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

Admiral Matt

Gone Fishin'
Of course this only buys them trouble in the long term because abandoning the Empire will become politically poison, even more so than OTL. Meaning higher investment in the Empire and more and more sons of France who shall die from Indochina to Mail.

Welllll.... I don't think they have to lose the whole empire.

For one, look at Guyana and New Caledonia today. Fighting it out for (much of) Algeria has appeared before, though the problems there are many. But I would argue that even much of West Africa and Madagascar might never fight their way free, if the French were willing.

The sticking points come when outre-mer elected officials reach numbers where governments have to appease them, and when citoyens in Dakar demand a hexagonal standard of living. In other words, I think the French public would bail on an empire of would-be Frenchmen.
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The thing is that, on the one hand, from an economic point of view, France is much more dependent on certain resources from the colonies than otl and will therefore have a much greater interest in keeping its colonies.
Furthermore, a lot depends on whether there will be a second great war and to what extent it will ruin the European colonial powers financially and whether there will be crimes that remove both the moral and ideological basis for colonialism. Without these events, I do not believe that any colonial power will give up or lose its empire.

Admiral Matt

Gone Fishin'

The Russian Civil War
The Whites Advance…?
October 1918 - March 1919

German victory in the west was something of a disaster for Russia. For years the country had toiled in a war against the Reich it was uniquely un-equipped for, only to be forced to the table when they ultimately failed. Upon sitting down with the Germans, Lenin had hoped that Germany would eventually fall - along with the entire west - into their own revolution. However, this never panned out, and this put Russia in a difficult position that we will explore in this piece.

While relitigating all of the events prior to Germany’s ascendency over the Entente during the summer of 1918 in my view would be something of a waste of time, I think it’s important to ‘set the stage’ to remind us what that position was.

Germano-Bolshevik Relations
There has been a common tendency in history to see German-Bolshevik cooperation as something that was destined to end, as two ideologically opposed foes in a temporary relationship that collapsed the moment Trotsky put pen to paper at Brest Litovsk. However, many readers would be surprised to learn that this cooperation ran deeper and for far longer than they might initially assume. Many people see the peace of Brest Litovsk as the final line, after which the Bolsheviks did their own thing - but this was not strictly true.

By January 1919, the Bolsheviks and Germans had grown to have an intensely close relationship. This had primarily been a consequence of the pragmatic policies of the now former German Foreign Minister Paul von Hintze. In the summer and autumn of 1918 there had been great debate within the German Government over the direction of their policy towards the Russians. The first of two camps were led by the hardliners, such as Ludendorff, who despite no longer being Quartermaster General after his stroke had remained a prominent figure at ‘court’ and later in the OHL upon his return.

For clarity: by the time of the French surrender the OHL, now once again the peacetime ‘General Staff’ continued to be dominated by Hindenburg, along with senior figures like the Crown Prince Wilhelm, Crown Prince Rupprecht, Wilhelm Groener and Max Hoffmann. These men were ultimately ‘pragmatists’ of the old order, much less the ‘hardliners’ of the Fatherland-party persuasion like Ludendorff and Bauer.

Ludendorff considered the Bolsheviks something of useful disruptors who had fulfilled their purpose and destroyed Russia, but now ought to be stamped out to prevent a threat to German internal security in the long run. This, he believed, should be done through an intervention through the deployment of forces in Finland and the Baltic states, which would be staged in a feigned excuse of a planned intervention against the Allies in Murmansk. These forces would then suddenly seize Petrograd through overwhelming force, while German forces would also then march on Moscow and seize Tsaritsyn via an alliance with the Whites. This, he believed, would shatter the Bolshevik’s political unity and collapse their armed forces. Ludendorff was even willing to return parts of or even all of Russia’s lost territories in Ukraine and White Russia in order to win over the Whites, who traditionally considered themselves to be at war with Germany.

Germany in that way would then secure a friend to the east who had been weakened by the war and could be economically and politically subjugated to Berlin. However, this ran in sharp contrast to the proposals of the Foreign Ministry and von Hintze - leader of the pragmatic camp within the Government.

Von Hintze saw the Russian civil war as a huge opportunity, and the bolshevik’s weakness as something that could be exploited. Their willingness to negotiate with the Germans, even if potentially in bad faith, made them vulnerable to a slow removal of more and more land and economic concessions in exchange for German non-intervention and economic assistance. Hintze pressed this aggressively, dispatching the General Director of the Deutsche Evaporator A.G Paul Litwin to sit down with Bolshevik negotiator Leonid Krasin, the People's Commissar for Trade and Industry, in late 1918.

