To the Victor, Go the Spoils (Redux): A Plausible Central Powers Victory

I mean sure, if you ignore the fact the German Naval buildup was specifically design to challenge the RN and had passed several naval laws to such purpose, the freakout about german fleet was nothing to do with its growing size...

It was built to challenge it eventually, but was incapable of doing so. Pre-war, the British Admiralty was very well aware that this was the case.

It is impossible to explore alternate outcomes to the Anglo-German naval race without taking into consideration the role of internal politics on both sides, and for the British this means the invasion war scare and all the related scandals. I would recommend reading Andreas Rose's work Between Empire and Continent - British Foreign Policy before the World War for more detailed explanations on how the invasion scare was used as a lever for domestic political success, and securing funds, by many actors, even while the Admiralty reiterated time and again that the HSF was incapable of threatening the British coasts. Press Germanophones like Repington and Maxse were instrumental to the desire of the Liberal Imperialists to 1) leave splendid isolation by joining the alliance system on what they thought was the stronger side, i.e. France/Russia, and 2) avoid what happened to the radicals in the khaki elections: lowering the defense budget, and paying the price with voters.

To be clear, Britain was just as useful to German domestic political circles as a scapegoat and an excuse to push forward partisan political projects. I'm only focusing on Britain because it is the one point where the old narrative of German action and British reaction still holds sway, even though any archival search for the British side clearly reveals that the calculations taking place were quite different, and that Britain was proactive, not reactive - as it befits the greatest naval power of the time. Even Repington admitted that his press campaigns against the Reich weren't motivated by the existence of the HSF, saying that the Channel Fleet "is by itself a match for the German fleet, and reinforced by the Atlantic Fleet, it has an overwhelming superiority in the world. ... The truth is ... our superiority over Germany is so overwhelming and the superiority of our personnel and of our gunnery practice is so great, that the Germans know it would be madness for them to provoke war."

I want to thank @Erzherzog_Karl who first made me aware of the literature in this regard and who's far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. But I also want to close on a final note. Many works of alternate history that focus on Germany - and this timeline is not one of them, one of the reasons why it's one of my favourite works on this site - tend to fall into a misleading pattern where Germany is "the player" and everyone else is "the game world". Germany takes an action, the rest of the world reacts. If Germany chooses different, then the rest of the world also chooses different.

But the real world is more complex than that, butterflies notwithstanding. Other countries have agency. They have their own foreign and domestic problems, and political plans that exist independently of what Germany does. Germany by itself isn't going to chase away the political pressures placed upon British parties by the khaki election, to go with the relevant example. In this TL's postwar, just like in an alternate prewar scenario, Germany might even decide to go with what they think is the best way to ensure peaceful coexistence with Britain, but that doesn't mean they will magically get it, because Britain has its own problems and its own plans.
 
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Also could we get a heads up on Lettow-Vorbeck? His wilde hide is still going in Africa.
Von Lettow-Vorbeck as per OTL would be in North Rhodesia by now, upon news of the Armistice his forces would likely have surrendered and been interned under good conditions. Primarily because while the conflict technically is still ongoing at sea, his forces by this point in 1918 were pretty much exhausted of their supplies and fighting capacity.

Is the Polar Bear Expedition still going on in this timeline?
I expect it would have done so, primarily because the main motivator for the intervention was not actually direct military action against the Bolsheviks, and more an attempt by the allies to deny the Soviets access to weapons caches in Arkangelisk. Not so sure about the far east intervention on the US part though.
 
Chaos in Germany: Revolution From Above (October-November 1918)
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Chaos in Germany
Revolution From Above
October-November 1918

While discussions over the future Anglo-German relationship began, Germany was undergoing its own domestic changes.

Forming a cabinet involving the Zentrum, SPD and a collection of non-partisan independents, Chancellor von Payer first sought to make minor reforms prior to the calling of fresh elections. These aimed at changing the electoral franchise in the country, while also providing more accountability for the decisions of the Chancellor and military.

Despite harbouring hopes for more ambitious plans in the long run, something he would certainly be too old to oversee, von Payer opted not to challenge the military clique ruling the country in the immediate term. Even Ludendorff himself, along with Hindenburg, now realised after just a few days of a general strike that in the short term at least Germany needed radical change to provide stability.

The OHL and von Payer’s administration had somewhat closed ranks in the weeks following the beginning of negotiations with the British. While debating the terms, the two factions had largely come to rely on one another, with von Payer growing in confidence in the role and relying on military endorsement for parliamentary reforms, while Hindenburg and Ludendorff relied on von Payer for stability and legitimacy.

