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

Alright so, I'm a little late to the party but I must say I love how you handled the navy side of things. Very plausible stuff and also well written, as is the whole story.
Now, reading the chapters on the peace conference, I sense British shipyards are not going to fall into the shadow of themselves that they historically were in the mid-1930s.

I am also starting to think France and Italy might have common interests in the future and increased cooperation between the two wouldn't suprise me at all. Both have grievances against Germany (and to a lesser extent, the UK), both now have to share the continent with an almost-hegemonic German state and both have ressources that may be helpful to each other. I might be completely off track here, but I think the seed of the future European opposition to Berlin is an eventual Paris-Rome axis.
Maybe, but there are the Bolsheviks to the east and the soon to be created USSR. A successful Germany after WWI could position itself as the 'Shield of Europe' against the dragon of Communism. This could play out even faster once the Italian Communists really get going with the whole 'revolution' thing and it will likely spread into Austria-Hungary, forcing a German military intervention.

The UK and Germany might find themselves becoming reluctant allies against the rise of Communism in Eastern and Central Europe, while no doubt continuing to plan for an eventual second war against each other.
 
Maybe AH can survive but I have a feeling they are going to struggle
It ist for Germany from Interesse that they survivie?

AH gone: Germany can annexd Austria and Böhmen and there IS no other greater Power in Estern Europa. And they have Not the Problems from AH and can Profis from there benifits in Education and Organisation.

AH survivie: Maybe an Strong alley and a easier comunication when you habe one big state and Not 10 diffrents which you all hate.
 
From what I've seen so far in the story - and judging from OTL - it'd be unlikely to see A-H dissolved.

There is the unknown factor on if TTL earlier battles had a similar effect on the nationalist movements as Third Piave did OTL - but then again, that's I feel on of the weaker argued points TTL so far. I'm unsure if with German advances in France bolstering A-H morale and Entente troops pulled out of Italy (and no Americans arriving yet IIRC) something of that scale of Italian advance would even have even possible at an earlier point than OTL.

Still: with a victory of sorts to point to - even if mostly resting on the shoulders of Germany - the Austrian government has the legitimacy to rally the people to themselves over splinter governments that might or might not turn up. Even if only by kicking autonomy and similar concessions down the road a year or three. For it to be properly handled of course.

Similarly, at least in the Cisleithanian part of the Empire the communists aren't really that much of a problem judging by OTL. The socialists in Vienna generally had a strong leaning to working within the government - even if some follow the line of 'revolution through legislation' - and similarly in Prague there aren't that many hardcore revolutionaries. Not so sure about the parts that today belong to Ukraine - with the civil war going on over the border involving more or less the same ethnicity (Ruthenian - Ukrainian - where to draw a line?) - but even there the outlet of just crossing the border exists.

The Hungarian part is probably more volatile. There were after all the OTL post war 'Soviets' that sprung up. And more than a bit of nationalist tension too, due to the Magyarization politic going on, a factor that Cisleithania lacks when it comes to nationalist agitation.

Still, pragmatically it's something that may or may not be of use when it comes to renegotiate the Ausgleich.

But in the end there is another big factor: A dissolution of A-H would only weaken Germany's position. Even if they could annex the industrial heartlands of Bohemia and Austria - without the rump, the internal trade lines, the resources and agriculture, the population, and the stability A-H brings Germany too will lose out.

Not to mention that such a dissolution would only strengthen the former common enemies of Serbia, Italy and Rumania, who would jump at the chance to get some scraps of a dissolving A-H. And at least in the case of Italy an annexation of Austria would bring Germany into direct territorial conflict.
 
It ist for Germany from Interesse that they survivie?

AH gone: Germany can annexd Austria and Böhmen and there IS no other greater Power in Estern Europa. And they have Not the Problems from AH and can Profis from there benifits in Education and Organisation.

AH survivie: Maybe an Strong alley and a easier comunication when you habe one big state and Not 10 diffrents which you all hate.
There's the question of how it affects German inner politics. An influx of milions of Catholics and such industrial areas would benefit Zentrum and SPD respectively, so the Prussian elites might oppose this hypothetical Anschluss.
 
You know, all of this is depending on if AH collapses...which really, it could still do so, Hungarian Nationalists gotta Nationalist, and I feel they're the ones who would initiate stupidity like that. But I feel AH isn't going to fold anytime soon. Then again, I could be wrong.
 
Austria Hungary will probably keep trucking along for a while longer, if only throug inertia and German support. Not sure how much of a lifespan it has in the long term though.
 
Austria Hungary will probably keep trucking along for a while longer, if only throug inertia and German support. Not sure how much of a lifespan it has in the long term though.
Probably not much longer. The war ate a lot of men and money, and they're not likely to make any reforms that could stave off revolts. All this did was kick the can down the road some.
 