The pair sought to negotiate a deal that would alleviate bolshevik economic difficulties by opening trade markets with the Bolsheviks, particularly for key foods such as surplus materials and cereals which the reds would provide in exchange for cash liquidity. In particular, the Germans were even willing to assist the bolsheviks in their conflict with the white armies under Denikin in the south Caucasus. This is quite a shocking fact in hindsight, given the ideological incompatibility between the Kaiser’s autocratic, conservative, landowning Government - but in practical terms makes sense.

The Whites at the time were politically opposed to the Central Powers to almost a deluded extreme. Never the most competent political force, the White leadership saw the Germans as a threat that, even in a German victory, could never be placated or recognized as by doing so they would inevitably be forced to uphold the Treaty of Brest Litovsk - which no White was willing to do. The Whites above all feared that Russia, one and indivisible, could not be upheld. Thus, logically or not, the White military leadership in particular were never willing to compromise - even with the Finns in many cases in spite of their political similarities with the Whites save for the national question.

Potential German interventionism was also primarily a question of national interest; Germany wished for a land corridor with the Georgians and sought to use the Cossacks to achieve that by fracturing the north caucasus politically. The cossacks, while politically independent of the Whites, were under great pressure from the Whites to cooperate with them against the Bolsheviks. This meant that by crushing the Whites in the south, the threat of a political alignment between the two would be more limited. Additionally, the Germans had no faith that the Bolsheviks could successfully govern Russia. This of course somewhat changed after the fall of the OHL-clique from power and the rise of the civilian Government, who did not underestimate the bolsheviks so much, but was certainly a factor at the time. If the Bolsheviks were doomed to fall, and they were busy destroying Russia for the time being - why help their opponent?

Litwin would also offer that the Germans would abandon the absolutely vital supply port of Rostov to the Bolsheviks. This port had been occupied since the 1918 advance by German forces into the country following the Bolsheviks attempt to pursue ‘peace without a treaty’ under Trotsky, and in doing so had massively damaged the Bolsheviks ability to supply forces in the Caucuses. By returning the city, which had remained under occupation since the Treaty, the 30,000 men of the Bolshevik Special Army would find it far easier to attack Denikin without overextending their logistics structure.

German forces would also launch an offensive alongside the Finns against the British forces around Murmansk, driving out the allied expeditionary force there, and could even directly intervene against Denikin if necessary. This, however, was more of a fall-back plan in case the whites ever managed to make progress against the Bolsheviks - part of a plan by Hintze to play both sides off one another. He hoped that both sides would fight each other to the death, burning themselves out and seeing continual peasant revolts that would slowly weaken and fracture the country further, until eventually German economic hegemony came to dominate Russia.

This strategy appealed far more to the Kaiser and Chancellor von Hertling by late 1918 than Ludendorff’s interventionist approach. While the Germans did have concerns about the spread of bolshevism, they did not see the Bolsheviks as a strategic threat in the long term provided they were given the scope to settle their new order in Europe. This would only be undermined by engaging in yet another war, even if against a foe who would be far less competent than the French. The simple fact was, the German people were done with war - and thus was only further cemented by the general strike of 1918 and the election that followed.

This policy evolved following the fall of Von Hertling and the OHL’s unlimited political power though. The new Government, being a civilian administration, adopted an even less interventionist policy. Chancellor von Baden approached the bolsheviks with great caution. Obviously made aware of the previous policies of Von Hintze after entering office, he opposed a direct intervention under any circumstance against the Whites and opposed any military action against the allied intervention in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.

His Government would however pursue a pragmatic policy towards the bolsheviks, led by Foreign Minister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau. In a shocking historical fit of irony, the Social Democrats - unfamiliar with foreign policy but aware of their firm dislike of bolshevism - would end up being the ones that needed convincing. This created a remarkable historical case of the conservative von Brockdorff-Rantzau, convincing the Socialists Ebert and republican Scheidemann that a deal with the Communist bolsheviks could be best for German economic interests - rather than imperial ambitions.

Von Brockdorff-Rantzau had been instrumental in getting Lenin to Russia in the first place. A ‘bismarckian’ diplomat at heart, he encouraged the continuation of Hintze’s policy towards the bolsheviks; aiming to weaken Russia by playing the two sides off one another, and in doing so greatly strengthening Germany’s position in the east, undermining the danger posed by the British to the west and others on a global stage.

