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

How France moves forward from this going to be interesting to see. On the one hand you'll have some who'll go even more revanchist and baying for a shot at round 3.

On the other hand, from the French perspective, there'll be people who believe they've blown their best shot at taking down Germany. If the France of 1914, with the help of Britian, Russia, and later America couldn't defeat Germany, then the France of 1918 and the years to come certainly won't either. There might even be some circles calling for a detente and cooperation with Germany, and to take a path not unlike what OTL post-WW2 Germany took, embracing pan-Europeanism

However things turn out, there's going to be a lot of soul-searching and "vigorous" political debate over where to go from here, like in Spain after the Spanish-American war.
 
There's no way Italy gets off entirely scott free. They were on the losing side. No matter what, Italy is going to suffer in some way, even if probably in minor ways.
I did say relatively scot free, as in comparison to other continental Entente members, like France or Russia. Of course Italy isn't going to get off completely scot free, but they will get a much lighter treatment due to Germany being exhausted.
 
I would agree and say I also would be incredibly suprised and disappointed if he wasn't going in that direction.
I think it's worth remembering three things.

1) Ittl Italy attacks after the Piave solely because irl they could have done so, but chose against doing so. Armando Diaz was very cautious as a commander precisely because he feared doing too much would see the Italian army implode irl, here he is just as cautious - but knows if France is about to be kicked out Italy must try and liberate her occupied territories to avoid poor terms. He attacks therefore, but this is not a Vittorio Veneto. The attack goes well, but the Austro-Hungarian army hasn't been annihilated - a lot of why VV went so well for example was the fact Hungary's army had already left the frontline, and Italy spent months preparing. So yeah - solid Italian victory here, but not a landslide.

2) While Italy might do well for a time, one has to remember Germany still has a large, active and experienced army they could deploy to aid Austria - which would fit with German geostrategic goals. A strong Italy only benefits Germany if it is firmly allied, and the Germans had no faith Italy would switch sides after they broke the Triple Alliance. German Foreign Policy thus would dictate aiming to maintain a strong but subservient Austria - also to provide stability for the Balkans - and thus while Italy's advance is good, it is not going to be an uncontested march on Vienna.

3) Italy by 1918 was, frankly, screwed domestically. In OTL the country annexed a vast swathe of territories, and still fell to a nationalist putsch and suffered two years of labour unrest in the Biennio Rosso. I'd say after ww1, without a miraculous far reaching victory Italy was always going to suffer a lot. The domestic situation is just unavoidable, and is the consequence of the country being almost 50/50 on whether to enter the war at all. BUT that doesn't mean Italy gets split in half, or given horrendous peace terms, or many of the other standard CP victory tropes - it just means Italy post war will not be stable and the consequences vary.

So overall, I'm not saying Italy is going to be torn into pieces, nor is it going to be completely fine. Frankly I'm actually quite pleased with my Italy lore as it's certainly unique. But I wouldn't expect the war to come with little immediate consequence for Italy, but you'll see more on that in later updates.
 
I think it's worth remembering three things.

1) Ittl Italy attacks after the Piave solely because irl they could have done so, but chose against doing so. Armando Diaz was very cautious as a commander precisely because he feared doing too much would see the Italian army implode irl, here he is just as cautious - but knows if France is about to be kicked out Italy must try and liberate her occupied territories to avoid poor terms. He attacks therefore, but this is not a Vittorio Veneto. The attack goes well, but the Austro-Hungarian army hasn't been annihilated - a lot of why VV went so well for example was the fact Hungary's army had already left the frontline, and Italy spent months preparing. So yeah - solid Italian victory here, but not a landslide.
The problem is that if the A-H is like OTL, well low morale aside, it lack everything else, when in OTL during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto the italian troops conquered the austrian line and looked at how little they had in term of food and equipment, the original Second Piave basically annihilated the K.u.k as an offensive force and hollowed her. Sure the Hungarian army was not there, but honestly at this stage will have make the result a little harder to achieve but never in doubt.