Unlike the OHL though, von Payer’s eye was on the horizon. He knew that provided he could get Germany out of the war, he would in the long run assure the demise of the German military autocracy. This was for the simple reason that the German right was poorly coordinated and unpopular, and the country was increasingly demanding popular legitimacy behind it’s Governments.

Further too, he knew that the Kaiser himself was extremely unpopular, while the Crown Prince was younger, more popular, but also a supporter of the Fatherland Party. As such, placating the Kaiser and the OHL seemed the sensible move to ensure elections took place in the short term under rules that he under his Chancellorship could shoe-horn into place prior to the poll.

These came through the ‘October Reforms’. These would restrict the Emperor’s right to declare war unilaterally, requiring the consent of the Reichstag to both declare and end a conflict. Further, it would provide the Reichstag with the ability to force the resignation of a Chancellor by a majority vote, though appointments of the Chancellor remained the Emperor’s prerogative.

In agreeing to a softer than desired set of reforms, not stripping the Kaiser of his role but merely reducing it and making it legally easy for the Reichstag to remove an unpopular Chancellor, while limiting the power of the Kaiser to declare war, von Payer sought to provide legal obstacles to the military. He did not challenge the Kaiser’s unique ability to make military appointments, a non-starter with the OHL, but he did include in the package that members of the Reichstag could now be ministers while holding their seats.

These reforms could be built on over time, for example by removing the five year funding guarantee for the military in the longer term, but despite his virulent hatred for that financial structure von Payer accepted he was too old to oversee it’s removal.

Further, in order to prevent the rise of extremist factions on the country’s left that became a concern after the mutiny of the Hochseeflotte, von Payer and the OHL agreed in line with the Kaiser’s promised Easter reform proposals of 1917 that the Prussian Landtag and it’s House of Representatives would be reformed. This would aim to end the three-tier prussian voting system, institute secret ballot voting and allow for universal democratic suffrage in the province.

This would ensure parity throughout the country on electoral structures, while retaining the bicameral nature of the Landtag and further weakening the power of the Conservatives over the country, who only had any significant legislative influence in Prussia where they dominated the legislature. Due to this dominance though, von Payer would be unable to immediately change the franchise, certainly not before elections. Instead the interfactional committee would arrange to coordinate their candidate slates for the Prussian landtag elections to strengthen their influence over the legislature, aiming to then abolish the system form within after the poll - or all else failing, to circumvent the constitution by using the influence of the Kaiser to prompt reform.

Yet throughout October repressive actions, just as much as reform, were taking place across the country.

Emboldened by the protests and seeing the pre-reform period as their sole opportunity, the radical leftists of the Communist and Spartakist Parties sought to make their move. Their goal, not trusting the Social Democrats and the monarchist Ebert, would be to trigger the total downfall of the monarchy and military clique, the parliamentarization or even socialization of Germany, and to secure a peace without any annexations through a radical revolution.

In this, they first sought to establish control over local military forces around Berlin in anticipation of a second general strike aimed at toppling the moderate Government. Emboldened by the Hochseeflotte’s mutiny, popular political leaders in the Spartacists such as Paul Levi sought to capitalise on the situation. Effectively leading the Spartacists due to Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht’s continued imprisonment, Levi sought to encourage the establishment of various national councils within industrial centres and military facilities to gain influence over the populace.

Despite their lofty aims though, the Spartacists found that there was little appetite for an anti-monarchist revolt and the momentum of revolutionaries was rapidly eroding following the strike and beginning of negotiations with the British. Even the Independent Social Democrats, who had split from their main party over the goals of the peace and the left’s district for the pro-war SPD stance, had begun to look at the SPD with dwindling contempt.

The party was, after all, in Government now. Further, it was willing to cooperate with the USPD, even if its policies would be greatly reduced. Overall the sense of urgency for the USPD simply had started to erode - which itself left the Spartacists with a feeling of growing desperation as returning soldiers and paramilitary groups attacked spartacists campaigning in the street.
 
It was built to challenge it eventually, but was incapable of doing so. Pre-war, the British Admiralty was very well aware that this was the case.