Alright so, I'm a little late to the party but I must say I love how you handled the navy side of things. Very plausible stuff and also well written, as is the whole story.
Now, reading the chapters on the peace conference, I sense British shipyards are not going to fall into the shadow of themselves that they historically were in the mid-1930s.

I am also starting to think France and Italy might have common interests in the future and increased cooperation between the two wouldn't suprise me at all. Both have grievances against Germany (and to a lesser extent, the UK), both now have to share the continent with an almost-egemonic German state and both have ressources that may be helpful to each other. I might be completely off track here, but I think the seed of the future European opposition to Berlin is an eventual Paris-Rome axis.
Thing is, France without the iron ore has been effectively defanged; this may not be completely evident by now, but even OTL after having won WW1, France was weaker than Germany, despite the latter having had only 5 years to rearm when WW2 broke out. Without reparations french industry will be crippled for years, as it was largely devastated during the war, and now they have limited access to iron as well. Germany faced the same problem with iron before WW2, and they bought It from Sweden, which, btw comes at a cost: this means that you just can't buy all the iron ore you would need in order to build everything you wish you could build.
Concerning Italy, the country is on the verge of a civil war. Even OTL they were utterly unprepared for modern war, their industrial base being far too small. Also, without the substantial natural barrier provided by the alps, Italy's industrial heartland lies barely weeks away from a determined assault: if Lombardy falls, Italy will follow suit
 
Austria Hungary will probably keep trucking along for a while longer, if only throug inertia and German support. Not sure how much of a lifespan it has in the long term though.
Disagree. You got it backwards.
It might fall apart in the upcoming decade, as certain issues come to a head. But if it survives the short term, it's long term chances are better than even.
 
Disagree. You got it backwards.
It might fall apart in the upcoming decade, as certain issues come to a head. But if it survives the short term, it's long term chances are better than even.
^ This, it has won the war, and for all intents, won the peace, but it's long term survival depends on winning the immediate "post-war."
 
I'm really curious to see how the Entente continues after this. Anglo-French co-operation is practically necessary to prevent German domination of Europe in the long run, but keeping to that will require level heads and adroit diplomacy after a loss like this.

How Germany develops will matter a lot. Easier for France and Britain to march in lockstep if it's a hostile and aggressive Germany attempting to fully destroy the balance of power. Harder to march in lockstep if Germany is more pivoting to soft power, building economic links, etc.
 
The Peace Conferences: The Treaty of Vienna (November 1918)
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The Peace Conferences
The Treaty of Vienna
November 1918

The Treaty of Vienna, despite involving by far the most powers, in reality involved very little real negotiation or haggling, unlike the Congress just over a century prior.

Involving the entire Central Powers bloc, along with the United States, Italy, Greece, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, the Treaty would essentially end the conflict broadly in southern Europe.

Stabilising the Balkans
German demands were relatively simple. German geostrategy relating to the Balkans emphasised the idea of a strong Bulgaria as a stabilising influence on the Balkans, along with a weakened Italy, a nearly eradicated Serbia and a friendly Greece. This was in line with German desires to see a conclusive solution to the eternally divided and warring Balkans, aimed at protecting German trade interests on the Danube.

Poor Serbia, completely occupied by Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary since 1916, bore the brunt of these strategic goals. Central Powers negotiators, without concerns relating to Britain or any other power interfering besides the United States, demanded their maximum demands.

Britain for its part did not want a powerful Bulgaria in the Balkans, primarily due to the threat posed by Bulgaria to the historic British ally of Greece and potential for Bulgarian conquest of Constantinople. While the British had long been the principal arbitrator on the ‘eastern question’ during the 19th century, by the 1890’s Germany had largely seized this position.

Britain now was largely willing to entirely concede that role to Germany. While the Balkans were no doubt resource rich and Britain preferred a balanced series of near equally sized and competitive states in the region, Britain had little interest in arbitrating further conflicts in the region and had no capacity to dictate a settlement. This was particularly after the exhaustion of British political capital with Germany over the western front settlement.

As a result, Serbia would be more than halved; being returned to a size barely larger than her 1813 borders at Independence from the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria, seeking to ‘pacify’ the country, would annex her maximum claims over the territory - setting the new border at the Velika Morava River and annexing the entire south of the country, including the largely Bulgarian ‘vardar Macedonia’.

Serbia further would be prohibited from unifying with Montenegro in the treaty’s terms, a policy that ended the threat of Yugoslavism that Austria-Hungary had grown to fear by the end of the war.

Additionally, Serbia would be subject to Austrian and German economic domination through the amendment of the Danube Commission to exclude Britain and only admit Black Sea and Danubian states, along with the mandatory repayment of significant reparations and declaration of Austria-Hungary as Serbia’s most favoured nation for trade. This had largely been established in the Treaty of Bucharest in May, but now would be firmly set in place by the Central Powers.