2) While Italy might do well for a time, one has to remember Germany still has a large, active and experienced army they could deploy to aid Austria - which would fit with German geostrategic goals. A strong Italy only benefits Germany if it is firmly allied, and the Germans had no faith Italy would switch sides after they broke the Triple Alliance. German Foreign Policy thus would dictate aiming to maintain a strong but subservient Austria - also to provide stability for the Balkans - and thus while Italy's advance is good, it is not going to be an uncontested march on Vienna.
The problem for Germany is well, she doesn't have an infinite pool of will, equipment and men and the current offensive will tire a lot of soldiers, sending them to prop up the Austrian even more will strain them; sure there will be panic because their southern front is basically open if the italians continue to advance and from Berlin pow the K.u.K is about to collapse, so their choice are to rob Paul to pay Peter. If the entente is smart will try to reinforce as quick as possible the italian front with everything they have
Plus well in honest term, Austria-Hungary is dead, even the people in Vienna knows it, they believed that any war past 1917 even if victorious will have caused the fall of the empire...once the bullet stopped due to the massive cost of the war in term of blood and treasure and by now everyone knows that the Empire is just a whole owned subsidiary of Germany, losing in this way even more legitimancy.
Sure Berlin can prop them after the war, but she will have already her socio-economic problem, there will be trouble in the east due to the russian civil war and adding also A-H will be a strain for a very tired nation.
Frankly it's much easier and cost effective for Berlin to give Rome a little save facing pittance like Trentino and the west river of Isonzo* even because they will be tired to always come to save A-H neck
Franky we are talking here at a late 1918 victory, there will be no real winner whatever the German terms will be like OTL, even because the troubles will not end with the stop of the Great War.

3) Italy by 1918 was, frankly, screwed domestically. In OTL the country annexed a vast swathe of territories, and still fell to a nationalist putsch and suffered two years of labour unrest in the Biennio Rosso. I'd say after ww1, without a miraculous far reaching victory Italy was always going to suffer a lot. The domestic situation is just unavoidable, and is the consequence of the country being almost 50/50 on whether to enter the war at all. BUT that doesn't mean Italy gets split in half, or given horrendous peace terms, or many of the other standard CP victory tropes - it just means Italy post war will not be stable and the consequences vary.

So overall, I'm not saying Italy is going to be torn into pieces, nor is it going to be completely fine. Frankly I'm actually quite pleased with my Italy lore as it's certainly unique. But I wouldn't expect the war to come with little immediate consequence for Italy, but you'll see more on that in later updates.
The real big difference here is that unlike OTL there will not be any pubblic humiliation at peace conference and the italian politicians will have an easy road to point on how the rest of the entente lose leaving them alone and so unable to win.
Will solve the situation? Not entirely as yes, troubles will be unvaoidable but it will give some breath to the liberals because...well, everybody even the socialist feared a possible A-H invasion of the nation and with the Hapbsurg Empire still existing and being a looming menace (as the one of their German masters), nobody will want to cause too much trouble due to the fear of the Hapsburg use them to launch another attack (sure not realistic but it will remain a very widespread feeling and it's very probable that an experienced politician like Giolitti will use it to mantain the government of national unity post war)

*basically what promised if she remained neutral (not that A-H ever had the intention to fullfill such promise)
 
original Second Piave basically annihilated the K.u.k as an offensive force and hollowed her
Indeed
The problem for Germany is well, she doesn't have an infinite pool of will, equipment and men and the current offensive will tire a lot of soldiers
Also true, however worth remembering that would change when France capitulates.
their southern front is basically open if the italians continue to advance and from Berlin pow the K.u.K is about to collapse, so their choice are to rob Paul to pay Peter
This isn't the case. As mentioned in the update, the Italian advance ends at the Livenza River and the AH army has not been destroyed totally, merely exhausted as an offensive force. Of course, Italy could begin a new attack sooner rather than later, but Austria's army, while hollowed and now absolutely incapable of offensive operations, is not yet destroyed. After all, their troops need merely hold out until Germany (now inevitably in many Austrians' eyes) beats France - something Austria's troops would recognize. Further, the Italian army would need several weeks to restructure and prepare a full Vittorio Veneto style offensive.
The real big difference here is that unlike OTL there will not be any pubblic humiliation at peace conference and the italian politicians will have an easy road to point on how the rest of the entente lose leaving them alone and so unable to win.
Italian leadership is only able to blame outside forces so far. At the end of the day, Italy still will have lost hundreds of thousands of men for a war where half of the country opposed participation with what will either be little or no gain territorially. The Italian left, led by Maximalists, are hardly going to go "Oh it's France's fault? Oh that's alright then we get it, continue as normal". The country had deep set socioeconomic issues that would not go away, and the disgrace at Versailles being absent here doesnt forgive the absence of any valuable gains in the conflict.