It is impossible to explore alternate outcomes to the Anglo-German naval race without taking into consideration the role of internal politics on both sides, and for the British this means the invasion war scare and all the related scandals. I would recommend reading Andreas Rose's work Between Empire and Continent - British Foreign Policy before the World War for more detailed explanations on how the invasion scare was used as a lever for domestic political success, and securing funds, by many actors, even while the Admiralty reiterated time and again that the HSF was incapable of threatening the British coasts. Press Germanophones like Repington and Maxse were instrumental to the desire of the Liberal Imperialists to 1) leave splendid isolation by joining the alliance system on what they thought was the stronger side, i.e. France/Russia, and 2) avoid what happened to the radicals in the khaki elections: lowering the defense budget, and paying the price with voters.

To be clear, Britain was just as useful to German domestic political circles as a scapegoat and an excuse to push forward partisan political projects. I'm only focusing on Britain because it is the one point where the old narrative of German action and British reaction still holds sway, even though any archival search for the British side clearly reveals that the calculations taking place were quite different, and that Britain was proactive, not reactive - as it befits the greatest naval power of the time. Even Repington admitted that his press campaigns against the Reich weren't motivated by the existence of the HSF, saying that the Channel Fleet "is by itself a match for the German fleet, and reinforced by the Atlantic Fleet, it has an overwhelming superiority in the world. ... The truth is ... our superiority over Germany is so overwhelming and the superiority of our personnel and of our gunnery practice is so great, that the Germans know it would be madness for them to provoke war."

I want to thank @Erzherzog_Karl who first made me aware of the literature in this regard and who's far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. But I also want to close on a final note. Many works of alternate history that focus on Germany - and this timeline is not one of them, one of the reasons why it's one of my favourite works on this site - tend to fall into a misleading pattern where Germany is "the player" and everyone else is "the game world". Germany takes an action, the rest of the world reacts. If Germany chooses different, then the rest of the world also chooses different.

But the real world is more complex than that, butterflies notwithstanding. Other countries have agency. They have their own foreign and domestic problems, and political plans that exist independently of what Germany does. Germany by itself isn't going to chase away the political pressures placed upon British parties by the khaki election, to go with the relevant example. In this TL's postwar, just like in an alternate prewar scenario, Germany might even decide to go with what they think is the best way to ensure peaceful coexistence with Britain, but that doesn't mean they will magically get it, because Britain has its own problems and its own plans.
This is an outstanding comment
 
Women's suffrage in Germany *nationally* could be possible to achieve fairly quickly, it was not a constitutional amendment (it was in the 1869 Reichstag Electoral Law of the NGF, which then carried over to the Empire), so it could be passed by ordinary Reichstag law. A liberal-SPD majority in the Reichstag could advance it.

Of course, that doesn't affect the states, who would each need to pass women's suffrage individually, and since there were quite a few tiny statelets dominated by conservatives and agrarians they could, in theory, retain male only suffrage in state parliaments indefinitely. See: the last canton in Switzerland to grant women's suffrage in 1991
 
Women's suffrage in Germany *nationally* could be possible to achieve fairly quickly, it was not a constitutional amendment (it was in the 1869 Reichstag Electoral Law of the NGF, which then carried over to the Empire), so it could be passed by ordinary Reichstag law. A liberal-SPD majority in the Reichstag could advance it.

Of course, that doesn't affect the states, who would each need to pass women's suffrage individually, and since there were quite a few tiny statelets dominated by conservatives and agrarians they could, in theory, retain male only suffrage in state parliaments indefinitely. See: the last canton in Switzerland to grant women's suffrage in 1991
I know that women in Liechtenstein only got the vote in 1984.
 
I expect it would have done so, primarily because the main motivator for the intervention was not actually direct military action against the Bolsheviks, and more an attempt by the allies to deny the Soviets access to weapons caches in Arkangelisk. Not so sure about the far east intervention on the US part though.

[shrugs] While my own source on the Expedition could certainly be wrong, my understanding is that the point was to recreate some kind of Eastern Front in order to keep German troops from being redeployed west.

The insane plan was to land at Arkhangelsk, be greeted as liberators, raise Russian army, meet up with Czechoslovak Legion,…profit? The ‘guarding supplies’ thing was just an outright lie told to Wilson in order to get some American troops into the insanity and the only person who cared about Bolsheviks at the time was - of course - Churchill. It sounds stupid and obviously doomed to failure, but we are talking about the WWI British here.
 
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This is very well done, I like how you've butterflied stuff without seeming over-reach. Quite plausible and well thought out. Looking forward to the Japanese negotiation.
 
The Peace Conferences: Treaty of Brussels & Copenhagen Negotiations (November 1918)
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The Peace Conferences
Treaty of Brussels & Copenhagen Negotiations
November 1918

By early November the negotiations at Brussels had now gone through two distinct cycles and were entering a third.