This would ultimately lead to the Brockdorff-Rantzau-Krasin Treaty of January 1919, with Germany agreeing to open their markets to imports from Russia of cereals and ores, in exchange for thus providing the bolsheviks with capital in the form of the Reichsmark - albeit at a hugely reduced cost from market rate. This had two positive effects for both sides; it strengthened the Reichsmark a small amount, alleviating heavy inflation that had affected Germany in the immediate post war period, and providing albeit very limited imports of cereals to Germany. Additionally, Germany would automatically gain the first order rights to 50% of all output of cereals, ores and metals in the caucuses - a valuable boon that would only be strengthened by the Bolsheviks de-jure acceptance, if not in writing, that some kind of Cossack autonomy in the North Caucasus was inevitable in the given circumstances. The bolsheviks meanwhile gained additional capital, plus effective legal recognition from Germany - strengthening the country’s claim to political leadership of Russia and raising the stakes for the allies and their interventions in Germany in the east and north.

There was also a third effect of this treaty. While in actual fact data would later show there was very little exchange of goods between the two states in 1919, this meant that the bolsheviks first port of call for trade would be Germany - not the western allies. Having seized considerable ore deposits in Ukraine, in the Caucuses and in Lorraine, this put Germany’s construction and heavy industry in a very powerful position post war that would aid long term recovery - while building a Russian economic reliance on Germany. Yet again, Germany had in effect torn away in all but name another part of Russia that the reds would need to rebuild their state.

It did however dissuade some Russians from the bolsheviks, further opening the door to what was until then largely seen as a myth; that Germany had been financially backing the bolsheviks from the beginning. While of course Lenin rejected this, and the treaty was declared an insignificant act of economic necessity aimed at providing a key Bolshevik promise; bread, the policy would ultimately dog the Government in the long term. For the cossacks of the south meanwhile, the treaty would make it a greater necessity to actually cooperate with the Germans more than the whites - further weakening the White cause.

The Allied Intervention
The Anglo-French-American landings in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in March 1918 had been vital at the time - the allies had spent years providing enormous supplies of arms and munitions to Russia via the ports of the north, and thus the British in particular sought to quickly crack down on the bolshevik ability to access those arms.

This was a part of Britain’s generally pro-white policy under David Lloyd George and his war ministry. Britain had hoped that a white front could be formed and ultimately prove victorious, correctly identifying the bolsheviks as at least reluctantly pro-German while the Whites remained consistently anti-German and thus would continue the conflict.

This strategy obviously started to become quite redundant as the western front began to collapse over spring and the summer of 1918. The war for all intents and purposes was going to end up as an off-continent matter for Britain, and this would be reflected in their approach to their Russian policy. The fall of the Lloyd George Ministry meant the most pro-war ministers against the Bolsheviks, especially Churchill, would leave the cabinet and be replaced by more apathetic and reluctant Tory ministers. The British Foreign Secretary Balfour for example adopted a policy of strategic ambivalence towards the bolsheviks, favouring improved relations in exchange for a repayment of Russian imperial war debts.

The War Minister Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner, meanwhile prior to the end of the war, and fearful of a German continuation of the war post-French treaty, sought to bolster aid to the Whites. He believed that it would be pivotal to adopt an ‘eastern strategy’ long term to balance against German influence, thus requiring a friendly Russia to Britain. This dragged on however as the war uncertainty and reluctance of Bonar Law to commit to any specific military approach to Germany besides the existing naval-based and middle-east based policy left the Government unwilling to commit. Additionally, there was a question of means - without access through the Bosporus straits, the southern front under Denikin could not be armed - and the eastern front would require aid to be shipped to Vladivostok, a journey of several months by boat.

Pressure on the eastern front by the bolsheviks was also viewed in Britain as a security threat to India. Unclear on the status of the bolsheviks and their willingness to militarily aid the Germans, Balfour also made clear as early as June 1918 that he believed it vital that Japan advance their military intervention in Russia up to the Urals. In Tokyo this policy was met with constant scepticism. While Japan was on paper intervening in order to establish a staging point for the allies to arm and train the whites under Kolchak, in practice the Japanese were deploying forces in ten times the expected size by the allies with the actual aim to seize control over the transamur region. As a result, and due to legitimate concerns about a direct conflict with the bolsheviks, the Japanese rejected the prospect of expanding their military front all the way to the Urals - citing logistical issues.