Anyway, all in all you'll see what happens later in the updates as there's still a lot left to happen before Italy's war is concluded. Overall though I'd recognize that while A-H was weak, to assume it was on the verge of total collapse in mid 1918 is factually incorrect. Secondly, to assume that because Italy doesnt get occupied or embarrassed at Versailles it would be if not totally then largely politically stable after a war where they essentially stand to gain a few miles of territory, nothing at all, or lose something would be incorrect.

While I'm all for trying to have more unique takes on timelines than other CP victories, I'm going for what is plausible - Italy being fine after this is not.
 
There's no way Italy gets off entirely scott free. They were on the losing side. No matter what, Italy is going to suffer in some way, even if probably in minor ways.
It depends entirely on if Austria-Hungary survives I would say, AH cares about a lot of things Germany simply doesn't. There would be some supreme irony if the two most bad faith actors, Serbia and Italy, would see their goals achieved by the mere fact that the Austrians stop being interested in being Austrians.
 
Considering how late this divergence is, it is indeed possible that Austria-Hungary disintegrates, which would see Germany just annex Austria, Slovenia, and Czechia.
 
Indeed

Also true, however worth remembering that would change when France capitulates.

This isn't the case. As mentioned in the update, the Italian advance ends at the Livenza River and the AH army has not been destroyed totally, merely exhausted as an offensive force. Of course, Italy could begin a new attack sooner rather than later, but Austria's army, while hollowed and now absolutely incapable of offensive operations, is not yet destroyed. After all, their troops need merely hold out until Germany (now inevitably in many Austrians' eyes) beats France - something Austria's troops would recognize. Further, the Italian army would need several weeks to restructure and prepare a full Vittorio Veneto style offensive.

Italian leadership is only able to blame outside forces so far. At the end of the day, Italy still will have lost hundreds of thousands of men for a war where half of the country opposed participation with what will either be little or no gain territorially. The Italian left, led by Maximalists, are hardly going to go "Oh it's France's fault? Oh that's alright then we get it, continue as normal". The country had deep set socioeconomic issues that would not go away, and the disgrace at Versailles being absent here doesnt forgive the absence of any valuable gains in the conflict.

Anyway, all in all you'll see what happens later in the updates as there's still a lot left to happen before Italy's war is concluded. Overall though I'd recognize that while A-H was weak, to assume it was on the verge of total collapse in mid 1918 is factually incorrect. Secondly, to assume that because Italy doesnt get occupied or embarrassed at Versailles it would be if not totally then largely politically stable after a war where they essentially stand to gain a few miles of territory, nothing at all, or lose something would be incorrect.

While I'm all for trying to have more unique takes on timelines than other CP victories, I'm going for what is plausible - Italy being fine after this is not.

Regarding A-H the problem is not the war, you have to work hard to have a Russian-style collapse during a shooting war, no even the Hapsburg leadership know that the problems will start once the bullet stop...basically what are the possibility that A-H will survive his own 'Biennio Rosso' with ethnic tension exacerbated by the social and economic situation and all the loss of the war, with people looking at the loss and what has been gained and realize that's not enough (because nothing is enough after such massacre) and the goverment legitimancy eroded (every goverment regardless of the alliance suffered that and Wien is by now owned by Germany further lowering his status).

Italy while will not be stable, well all the political party will be forced to take in consideration the fact that up north (for all his problems) A-H (and his master Germany) still exist and probably want revenge (at least this will be the general thoughts) so before even entertaining any thought of revolution many will need to take in consideration that factor and OTL showed that not even the socialist and communist want Italy back under Hapsburg dominion. Naturally if A-H is engulfed so much on his own problem and revolutions things will change (probably very quickly) but till that happen even the maximalist will (relatively is the word) stay put, in general buy the 'Oh it's France fault' at least in pubblic and prepare for the electoral battle against the catholic and the liberals

Military speaking the actual problem of the K.u.K. is that they lack food (at the time of Vittorio Veneto they were basically on the verge of famine), ravaged by the spanish flu, they are low in ammunition and their general equipment is very used up, not considering everything they have lost in the italian counteroffensive. Sure they are on the defensive and are not destroyed like the OTL Battle of Vittorio Veneto, but they are in a very tight spot and Diaz will know that time is the crucial thing, so he will try to organize another offensive as quick as possible to anticipate any reinforcements (Rome will try to must anything they have plus ask whatever the rest of the allies can spare, not sure what they can obtain, but they will try). Sure once France is dealt the Germans will (not very happyly because it's the nth time they save A-H bacon and by now everyone now that Wien is totally dependent by Berlin) send reinforcements, still even the Germans need time to rest and re-equip their troops and many will not be very happy and eager to again continue to fight for A-H
 
Should we talk about the minor nations involved? For example both Portugal (which Reformer already mentioned) and Brasil joined late in in the war and seizes german ships interned in their ports, the oeace treaty is just going to demand the seized vessels back or something more?
 