The first cycle, the ‘maximum goals’ cycle, involved the demand that France cede enormous territories from the far north of the country from the mouth of the Seine to verdun on the Meuse, and south towards Nancy and Belfort. This failed when American representatives made clear that any imposition of these demands would lead to a continued conflict with the United States. This was something Germany could not afford while also fighting Britain, and thus proposals had to be amended.

German negotiators then softened their tone marginally, while retaining the goal of destroying French resistance. In the second cycle, setting out their ‘extended’ goals, German negotiators demanded the same territorial expansion excluding territories east of the Meuse, but abandoned their attempts to annex the Calais region north of the Somme into Belgium, instead demanding only Dunkirk for their planned Belgian client state and a demilitarized done north of the Aisne and Somme.

This plan again failed due to the fall of the Caillaux Government in France and return of Aristide Briand’s more optimistic administration, who responded to the German failure to sortie - which aimed to break British morale and thus allow Germany to dictate war terms without fear of the US - by refusing their demands and threatening a total war. This would have meant the probable collapse of social order in Germany, and likely France too, but the threat alone was enough that the Germans had to take it seriously - even if they knew the French would be essentially committing suicide.

The third cycle of the negotiations at Brussels, now entering their third month, would see Germany issue her final ‘British’ goals, determined almost entirely by negotiations between Germany and Britain somewhere hundreds of miles away; Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Discussions
Negotiations at Copenhagen began on November 17th between the two parties with talks focusing first and foremost on the British red lines when it came to peace in France. The mood among both parties was tense, but equally somewhat candid. While British negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, deeply resented the German side after years of conflict, the two sides looked upon each other as adversaries deciding the fate of the world, but as worthy ones.

Led by new German Foreign Minister Wilhelm Solf, with representatives from the Kaiserliche Marine, Germany for its part did not totally lack cards to play, and they were in the stronger position to dictate terms to the French. But, Germany required at least some degree of approval by Britain so as to avoid sabotaging potential peace with Great Britain and re-open trade lanes.

In essence, Germany had won the war, but would not in the immediate term win the peace. For the OHL and the nation’s conservatives this meant setting her position to be as strong as possible so that in the next war, Germany would be in striking distance to defeat the Royal Navy.

This stuck well with the growing sentiment in Germany, and one particularly proliferated by the Conservatives, that this war had not been a ‘war to end all wars’, but a war to dictate the next chapter of the global balance of power. Many German conservatives now felt that the country had been foolish and perhaps naive to think that they could defeat both France, Russia and Britain in a single conflict - and thus instead satisfied themselves with having beaten two of the three.

Thus, German conservatives believed that any peace should focus on dismenbering the French into a position of long term economic dependence, while preventing any attempt by Britain to limit potential German naval rearmament, and the economic future of the continent Germany wished to impose.

For the German liberals meanwhile the peace talks had essentially one goal in mind; at all costs lift the blockade, prevent a second anglo-german arms race at sea, and limit annexations to only those core territories with significant German populations that the militarists insisted upon. This was built under the premise that the liberals sought a long term position of stability in Europe, not conquest or subjugation. To this end, the interfactional committee aimed primarily to uphold the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, while rebuilding if not cordial then stable relations with the British.

This was so that Britain would agree to the peace at all for one, but secondly because the interfactional committee feared that in five or ten years time Britain could strike back again if Germany overstepped the mark. This, they feared, would fuel the fires of German nationalism and push them out of power. Thus, establishing an economic and influence structure primarily focused on Europe, while restricting naval expansion, seemed the logical aim of the liberals.

The first area of discussion with Britain would focus on providing security for Germany’s western border and securing the vital economic interests it had in northern France. This area had become a key part of Anglo-German negotiations because, as tentatively agreed to in Copenhagen, the final settlement would not include a German controlled Belgium. Due to the war, this left the militarists convinced that in the future Belgium would not be able to be relied upon for good relations and thus the Ardennes presented a potential forward advance point for a french war of retaliation of Belgium aligned with France.

The original intent by Germany had been that Belgium would be either split into two entities; Wallonia and Flanders, and that this would either be a total split or an internal divide aimed at weakening the state irreparably even if they retained a mutual monarch. With the British factored in, Germany instead took to a new proposal; the annexation of the eastern part of Belgium. This, the OHL believed, would allow a considerable ‘forward base’ for the German military in any second conflict and would make any threat posed from Belgium redundant. It would, naturally, infuriate the Belgians who had entered the war against their own will and had been occupied almost entirely for much of it, but it would be the price they would have to pay for retained independence.

