    But following that logic, the whole of Siberia should go to Germany.

    The point is that a peace treaty not necessarily gives you all that you want - even if you completely defeat all you enemies. And finally, mineral deposits and agricultural ressources are not the only thing of interest. The question is also what happens to the people living there. Germany wouldn't want to have millions of Russians/Ukrainians. That's the main reason I wouldn't take your German-Polish frontier either. The Germans do not want more Poles in the Empire, either.
     
  19. Dan ...Not that I remember, as I was quite drunk!

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    First, this is an interesting timeline.
    British Neutrality. In practice, Kaiser Wilhelm II was an Anglophobe, not an Anglophile and it was his visits to stay with teh children of Queen Victoria that caused it. He was, if I remember correctly, a weedy and windsome child, unable to cope with the rough and tumble games enjoyed by the others and became quite withdrawn. This developed later and heavily influenced the Naval Arms race at the beginning of the 20th Century. British Political pride was dented in a small way by Germany's growing African posessions, (the bits that Britian and France didn't want, and that not even Spain or Italy would fight over), and it's growing Navy. If I remember correctly, Royal Navy Doctrine was to have a Navy large enough to defeat the next two largest navies combined. So as Germany expanded it's Navy, the Royal Navy was forced to do likewise.

    World War one was basically a primary school yard fight writ large. Britain being the cool kid, football captain type, France, the former enemy now best freind and the large, strong but slightly ill and stupid Russia. Protecting "plucky little Belgium". Onthe flip side, you had Austro-Hungarian Empire, who was the new enemy, smaller and weaker than France, and his mate, the new kid in school Germany. Jealousy over Britain having the best toys, Germany finding it's place in the hierachy and wanting to show how tough they are. One kid shoves another and the next thing they've all got black eyes and skinned knees.
     
  20. I Blame Communism Banned

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    Because the Russian army still holds pretty well 100% of Russian territory and is a respectable force. Sure, it's going to loose if it fights on mano-a-mano, but neither side has any reason to do this.

    Pretty well all of the ceded coalmines were in either the Donets basin or Congress Poland. The Donets basin was, even when the Russian state started to fray, lightyears away from what the Germans expected to lay claim to; Congress Poland is probably going already.

    As I said, Germany expressed zero interest in any of it until they had the occupation almost thrust upon them. Also, the Junker interest is most certainly not interested in competitors muscling in on the domestic market - likely expanded across Germany surrounding clients, to judge from the September Program. There's been no major food shortage, after all.

    And on what basis were they going to organise such a ceded territory, a bizarre lump with no history or state traditon? Without Trotsky, Makhno, or Petlyura on the loose, and Tsarist Russia still a reasonable credible power just across the river, they can't exactly do what they did OTL and hand it back to the Tsarist landlords, can they?

    As Monty Burns says, why should Germany want to administer all those troublesome peasants?