The French Armistice (June-July 1918)
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The French Armistice
June-July 1918

With the Reserve Army in mutiny and the French line stretched irreparably thinly across the line in the north, on June 22nd French Prime Minister Clemenceau resigned, releasing former Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux as his final act and urging Poincare to appoint him as Prime Minister.

Caillaux, a major figure in the Radical party and once leader of the ‘peace party’ in the Assembly, had been arrested in January and charged with providing the Germans with intelligence, and briefly tried but not convicted. A rival to Clemenceau and a defeatist the now removed Prime Minister couldn't afford to keep around at the time, the charges had almost certainly been fabricated and with his release Caillaux emerged somewhat redeemed - albeit in the most morbid manner.

Arrogant, pessimistic and overall cautious, Callieaux had convinced himself of France’s defeat early on in the war and had become a central figure in the effort to negotiate a status quo peace. Now out of jail, something his allies had spent months campaigning for but largely been ignored, he knew that the sole reason for his release was to do what Clemenceau wouldn't - negotiate a peace treaty.

While initially not invited to form a Ministry by President Poincare, who instead invited the far more respected Aristide Briand to form a Ministry, Caillaux would immediately call for a peace ‘with honour’ with Germany in the Assembly where he met a hostile but increasingly less belligerent reception. Briand, a Radical-Socialist who had opposed the failed Nivelle Offensive as Prime Minister, ran what remains the shortest French premiership in history of just eight days before resigning. Thankfully for Briand, he would later return.

During this time, to his credit, he began the discussion over what France might actually do to counter the growing German threat to the capital. While many French politicians, including Clemenceau, believed that France should keep fighting to the bitter end - even behind Paris if needs be - the reality was doing so would not be accepted by the French people and army. By now France was frankly exhausted, she had gone through years of hardship, starvation, strikes and political chaos - and she only seemed to be worse for it.

In fact at this very time, French steel workers were already threatening strike action if peace were not at least considered by the Government. Thus Briand started the consultation in the national assembly. The debate was simple, should the Government seek terms, and should it do so despite almost certainly being forced to do so independently of the other allies.

For many French politicians the answer initially was a firm no, but the shelling of Paris, the threats of strikes and the fears that the French army could completely collapse ultimately left many delegates saying yes.

While no resolution would ever be passed confirming such a desire for peace - a vote withheld to allow the parties to save face - Briand’s discussions with numerous political leaders left him with the resounding impression that France was beaten, and her political leaders firmly believed that a continued war could only bring further ruin - or even bolshevism.

This was largely motivated by the rapidly growing discontent in the army. Officers reported daily disturbances, and while the Army was withdrawing in good order towards Petain’s new ‘defence line’, few in the political class were convinced this line would hold. This was almost entirely because they had become convinced that the soldiers of the army were on the verge of another mass mutiny as in 1917, and that while they would likely only mutiny against further offensives, such poor relations between the troops and their officers would inevitably lead to defeat on the field. Not to mention, if France ever wanted to win - now needing immense American help - she would have to do so by attacking, and who knew if the troops would be willing to do that by 1919.

Appointed in the deeply anti-German Poincare’s attempt to offer Germany a ‘white peace’, Briand would approach the Germans for secret talks between their ambassadors in Switzerland immediately upon taking office.

Offering a recognition of German claims in the Treaty of Brest Litovsk and abandoning hopes for Alsace Lorraine’s return in exchange for a neutral peace, Briand faced the difficult task of convincing Germany’s aggressive military dictatorship that a total German victory was not in fact on the cards in the immediate term and compromise was needed. Unfortunately, with the French army still in flight and at this point casually walking their forces forward through the ‘abandoned zone’ left by Petain at a leisurely pace, the Germans refused.

With this failure, Briand recognized he could not both secure peace for France, and ensure there were no concessions to Germany. He resigned on June 30th and, reluctantly, Poincare invited Caillaux to form a Government.