Rather than joining the planned German ‘mitteleuropa’ economic bloc, and rather than annexing the Congo which Solf increasingly recognized would be politically impossible due to British hostility to continued German rule over any colonies, Belgium would lose some core territory to secure the long term interests of German security.

Britain firmly disliked the demands to annex a significant portion of Belgium, but ultimately though both sides had to agree on something. Britain recognized that any German territorial grab from Belgium would infuriate the Belgian people and lock her in as an ally of the British, and would also create concern in the Netherlands over their future security due to the presence of the Limberg and Peel coal basins on the border and overt German plans to subjugate the Dutch in the long term. This meant that it was likely if Germany seized territory from Belgium, it would create a strong bloc of states along the channel exposed to and thus opposed to German expansionism - strengthening Britain’s position in the long term.

As such, Britain eventually relented that Germany could annex territory up to the Meuse - with the exception of the city of Liege that would remain Belgian on both sides of the Meuse. This border was chosen due to the security advantages posed for both sides by the river, with Belgium being able to fortify the river’s western bank to prevent a German advance in the future, while the Germans would be satiated by their annexation of the eastern half of the territory and the capture of the Ardennes which acted as a giant blocking wedge to any rapid advance. Further too - Britain made clear that Germany in seizing the east of Belgium would surrender any claim over the Congo, not that Britain would have ever conceded it anyway.

For Germany, the annexation was something of a win - albeit not one that they had initially aimed for. This allowed Germany access to a good portion of Belgium’s coal mines in the Luttich region without dominating Belgium’s coal industry, while allowing Belgium to retain a unified, now largely Flemish-led state. For the conservatives, whose Fatherland party had proposed annexing these territories anyway, the annexation would be seen as a win and it would be felt by the German people to be a ‘land grab’ that might satiate some fears that the war had been over nothing. The now dominant Flemish population in Belgium also left some German leaders reconciled with the idea that Belgium might in the long term move to neutrality or friendship with the German neighbour despite their animosity.

Further, for Britain, there would be no channel ports for the Germans - Britain’s number one demand - and Germany was forced to commit to acceding to the total independence of Belgium west of the Meuse. The German liberals reconciled this with their plans for a secession of the arms race with Britain long term, and they agreed to the territorial annexation too in order to satisfy the OHL and because the annexed territories would certainly vote for local partisan politicians in the Reichstag as the French in Alsace Lorraine did - which would further dilute the strength of the German conservatives in the Reichstag.

On the issue of France, Britain’s main priority was ensuring that France remained economically viable and politically independent. This meant limiting German expansionism and economic demands to permit only border changes in the Lorraine region and prohibiting German influence in the north of the country near the coast. German ideas of an economic exclusive zone in the Nord Pas-De-Calais and Borinage coal basins would be a non-starter - as would French entry into Mitteleuropa.

Other than these demands relating to British influence over Belgium and French economic independence though, there was little else Britain was able to dictate. Still, having secured Belgian independence, Bonar Law felt comfortable to address Parliament on November 20th and affirm that Britain had achieved its primary aims in the negotiations while Germany, still victorious on the continent, had been greatly restricted.

Instead, the world would enter a period of tension - but not immediate continued war.

The Final Draft
The Treaty of Brussels itself made few major alterations to the map. France, defeated but not crushed, would be forced to hand over Germany’s main territorial goal of the Briey-Longwy pig iron mines in the Lorraine basin.

This might seem a small territorial grab, but amounted to German capture of exactly 50.1% of Europe’s entire known iron ore tonnage, rising from just 22%. The Lorraine basin alone produced 26.5% of Europe’s entire iron tonnage, making up 80% of France’s total annual output. This put Germany in an extremely powerful position to set Iron prices in Europe, and particularly in western Europe where the vast majority of the iron ore output would now take place in German territory.

Further territorial changes would be the annexation of a small strip of land approximately 5km deep in front of the entire border between Alsace and France, ending at the western ‘bend’ in the Alsace Lorraine Reichsland. Here the border would continue as pre-war boundaries dictated, before tacking along the Meurthe river towards the city of Nancy. The city would be annexed wholesale by Germany and become the city of Nanzig, before the border cut across towards the Moselle river at the village of Aingeray.

The small scale territorial expansion of the Reichsland Elsaß–Lothringen was taken almost entirely for security reasons demanded by the OHL. The territory featured vital hills and passes that would make Alsace a more defensible territory for any subsequent conflict with France, which was necessary as Germany had rather rudely discovered holding the territory was more difficult than anticipated during the war. In fact, parts of Alsace were the sole German territory occupied throughout the war.