This whole approach to the bolsheviks also brought Britain into policy conflict with the Americans. Wilson was vehemently against Japanese interference in the Russian east, fearing that Japan was growing as a major economic, military and territorial power in Asia. These concerns only grew though after the signing of the Treaty of Copenhagen. This created something of a turnaround in British priorities. British forces now had a potentially hostile Russia, a potentially hostile and victorious Germany, and no clear continental allies besides a dilapidated France. Japanese reluctance to expand their intervention up to the Urals also gave rise for concerns in Britain over Japanese expansionism, particularly given the ongoing occupation of German territories in the far east. Britain’s imperial holdings, especially Australia, remained concerned over Japanese territorial ambitions in the west pacific islands in particular - while Britain was more directly concerned with Japan’s desire to control China. However, there was ultimately very little Britain could do about this new development, and with Japan at least an ally of Britain and a creditor to her, ultimately Britain would be forced to acquiesce.

Balfour and Curzon fell out in December 1918 over the Government’s approach to Russia though in the aftermath of the peace. Both men had deeply differing views about how to approach the reds in the new circumstances, with a war-front no longer being required, but instead a ‘check’ on German activity in the east. In this, Curzon backed the position of the War Minister Lord Milner in his view that the Whites needed military assistance or at the very least considerable supplies of arms. He further believed that Japan should be offered territorial concessions in Asia and that Britain may be able to assist Japan in securing all of Germany’s Asian colonies, save for Papua, in exchange for pushing Japan into the west. Britain should, in Curzon’s view, impose on Japan the need for their direct interference in Russia - and should force the Whites to accept territorial losses in the east in exchange for military aid.

This was necessary as by January 1919 the military situation on the Siberian front had greatly degraded. The last months of the war had been cruel to the Whites, and this showed in Balfour’s position. Balfour, a pragmatist of the old diplomatic persuasion, viewed the bolsheviks with contempt and suspicion - but ultimately acceptance. He knew the limits of the British military, and accepted the view of the new generation of diplomats and advisors on Russia who consistently began to warn during 1918 that the prospect of a White victory was slim. In one such note, R. H. Bruce Lockhart to Balfour in late 1918:

“With the defeat of Germany it is clear that our intervention in Russia has now entered upon a most dangerous phase. It is clear that our pretext for intervention, and have at the same time strengthened the position of the Bolsheviks by raising their hopes for a revolution in France and Italy.

“By severing Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic districts to Germany, they have made it difficult for White forces to consolidate in any one place. Without the active support of foreign troops, the counterrevolutionary forces in Russia are not strong enough to overcome the Bolsheviks. By financing these organisations and yet not supporting them actively, we lay ourselves open to the same charges as if we were intervening in force, and at the same time we are only prolonging civil war and unnecessary bloodshed in Russia.

“By restoring order in Russia at once, not only are we preventing the spread of bolshevism as a political danger, but we are also saving for the rest of Europe Russia from reliance upon the German-held fertile grain fields of Ukraine - which by no half measures will render Russia sterile as a counterbalance against Germany.”

Lockhart of course was at the time arguing for a direct intervention, however this was a policy of the semi-naive, over-optimistic men like Churchill who sought intervention at any cost to Britain. However, by January reports of British army mutinies in the ports of Dover and Calais, the former requiring two whole divisions to put down the mutiny. One such report by Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson wrote of a “state of general incipient mutiny in the British army during January and February 1919”, particularly after demobilised soldiers stormed the War Office in Whitehall in their fury at their economic position post-war.

This brought Balfour to a revelation in December; Britain could not alone defeat the reds, the Japanese would not assist her in doing so, and both Britain and the Americans feared the bolsheviks - and thus logically so would the Germans. This was a key thought. Britain had for much of the war accepted that the bolsheviks were near enough German fellow travellers who were introduced to weaken Russia itself and then challenge Britain in Asia, but only when the conflict came to an end did the British consider the prospect of what if the Bolsheviks remained for the long term.

The revelation of the Brockdorff-Rantzau-Krasin Treaty in January also actually further strengthened this conviction; Germany was attempting to tie Russia to its economy by the hip, and wanted the Whites and Reds to fight it out to strengthen Germany’s geopolitical position in Russia - without forcing Germany to intervene. Denikin’s weakness in the south due to his inability to secure a compact with the Cossacks proved this in early 1919, as the Cossacks found themselves more tied to Germany and independence than Russia and the Bolsheviks.

The logical solution to Britain’s strategic dilemma thus became clear, to Balfour at least. An intervention would be extraordinarily unpopular among Britain’s workers. The Whites would not win the war, and Japan would not provide enough assistance to even seriously delay the war’s end. The bolsheviks were going to win; thus Britain could gain a partner in Russia in opposition to Germany by accepting that reality in good time.