Finally, Serbia would be forced to admit guilt for the war, in effect admitting blame for a conflict after they were themselves attacked - albeit due to tentative complicity in the asssassination of Frans Ferdinand. King Paul, already having been in effective retirement since the start of the war, would also be required to abdicate, and his second son and regent Alexander was forced to abandon his claim to the throne.

This left Serbia in a precarious and constitutionally bizarre position, as now both of Peter's sons had abandoned their claims to the throne. With neither son having had children yet, this in theory left Peter’s younger brother Arsen as heir to the throne, however Arsen was a known member of the Black Hand organisation, and thus vetoed in Austria - not to mention his war service, nationalism and current exile in France after having fought in Russia and being tried by the Bolsheviks. The final candidate, the nephew of King Paul, would be Arsen’s son - Paul. Prince Paul, whose military service in 1914 had been described as ‘undistinguished’, had lived in London for the last year and thus was an acceptable candidate to the British, and was both young and largely irrelevant politically.

For Germany Paul proved a ‘perfect’ candidate, even if he was far from perfect for Serbia itself - particularly due to his sympathies with Croatian nationalism and opposition to the Yugoslav project. Reluctantly taking the role, Paul would be acclaimed as King of Serbia shortly after the signing of the Vienna Treaty in early December as leader of a greatly demoralised nation.

Greece meanwhile suffered relatively little for her participation in the conflict on account of it’s political reversal and British opposotion to excessive consequences. Losing its northern territories along with direct access to southern Macedonia and the city of Thessaloniki, it would not be forced into any kind of unfavourable economic relationship and largely left to its own devices. This was part of a German aim to stabilise the country in the direction of pro-German Monarchism over the Venizelist nationalism that had seized the country in 1916.

Albania, for its part, would see their Prince Wilhelm of Wied restored to his position, proclaiming himself as its King and ceding some small eastern territories to the Bulgarians. This was aimed at balancing the Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian claims in the territory and stemming competing desires to install a pro-Bulgarian or pro-Austrian monarchy in the country after the war. This also was an effective means of applying pressure on Italy, whose control of the mouth of the Adriatic could now be challenged by a pro-German Albania.

Finally, in Montenegro the situation would remain largely the same. Crown Prince Danilo, son of the reigning King Nicolas of Montenegro, would inherit the title after his father’s abdication. In reality though upon the signing of the treaty the prince would in the space of a week refuse, accept, re-refuse, re-accept and then refuse the title on an almost daily basis - ultimately passing the throne to his brother Marko at age 13, who subsequently was overthrown in a crisis-triggering revolution later.

Bulgaria as such ascended to the most powerful role in the Balkans, doubling in size and dooming much of the new territories to a period of Bulgarization and brutality at the hands of their new occupiers.

A Fragile Italy
The situation in Italy by November 1918 was verging on anarchy. While there was not a state of civil conflict in the country, much of the country’s north and parts of the south had essentially become resistant to government authority as councils established by workers and peasants largely began to ignore their local administrations.

One might assume the Government would just send in police or army forces, but while there were some examples of this taking place - particularly around Rome and in isolated southern Italian regions - the police were no longer reliable in areas such as the Padan valley. The fact was, police largely sympathised with or were numerically incapable of opposing the tens of thousands of politicised trade unionists throughout the country who continually executed disorganised wildcat strikes.

The army too was no longer seen as reliable. While Italian army forces had advanced through Veneto with high spirits, the announcement of a truce had seen many peasant soldiers immediately decide that the conflict was essentially over and go AWOL. While the initial tide resulted in harsh crackdowns by officers, with dozens of soldiers being shot for desertion, by early October the Italian army was fraying at the edges and beginning to quickly dissolve.

Germany by contrast was in an increasingly stronger position. While negotiating additional German forces had been deployed to the rear of the Austro-Italian frontline, creating an ominous pressure in Rome on the Italian Government under Giolitti that Germany could at any day launch a second Caporetto.

Despite this, Italian delegates continued to negotiate optimistically at Zurich. The delay in the negotiations had led to the Prime Minister and King ultimately agreeing to suspend the planned elections expected in October, aiming to wrap up negotiations during November and then go into a full democratic debate over the path forward.

Increasingly fraught over the potential outcome of negotiations though, Italian negotiators at Zurich led by Foreign Minister Sidney Sonnino, who had remained in post under Giolitti, had rapidly begun to soften demands.

While initially Italy had demanded the seizure of significant territories in the Austrian Littoral and Trent regions, Sonnino by the start of November had essentially been whittled down to “we’ll take whatever you’ll give us” while desperately trying to make clear the threat of revolution to the Germans.

To an extent the Germans were sympathetic to this, particularly after the general strike and the accession of the von Payer administration. However, this was a double edged sword.