Nanzig’s southern iron mines, which were an exclave of the Lorraine basin, would not be directly annexed by Germany but would serve as a special German economic zone where German steel and iron companies alone could extract ore - thus solidifying their control of the basin. This was totally inviable in the long term, but was a demand issued upon France after it became clear Britain would not permit German economic domination of France, and due to fears that the now largely bankrupted France would prove incapable of paying reparations to Germany that were absolutely needed for continued German state financial liquidity.

From here the new border would cut across the Lorraine basin towards Lac De Madine, then north to Chateau de Hattonchatel and along the top of the Woëvre and the Forêt Domaniale de Verdun up to Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre, where the border would tack north towards the southernmost point of Belgium near Velosnes. The border would then follow the Belgian boundary up to the river Semois where it would follow the river until it met the Meuse at Monthermé.

The boundary would then follow the Meuse up to the town of Revin, where the new Franco-Belgian-German boundary would meet. The territories in Lorraine seized by Germany would be annexed into the Alsace–Lorraine Reichsland, extending its size while not ‘infecting’ the other German Kingdoms with French citizens.

Luxembourg, as expected, would be annexed by Germany as a constituent state of the Empire, with Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde becoming a subordinate to the Kaiser akin to the monarchies of Bavaria, Baden and Saxony. German negotiators would smugly justify this by pandering to Wilson’s 14 points, claiming that Luxemberg sought German annexation and that the territory was primarily German, prevented only by French hostility throughout history.

Luxembourg too would be greatly expanded, annexing it’s pre-1839 borders from the seized Belgian territory except for a small strip along the south-eastern bank of the Meuse that would, along Verviers region, become the ‘Reichsland Luttich’. While Luttich was entirely Walloon and Flemish and thus was clearly a territorial land grab, the reversal of the 1839 partition of Luxembourg was a convenient policy again aimed at Wilson’s 14 points, which Germany played upon in the global press - convincing precisely nobody while they did so.

Belgium meanwhile, as discussed with the British, would lose the aforementioned territory but would not lose its independence. King Albert I, the leader of Belgian forces, would remain on the throne and while ‘officially’ neutral, the country would remain in practice a close ally of the British - and thus the French.

France would be required to pay an indemnity of 10bn Marks (ℳ) as economic compensation for the war, with the option to pay a portion of this in assets such as food, fuel, weapons etc, however would not be forced to join a Mitteleuropa economic sphere. For many negotiators this number was actually seen as quite low, but was landed upon due to its initial selection by the German Government during the Septemberprogramm and after the intervention of British economist John Maynard Keynes who was called to Copenhagen by the British delegation to impress upon the German delegates - particularly Solf - that France would never be able to repay anything more than ℳ10bn. Not that repaying that amount was ever a guarantee either.

Belgium, as expected, would pay no compensation to Germany nor be forced into an economic treaty. Nor would she be forced to demilitarise, something the British fervently opposed, with British National Liberal politician Winston Churchill even calling in the house from the Government backbenches for the establishment of a permanent military mission to Belgium.

France too would not be forced to admit guilt for ‘invading Belgium’ - given Belgium’s Government themselves rejected the prospect and Britain opposed the proposal. They would however be forced to demilitarise a strip east of the Marne river in Lorraine and including the Burgundian gate as a ‘prevention’ measure aimed at limiting French ability to launch a war of aggression against Germany. Britain in fact opposed this measure, but Germany was firm on the issue and given their significant economic concessions Britain and France both agreed, albeit with amendments. Expecting this was likely un-enforceable in the long term regardless, the British insisted upon a five year ‘cap’ on the demand, with the three parties ultimately agreeing to a 5 year cap with the exception of the greater Nancy region where Germany was to take an economic stake. This would be returned to France and remilitarization would be permitted at an undefined ‘later date’ in something of a fudge by both sides.

The Colonies
Finally, in the colonies there would be remarkably few changes. While Germany coveted the annexation of the Congo, Britain had firmly rejected such a proposal - in fact Britain was of the opinion that Germany should not keep their colonies at all.

Throughout the war British propaganda efforts had led the nation’s people to believe Germany to have imposed upon their colonies brutal suppression, and while in some cases that had been true, German colonial policy in fact was often seen as a more favourable model by some British leaders and their colonial policy was largely modelled off an amended British style of colonialism. Despite the brutality of both parties.