Balfour’s proposals were simple; he argued Britain should immediately withdraw all forces, cut off the Whites and let them go. In doing so, Britain would frustrate Germany’s desire to allow Russia to kill itself, and would generate a tiny amount of goodwill with the bolsheviks that could lead to an eventual rapprochement when the Bolsheviks inevitably were forced to accept they would need to win the peace - which would require economic capital to do.

This could be offered by America or Britain, depending on who took power in the United States in 1920, thus shifting the bolsheviks into at least a ‘neutral’ status rather than pro-German. Bringing the concept to cabinet in January, this also caught the attention of the Chancellor Austen Chamberlain who, faced with the ever-growing task of restoring Imperial finances - additionally demanded that any withdrawal ought to require the acceptance of the Bolsheviks to repay Tsarist war debts. In 1918 alone, Britain had provided £100mn in material and financial aid to the Russian Whites - perhaps it was time to pull some of that back in.

Thus, the status of the allied interventions in Russia by January of 1919 was one of rapidly evaporating confidence and uncertainty of White success, all while Britain attempted to decide how best to approach Russia in the frame of the new ‘great game’ against Germany.

The War on the Ground
1919 opened on the Bolshevik side with an unusual showing from the harshest and bloodiest man in the regime; Felix Dzerzhinsky. ‘Iron Felix’, head of the Cheka became hopelessly drunk in his office and, unholstering his pistol, begged Lenin and Trotsky to shoot him dead. “I’ve spilled so much blood, I barely have any reason to live” he said, in a rare show of how even some of the most monstrous men in history can fight battles with their morality. Of course, his request was not honoured, but it goes to show the stress that the reds were facing at the time.

By January, the bolsheviks had now run the country for over a year - going on a year and a half. The nation was in an open civil war, and a united White Russian government had finally at great pains been established in Siberia under Admiral Kolchak as the ‘supreme ruler’ of Russia. While much of Russia’s heartland had been locked in by the Bolsheviks, red control of Siberia was at a total end after the Czechoslovak Legion revolted against the bolsheviks on their journey east via the trans Siberian railway.

This revolt had been entirely avoidable. Trotsky, in a foolish moment of arrogance, had become slowly more frustrated with the Czechs and their insistence on being armed as they crossed to the east to be sailed back to Europe by the allies from Vladivostok. In an unnecessary bid for control, he ordered the Legion’s arrest and disarmament in May, only for the issue to drive the Legion to rebel - something that would not have happened prior. As a result, the Legion seized most of the trans Siberian railway, re-invigorating the White cause and providing them a base from which to expand west.

As a result, the Bolsheviks suddenly gained a new front to the east against an army of whites trained abroad and actually motivated to win - a threat that only became stronger after the failed uprising of the Left SR’s in July. This allowed for the creation of the ‘Komuch’ (Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly) Government in the east, and the formation of an army of the Left SRs supportive of the White cause. Combined with the allied interventions in the North (Arkanghelsk and Murmansk), along with the southern Kuban front where just 8,000 Whites had defeated over 80,000 typhoid-riddled reds in a stunning battle for survival that swelled white numbers.

However the Whites on the southern front had a key issue; they had never been able to lock down a relationship with the Cossacks. The Don Army, under Ataman Pyotr Krasnov, by late 1918 had been struggling to define their purpose in the civil war. The Cossacks had risen up against the Bolsheviks in 1918, but did so as a distinct army independent of the White command. Of course, the two parts had cooperated - but with the arrival of German forces the cossacks had received enormous quantities of military aid, ranging from small arms to artillery. This had left the Cossacks distinctly minded to declare independence, which the Kuban and Don regions did in January and May respectively - quickly establishing an army of 50,000 men and liberating the entire cossack ‘voisko’ of the Kuban by August 1918.

The Whites also struggled to win over the Cossacks as by January their force had decisively decided against expanding their war aims and attempting to seize more lands, primarily as cossack fighters did not wish to fight for lands that were not their own. German diplomatic pressure on the cossacks was also heavy, and while the Germans did not yet wish to see the Whites destroyed, they certainly did not wish to see them win the conflict. Instead, Germany opted to prop up the Cossack Republics and, in doing so, gain even further influence than achieved in Operation Faustschlag and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk.

This left the Whites in a very weak position in the south. Unable to receive aid from the allies via the closed Bosporus straits, unable to ally with the Cossacks and isolated from Kolchak, Denikin and his forces were protected to a degree in the north caucasian steppe - but could not pose any real threat to the reds. This greatly strengthened the Bolshevik position. They had no real strategic threat to the south, no real threat to the north, and thus the only main threat would be to the east. There was, of course, still the threat of German intervention though. This is what spurred the Brockdorff-Rantzau-Krasin Treaty in January.