Gathering a coalition of defeatist ministers in the Radical party, one that certainly would not be able to form a majority in ordinary times, Caillaux on July 1st finally requested an armistice with Germany. Having gone over Briand’s notes, and assessed the situation, he recognized that this would have to be an unconditional armistice. Despite this, he set some terms; namely that Wilson’s 14 points be ‘respected’ and that the French army be permitted to not totally demobilise. This was reciprocated in the early hours of July 2nd when the Germans offered full terms for an armistice, which was accepted by Marshal Petain shortly after.

While the French army remained largely in place, the war in France at least was over. Signed in a railway carriage in the recently captured town of Compiegne*, Petain met with Max Hoffman, the German Quartermaster General, and both Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and Wilhelm of Germany - who accepted the final terms.

France would demobilise its entire reserve army. It would surrender virtually its entire stock of heavy artillery, tanks and aircraft. It’s frontline forces would be reduced to limited mobilised strength, capable of resisting a German attack but certainly not able to advance. She would meet Germany in Brussels within a month to negotiate a treaty. She would negotiate with Germany “with respect to territorial concessions equitable to indemnities of the conflict, and with respect to the values endorsed in President Wilson’s 14 points”. Finally, she would immediately order the evacuation of the British and American expeditionary forces - along with all other foreign forces - and recall her troops in Macedonia and other foreign territories.

With the stroke of a pen, the greatest war the world had ever seen was essentially over, and the main frontline party to such a conflict had abandoned her allies for her own benefit.

Analysis
For many years people have often scolded France for not continuing to fight without German forces having even reached Paris. It was certainly a decision lambasted in the British and American press after the decision was made without consultation of the other allies, and it would continue to be criticised many years later - though in practice both Governments saw it coming.

President Wilson in fact would remark to his senior advisor Colonel House that if he were President of France he’d have ‘never got the country in the mess in the first place’, while Prime Minister Law had already completed large scale evacuation plans for the BEF.

The simple fact though was by July 1918, France simply had been burned out. Having faced enormous mutinies in 1917, which were now replicated in 1918, and with American forces having failed to make a dent in the German advance at Belleau, the two main driving factors for French continued involvement in the war had diminished greatly. The moral defeat of the shelling of Paris, combined with fears of a Socialist revolution and the defeatism of Marshal Petain, and the political class, further caused France to simply give up hope.

What people often do not realise is that France by 1917 was virtually defeated. The massive losses at Verdun combined with the defeat of Russia had left her a nation sapped of morale, men and determination. People forget that this was the same nation that sapped her entire artillery munitions reserve in 1914 within two weeks of the war’s start - seh had staggered on for another four years. Thus, by 1918 it should come as no shock that with the detachment of the BEF from the line and the advance on Paris, the French Government simply could no longer stomach the fight.

By attaining peace before the loss of the city, they could limit German demands and secure a less damaging peace - allies be damned. Particularly as in practice France knew that most of her friends would join her in peace talks soon after, while Britain would no doubt fight on for pride’s sake, strengthening the French hand.

While not without frustration, the allies needed a strong France to prevent German hegemony on the continent and provided Britain retained the advantage at sea this would mean Germany could be talked down from major and damaging demands on France too. Thus, peace did not seem a dreadful option, even if it would mean permitting German control of central and eastern Europe for the time being.

For the Germans meanwhile, even if France had become the main battlefield of the war and the target of many German jingoists for excruciating peace terms, the political elites in Germany were tired of the war. French withdrawal would ensure German continental victory - something that in the long term was not certain due to American involvement. Thus they too chose to agree to an armistice on the basis of limited territorial changes, securing their eastern victories and knowing that France now was doomed to accept whatever economic consequences they may choose to impose.

Germany had not become unquestioned master of Europe yet, but she would be within the next decade - or so they thought.

- - - - -
*Yes, I chose that location, no I have no shame.
 
Welp, that's that. The Kaiser has won his war. Now, can he win the peace?

I expect that'll be the hard part. Especially given that last line.
 
Ironically this means less dead for the Americans, as I doubt after the French peace they would really want to stay in for long.

World War 1 is technically only a single battle for the US, guess that one battle may capture the imagination for then next decade. I guess the US will slowly back away. I don’t think they would drop Britain just yet but they are not far from it.

For France, yeah she made all the mistakes it could make leading up to this point. Getting out is probably the right call, nobody can blame them.

Britain will likely keep going on for a while, but when everyone else leaves I doubt they will truly fight on forever. Probably could never trust France ever again which is going to be a problem for countering German hegemony.

I suppose Romania is shitting its pants at the current moment.

Japan is weird one, i guess they will follow Britain’s lead?
 
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