While Britain of course wanted to annex the colonies, securing such annexations would not be as easy as just refusing to give them back. Despite having defeated the German fleet, the German people and Government considered their colonies to be a mark of pride and status. They had no intention of giving them up, and would not agree to a treaty doing so. This clashed with both sides, who had bigger priorities; namely France and Belgium.

The divide in fact also set off a more visceral debate between the two ‘halves’ of the German negotiating team, with the Reichstag liberals being more than happy to rid themselves of the colonies entirely on a global scale, while the OHL and Conservatives were appalled at the notion - believing Germany only to be relevant while she was a colonial power. In the end the disagreement would have to be settled by Solf who, as the former Secretary for the Colonies.

Solf, while undoubtedly a member of the interfactional committee’s left wing and disliked by the German pan nationalists, fervently disagreed with the prospect of the loss of Germany’s colonies. Having built Samoa from the ground up, and having seen through significant reforms in the pre-war period aimed at encouraging greater self-rule, respect and tolerance for the natives, and greater financial self-sustainability, he despised the idea of severing such colonies.

Solf’s issue was simple, he believed fully that a peace which saw annexations in Europe would lead to a second conflict and animosity between the nations of Europe. He instead thought that any peace treaty would have to be agreed between Britain and Germany, and that both sides could placate one another by essentially dividing Africa between them. Unfortunately though, this hit a heavy roadblock when the OHL insisted on the capture of the Ardennes, and the annexation of Briey-Longwy.

This left Solf incapable of issuing demands against the British for the division of French colonial holdings, and the potential splitting of the Congo. Yet despite this, he felt strongly that he could at the very least secure the return of Germany’s existing colonies. In fact in his initial proposal he went further.

Harking back to a treaty with the British prior to the war in 1913 that Solf, had personally negotiated, the now Foreign Minister proposed that peace in Africa be made by not just annexing new lands for Germany - but also for Britain.

He suggested that Britain ought to annex Katanga and areas of the northern Congo, while the Portuguese colonies would be split between Germany and Britain - as would several French colonies. While no doubt some in the British colonial and foreign offices were tempted by such assertion, in practice this was a naive request though.

British post-war focus would be on a policy of containing German expansionism, and would dictate a firm move towards anti-submarine warfare which meant securing Britain’s global trade lanes. The idea that submarines would be allowed to base in Germany’s african colonies terrified the Royal Navy, and thus there was a firm belief that Britain should seize all of Germany’s colonies.

As such, Solf’s proposals were rejected. Instead Britain asserted she would annex all of Germany’s holdings, prompting outrage from both Solf and the OHL. Despite this initial demand though, when Germany made clear she may simply throw out the treaty entirely and ignore British demands on France and Belgium, Britain somewhat relented.

Germany by 1914 had two self-sufficient colonies; Togoland and Samoa. While even Solf admitted, much to his chagrin, that Samoa would never return to German control after the war, he was determined to at the very least keep hold of Togoland. As such, Britain and the Germans eventually agreed on a compromise peace.

Germany would surrender Namibia to South Africa, with Jan Smuts having said he would never leave anyway. Additionally, Germany would surrender the entirety of German East Africa in order to satiate British desires to build a giant red line between Alexandria and the Cape for a future railway advocated by British business rail magnate, ironically named Rhodes.

Germany, in compensation, would expand their Kamerun territories by seizing parts of south western French Equatorial Africa, while the Gabon and Middle Congo provinces would also be annexed by Germany as part of a new ‘German Gabon’. Togo would remain in German hands, but Germany would be forced to compensate Britain through another means.

Ultimately Britain’s concerns mainly focused around military vulnerability. The threat posed by the German colonies was that if there were a second large war with Germany, Germany might learn from her doctrine of unrestricted submarine warfare and deploy it across the entire world. For Britain, which was an empire that relied on global trade and could not afford to deploy anti-submarine task forces at every stretch of its thousands of naval lanes, this was an unacceptable risk.

Germany thus would be forced to commit herself to future naval arms talks to prevent rapid German naval re-armament. This would involve voluntary naval capacity limits for all sides, and would aim to include Britain’s allies as well.

Secondly, Germany would be forced to commit to restrictions on the passage of naval forces to her colonies; namely U-Boat deployments. These would be prohibited entirely, a step down from Britain’s desired mandatory destruction of Germany’s entire boat fleet but an acceptable compromise. Indicators of German expansion of naval facilities in Africa would be taken by the British as a sign of intended deployment, and thus would be considered a breach of the treaty - justifying a further naval conflict.