As early as November, Lenin had faced renewed pressure from the anti-German camp in the Central Committee led by Bukharin. The group viewed German encroachment as a threat to the survival of the state, which showcased an evolution in Bukharin’s thinking at the time. Bukharin and his clique had vehemently opposed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, fearing that it would allow Germany to slowly squeeze the country into destruction due to the lack of Russian union with Ukraine. This had at one point in March 1918 become so serious that the arrest of Lenin by Bukharin and other Left Bolsheviks had been considered.

He quickly felt vindicated in this view thanks to the Brockdorff-Rantzau-Krasin Treaty, which Bukharin saw as being far too amicable towards German interests. He worried that with the civil war, the southern Cossack states would be lost, and then Germany would slowly pressure the bolsheviks into economic dependency - or even directly intervene later. Arguing that the revolution needed to be protected in Russia, or even that war was needed against Germany to force Germany into revolution, Bukharin ran against Lenin in public for the first time to a serious degree in January 1919.

Krushing Kolchak
The end of the 1918 fighting period for winter had seen the Whites successfully take some small territorial gains in Siberia, but generally the Perm Operation of November to January was indecisive. This left both sides with an opportunity to press the attack. For the Whites, the need to attack was serious as the failure to open up new fronts in the south, north or even West with German assistance left them vulnerable to being isolated and destroyed.

For the Reds meanwhile, the need to attack was minor. Their incentive was simple; that by attacking they could crush the last real White threat to their control of Russia and end the civil war. Additionally, by doing so they could begin national recovery rather than face continued German pressure and reliance. Lenin recognised this quickly, and encouraged an offensive in the east above all other fronts.

Supplied with extensive arms, the best troops available and ample ammunition that would no longer be needed so desperately on the southern and northern fronts, the Bolsheviks set about preparing an offensive against Kolchak. For Kolchak’s whites, who were executing an offensive in January 1919 that, due to the increased pressure, soon bogged down and failed to make serious ground, this presented a potentially existential threat. Morale among the whites was low, political infighting remained high and even the Left-SR’s, who had only really ‘joined’ the white cause recently, now began to question their position.

It would be Trotsky who would ultimately lead the main offensive against the Siberian whites in March 1919. Led by Zinoviev’s Turkestan Army, along with Mikhail Frunze and Gaya Gai’s 4th and 1st armies respectively, Trotsky’s spearhead would come from the south - aiming for the key railway junction at Cheliabinsk. The attack initially struggled to make major progress; bogged down by logistical issues along with lacking motivation on the part of what was by now a largely conscripted army, complemented by some of the ‘elite’ troops such as Trotsky’s own personal retinue. The greater training quality of the White soldiers; mostly former cadets and officers, also showed on the battlefield - but their dwindling numbers and the Whites also having to rely on unwilling conscripts as the fighting went on soon meant that the reds began to make ground by late February.

For the whites the attack was a disaster, which only became worse when the bolshevik 5th, 2nd and 3rd armies in the north also joined the fight when White forces were forced to withdraw from their hard-won city of Perm to strengthen their line. This served to be a crushing blow for morale, which soon became worse when red forces neared Cheliyabinsk in April - forcing them to abandon Ekaterinburg. In a battlefield where there were two major rail lines in need of protection and to be used to advance, Cheliyabinsk formed the key junction between both - meaning the loss of it would threaten to cut off the entire White Siberian army of Radola Gajda without a withdrawal.

The withdrawal, as expected, would turn out to be a chaotic rout though. Defeated decisively at the hands of Mikhail Lashevich’s 3rd Army. Red pressure thus soon captured Cheliyabinsk - essentially destroying white hopes of any long term victory in the east. The front had narrowed now, encompassing solely the single-route Trans Siberian Railway, and as such while the railway would be far easier to defend for the whites - it would be impossible for them to attack their numerically superior foe. As a result, white morale soon collapsed - the war may just be over by Christmas.

Biting the Bullitt
Like birds in a dark forest, the eyes of the world watched as the news of the slow white implosion began to spread across the world in early 1919. In the United States, while some naive fools had held out some hope that the Whites could pull it off, most former allied generals involved in the various interventions soon recognized that they could not. Their political forces were simply too disparate, their military too dominated by Tsarists, and Russia’s citizens simply too opposed to Tsarism.