The SPD in particular were firmly against the idea of territorial annexations where there were not nationalities seeking to be brought into a new state along the lines of a wilsonian peace. Worse still, the SPD firmly believed that annexations would likely lead to an upsurge in nationalism in Austria or even outright revolution - the worst outcome. They also disliked the idea of handing German territories over to the Italians at all, which in effect ruled out the annexation of all of Trent province.

While it could have been worse, the Government could have opposed any territorial changes at all along a socialist ‘peace without annexations’ doctrine, in the end what Germany was willing to offer was small and simple; Southern Trent.

This was a tiny concession, and would no doubt infuriate the Italian people, but it was equally the only territory currently occupied by Italy besides some territory west of the Isonzo. Italian delegates had spent virtually all of October attempting to secure additional concessions in the Austrian Littoral, with Italian military leaders even suggesting a naive and almost certainly vain attempt at a twelfth battle of the Isonzo - but this was ultimately scrapped after desertions became too prevalent.

As such, by the time the Treaty of Vienna was signed in late November, Italy was just about ready for peace.

Dealing with the United States
The US had decided to negotiate at Vienna for two reasons. First; she saw Vienna as the weaker front for the Central Powers and aimed to emphasise the self-determination clause of the 14 points here both to weaken Austria and to limit Central Powers demands. Secondly, she sought to negotiate at Vienna as it allowed the United States to observe the treaty without binding her hands in Brussels before Vienna was completed - limiting her ability to steer German demands.

Despite the intention though, the United States quickly found that her moral authority at Vienna was essentially ignored. While often referring to the principles of self determination, Central Powers negotiators often fell back on flashy lines vaguely speaking in favour of the 14 points, while in reality ignoring them. This included the many times re-iterated claim that Vardar Macedonia had to be protected by Bulgaria, along with the claim that Croatia must be protected from the Serbs.

This left Wilson in an embarrassing and rapidly weakening position, which became far worse as soon as Britain and Germany began negotiating. Germany, while threatened by the United States naval power, was far more concerned with the threat of the British blockade compared to potential American merchant raiding. Trade being harassed after all was far less threatening than no trade at all - particularly if the bases for that trading were across an ocean.

As such, by November with the signing of the Treaty of Brussels the American negotiating position had largely collapsed and the US congress in practice withdrew all support for any Treaty dictated by Wilson. This crushed the President, who became relegated to quickly declining political relevance at home - blamed for a foreign, valueless war seen only as costly to the American public, even if he refused to accept it.

This meant that come the time to sign the Treaty, the United States had achieved only two things. She had secured theoretical free passage of American ships through the Bosporus straits into the Black Sea from the Turks in an independent treaty agreed after Turkish exclusion from the Central Powers, and she had been required to pay nothing in compensation to Germany besides returning her seized merchant vessels.

For the United States this was satisfactory, with the same being held for the Germans who sought little from the US other than an end to hostilities. In theory, the United States did also secure some potential openness from Germany over joining an eventual League of Nations - but this was in practice just a pipe dream.

Analysis
The Treaty of Vienna was ultimately signed on November 23rd, while the Treaty of Zurich would be signed just days later. This ended the conflict in Europe for good just before Christmas - albeit four years after the public of most states had assumed.

The Treaty of Vienna is remembered primarily for two things; for essentially denying the Serbian people a relevant state of their own and triggering decades of unrest in the Balkans as a result, and for the utter failure of the United States to extract anything of value from the conflict at all.

The treaty in the United States is further remembered with deeply mixed feelings. For American isolationists, the treaty proved the death knell for Wilsonian interventionism, with the entire political culture regressing quickly into isolationism once more after the war. Wilson himself would struggle on in his presidency until 1919 when he suffered a major health decline, while the American political system would see a distinct split in it’s approach to geopolitics.

While ascendent in both parties after the war, factions within the GOP in particular, and particularly Progressives, viewed the war as a completely missed opportunity to reshape the world for the better in an American limelight.

Individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard Wood and former commander of American Forces Pershing viewed the conflict’s loss as a key indicator that the United States needed to be better prepared to engage in a conflict abroad, subsequently providing ample justification for a post-war preparedness movement rebound in opposition to the growth of isolationism.

As such, overall the treaty has become a hallmark of Imperialist underestimation of the new era of social nationalism across Europe, particularly among the younger states in Europe. It is often blamed by historians for causing later instability, and ultimately instability in the Austro-Hungarian empire as well.

But the treaty ultimately paled in comparison to another treaty in terms of it’s immediate social consequences - that signed in Zurich.
 
As such, overall the treaty has become a hallmark of Imperialist underestimation of the new era of social nationalism across Europe, particularly among the younger states in Europe. It is often blamed by historians for causing later instability, and ultimately instability in the Austro-Hungarian empire as well.
Austiria-Hungry: Chuckles I am in danger
 
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