Among the German leadership this result was taken tepidly. In losing half of her colonies, particularly East Africa which was a vital staging zone for trade with the Pacific, Germany was essentially surrendering her pacific territories too - and in exchange was retaining only a financially inviable Kamerun and Togoland, which German negotiators had several times offered to both Britain and France in exchange for expanding their ‘mittelafrika’ idea.

The Naval restrictions too were seen as constraining and an assault on the nation’s sovereignty, but equally fell in line with an expanded form of the Congo Treaty of 1885, which prior to the war had aimed to restrict excessive military deployments in Africa - a policy firmly endorsed by Solf.

Overall though, ultimately the aims of the German OHL were concentrated around Europe, not Africa, and thus the result was relatively positive for Germany overall.

Analysis
Signed on November 29th 1918, the Treaty would enter effect by January 1st 1919 - officially ending the conflict between the Central Powers and France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The treaty would follow the German tradition of naming treaties in the identity as the signing city, as opposed to the palace, and thus would be known as the Treaty of Brussels, rather Laeken.

While undeniably a German victory, the treaty and its terms ultimately are remembered as one of the last major acts of imperialism in Europe - and as a demonstration of German fallibility. In essence drawn up between two great powers without a great degree of consultation with the French, the British involvement in the treaty’s final form left France feeling embittered but reliant on the British, alienated from both Germany and the UK as future friendly powers.

In France itself the Treaty was met with a sort of unsurprised and exhausted disgust. Having lost enormous amounts of natural resources in Lorraine, the French economy would either become reliant on the German economy within a year to rebuild the country, or would be forced to ship in enormous amounts of iron from abroad at greater expense, prompting economic inflation and a near permanently negative balance of trade.

The Treaty was greatly opposed among the US public, who saw it as a complete defiance of Wilson’s 14 points and subsequently crushed his waning popularity. It did however serve to re-shape the boundaries of Europe.

The clauses negotiated between Germany and Britain too served to alienate the US State Dept from Britain, who Wilson quickly developed a begrudging contempt for after Britain in essence ignored the 14 points in favour of an imperialist’s war aims - all while using the US as a negotiating chip. By negotiating without US consultation, Britain maximized her influence over the conflict’s outcome, but did so without any American say, and left the US being forced to accept whatever the Anglo-German negotiators agreed on as without Britain the war was over globally.

Worse still, the treaty at Brussels did not conclude the situation in the Pacific - one of America’s main focuses throughout the war. The US disapproved of Japanese expansionism into the pacific as a result of the war, and while Britain and the Germans had not yet signed anything on paper at Copenhagen it seemed certain that Britain and Japan would be the main benefactors of any peace treaty - providing the US with fresh Pacific security concerns.

While many of the new people in the German Empire were not very… German, they brought with them enormous amounts of key resources that would allow her to become master of the continent - albeit with many opponents.

Britain for its part too came out of the treaty as something of a hostile but convenient partner to Germany. Far from friendly and deeply dissatisfied with German successes, many in Whitehall felt content that Germany had been halted, and the Channel and Lowlands had been isolated from German influence, despite the immense cost. Now all that was left was to negotiate the final terms between Britain and Germany at Copenhagen.
 
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Germany would surrender Namibia to South Africa, with Jan Smuts having said he would never leave anyway. Additionally, Germany would surrender the entirety of German East Africa in order to satiate British desires to build a giant red line between Alexandria and the Cape for a future railway advocated by British business rail magnate, ironically named Rhodes.
Infuriating. And South Africa doesn't get to dictate to Britain by saying 'I won't leave', and surrendering German East Africa when Von-Lettow-Vorbeck ran circles around the british in Africa is some -

My desire to strangle Boner Law grows.
 
Love this time line.
One tiny nit pick.....why negotiations in Copenhagen?
Denmark was neutral, but had a border dispute after the war of 1864. This resulted in that a portion of Danish speaking people, in Schleswig Holstein, were part of the German empire. Why not in other neutral countries, like Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands or Spain?

Why only Dunkirk and not the complete Nord department, which was essentially annexed parts of Flanders and Hainaut? This would deprive France of a large coal and industrial base and compensate Belgium for any territorial loss.
 
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I have to ask: Since the German Colonial Troops in East Africa under Lettow-Vorbeck are still in the field in German East Africa why was the colony simply surrendered?
Because troops on the ground does not equate to control. Vorbeck's troops werent even in East Africa by now, they'd fled to Rhodesia and were on the brink of annihilation. Germany has no way of aiding those troops, and the colony was among Britain's main wargoals for the conflict in Africa.
 
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