Much akin to Britain’s cabinet beginning to see ‘the bigger picture’, in the White House such a view also began to form as news of the red counter-offensive in Siberia filtered in. Col. House, Wilson’s main man on foreign policy, had lost some credibility since the war drew to a close in the President’s eyes on account of the whole thing having rather blown up in Wilson’s face - however he remained the principle man on foreign affairs.

House, a fervent believer in the 14 points, began to see Russia as simply the consequence of his own ideological view; that Russia’s people clearly wanted bolshevism - and thus who were the allies to attempt to stop them. Concluding that the Whites could not win the war, an Anglo-American proposal had approached the reds in February with a proposal to meet in Tehran to negotiate an end to the civil war with the Whites and Reds. The Reds had approved, but naturally the Whites had not.

Former Russian foreign minister turned White Minister Sergey Sazonov proved to be ‘shocked’ at the potential conference, asking British diplomats if they deemed it reasonable to ask him to sit down with people who had “killed his entire family”. Thus, the proposal had failed - but the idea remained in the mind of American and British diplomats, now furious at the ‘intransigence’ of the White leaders. Thus, when William C Bullitt, a state department official who had travelled to Russia in late 1918 to try and negotiate the establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Bolsheviks, approached House with a proposal to simply ‘go around’ the whites - House condoned the move.

Few expected with much optimism any positive outcome of the ‘Bullitt mission’ as it became known, even Bullitt himself who saw Bolshevik treaty with Germany as a sure symbol of Russo-German ties in the long run, but he held out hope that in truth Lenin was not just a stooge of the Kaiser - but a national leader searching for a way out from under Wilhelm’s boot.

As it turned out, he was right. Travelling to Russia alongside journalist Lincoln Steffens and Swedish communist Karl Kilbom, Bullitt would discover the bolsheviks met him with ‘open arms’. He soon would receive a communique from the bolshevik leadership on March 14 agreeing to conduct ‘peace talks’ with the Allies - provided such talks involved the total evacuation of allied troops from Russia.

The British and American Governments immediately assented - displeased at the collapse of the Whites and seeing no real alternative path forward, and desperate to conclude a deal on war debts. Of course nobody trusted the reds - but it was hoped that by many any deal whatsoever they may just start to approach the west with less suspicion.

The two sides would agree to meet in the city of Visby, the capital of the island of Gotland in Sweden. Georgy Chicherin, as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, naturally leapt at the opportunity to attend as he had at Brest Litovsk - even despite his visceral hatred of the British. Maxim Litvinov, Representative of the RSFSR to Britain, would also attend, along with Krasin and other party delegates. The British meanwhile would send Balfour, while the United States would naturally send Bullitt and diplomat Robert Lansing. Thus, on the week of March 31 1919 - the fate of Russia would be decided.

Man, just phenomenal to be able to read your meticulous work while teaching the Russian Civil War at work. Great AH is so powerful for framing a clearer perspective on the past.

Admiral Matt

Gone Fishin'
Well, that's pretty much were the real early-1918 German, Bulgarian, and Austrian plans for Balkans and Europe.
And Ukrainian/Polish borders do make sense, Germans used Congress of Poland borders, when establishing a kingdom in 1916, and in case of Ukraine, those were governorates claimed by UPR in 1917 and early 1918. Hetmanate also claimed Chelm, Polissya marshes( Pinsk-Mozyr area south of Pripyat river), and Belgorod.
Regarding Courland, Livonia and Estonia - those are internal borders. All three regions are supposed to be in United Baltic Duchy, a state run by the Baltic Germans, and theoretically, subjected to annexation into the Reich down the line. I doubt that it would have happened, however.
Lithuania - they held the claim to Belostok-Grodno-Volkovysk area since the Duchy times, and they didn't really care that those lands are full of Ruthenians(Belarusians) and Poles.
Sometime ago on KR mod subreddit someone ran math, and we discovered that Lithuanians would make 40-45% of population in those borders, followed by Poles, Ruthenians and Jews.
The most problematic of all the new configurations are actually Bulgaria and Lithuania. Their titular nations are like just a plurality.
While Bulgaria has a cop out with integrating Macedonians, who didn't have well defined identity at the times and oscillating between identifying Serbian and Bulgarian, as Bulgarians and therefore reaching majority, Lithuania would be very fragile.
Serbia is effectively dead , and it'll take them probably until 21st century to recover.
Another question is as of 1919 still non-existent Belarus. Per B-L Treaty, this is just Russian land occupied by Germany. Belarusian cultural and political leaders of the time lobbied hard for independence, but Germany lost in our world. As of 1920, Belarus basically had no national identity and its population was very diverse...

I should have said at the time, but this is an excellent post, and I really appreciate it. Thank you for sharing insight that is a bit obscure here.

And yeah, if anything the Ukrainian-Polish border is one of the least "wrong" borders east of the Rhine... at least in that there simply couldn't be both "correct" borders and a strong Poland. The demographic frontiers were used and abused in our TL.
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I read this, good job by the way. I have just come back to try and see: Did Germany retain any overseas colonies at all?

The Treaty of Copenhagen restricts the deployment of U-boats to German overseas colonies, but unless I missed something, I can't see any colonies to deploy them to. I note that East and West Africa are retained by the British Empire, Australia retains Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons, and the Japanese are sitting on most of the other Pacific colonies and will not be moved. Did Germany get some French or Belgian colonies as reparations? Did they get to keep a few unnamed Pacific islands taken by British/Anzac forces other than Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons? Nauru? Samoa? Palau?
I read this, good job by the way. I have just come back to try and see: Did Germany retain any overseas colonies at all?

The Treaty of Copenhagen restricts the deployment of U-boats to German overseas colonies, but unless I missed something, I can't see any colonies to deploy them to. I note that East and West Africa are retained by the British Empire, Australia retains Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons, and the Japanese are sitting on most of the other Pacific colonies and will not be moved. Did Germany get some French or Belgian colonies as reparations? Did they get to keep a few unnamed Pacific islands taken by British/Anzac forces other than Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons? Nauru? Samoa? Palau?
Italy has a concession in a useful location.
The Treaty of Copenhagen restricts the deployment of U-boats to German overseas colonies, but unless I missed something, I can't see any colonies to deploy them to. I note that East and West Africa are retained by the British Empire, Australia retains Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons, and the Japanese are sitting on most of the other Pacific colonies and will not be moved. Did Germany get some French or Belgian colonies as reparations? Did they get to keep a few unnamed Pacific islands taken by British/Anzac forces other than Kaiser Wilhelmland and the Solomons? Nauru? Samoa? Palau?
Germany maintained Togoland and annexed French Gabon, so it has a solid position in Central and West Africa.
Exactly. He would be only known in realistic scenario only by history geeks in this TL.

To be honest, he (Makhno) was and still is only known by anarchists, history (especially Russian Civil War) geeks and historical fiction (including alternate history/ this forum's) geeks in otl.

By the way, I have written a thread of "Entente victory in a Central Powers victorious world" based on the link above. In this scenario, with its 1918 pod for a Central Powers victory, how possible would otl's Entente victory look in this scenario?

By the way, I have written a thread of "Entente victory in a Central Powers victorious world" based on the link above. In this scenario, with its 1918 pod for a Central Powers victory, how possible would otl's Entente victory look in this scenario?
I always find a stroke or heartattack a very easy and plausible way to change history. But, the question then becomes, would people find it believable that Ludendorff doesn't take the to them obvious road to victory. And the PoD here is to take out Ludendorff because he made a pretty stupid call not in line with the goals of the offensive. But, I think that for the rest OTL seems very plausible, at least the immediate aftermath of WW1
It's mentioned somewhere down in the thread. The goal of Operation Michael was to split the French and British armies. It's why Ludendorff launched the Kaiserslacht where he did. Only, once the initial success came, Ludendorff ordered the units to basically march into open but strategically worthless land. The British and French were able to maintain their connection and whilst a lot of land was taken, strategically Michael was a failure. The change of German leadership at the start takes out Ludendorff, replaces him with Von Wittelsbach (iirc) and he devellops the attack in such a way that Amiens is taken, which splits the logistics system, making it so that the French and British armies become permanently split. The question is if real life is realistic to a person to whom this scenario is actual history. In my opion, freak medical ailments such as heart attacks and strokes can be handwaved away. But Ludendorff giving orders not in line with the goals of the offensive he himself set out is the bigger problem
I always find a stroke or heartattack a very easy and plausible way to change history. But, the question then becomes, would people find it believable that Ludendorff doesn't take the to them obvious road to victory. And the PoD here is to take out Ludendorff because he made a pretty stupid call not in line with the goals of the offensive. But, I think that for the rest OTL seems very plausible, at least the immediate aftermath of WW1
why was this person kicked?
omg now you are also gone
whats happening?
Don't necro TL thread with meaningless questions please. You can always look up Kick & Ban Notices thread. Instead you went there and necroed thread to which no one answered for months. When I saw notification, I thought that The Reformer finally put an update and rushed to check it up. Imagine my disappointment.
That's why there are rules against necroing threads that are inactive for 3 months, unless you are OP.