What if no German Unrestricted Sub Warfare, Zimmerman Note intercept, US DoW on Germany in 1917?

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
This is not an uncommon scenario, but what if the US does not join into WWI, especially in 1917?

To make things clear, I'll specify exactly what changes from our actual history to make it not happen.

World events in Europe, World War I and its various fronts, North America including the USA and Mexico, and every place else run almost precisely as they did in real history up through 1916, including Wilson's reelection in November that year.

The slight divergence from our timeline that starts happening in 1916 is an elevated level of petty personal political drama in the military circles around the Kaiser, that turns out to have consequences that are not so petty, but are policy relevant, after all.

They start in the mind of Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Alexander_von_Müller) Chief of the German Imperial Naval Cabinet and personal friend of the Kaiser, and distress he feels over the increased tension in early 1916 that led to the resignation of Alfred Von Tirpitz as State Secretary of the Imperial Naval Office on March 15, 1916. The famous Tirpitz, aligned with the Kaiser for years as a booster of the large fleet, had increasingly been at odds with the Kaiser and Bethman-Hollweg over restrictions on U-Boat rules of engagement in the aftermath of the Lusitania sinking and the American negative reaction to it. Tirpitz agitated against restrictions in the press, and threatened to resign multiple times before doing so, causing the Kaiser stress, and thus causing Muller stress.

In this timeline, his protectiveness of the Kaiser, and his anger at Tirpitz prima donna self-aggrandizing style, angers Muller a great deal and makes him warier of prima donna Admirals and Generals trying to push around the Kaiser.

Admiral Muller like OTL takes care of personal naval/military management and briefing of the Kaiser, along with his Army counterpart Generaloberst Moriz Von Lyncker, and they see it as their duty to keep the Kaiser's spirits up, keep him engaged in affairs of state and public appearances, but well-advised in his and the state's best interest, which both Muller and Von Lyncker see as the same thing.''

But the Tirpitz drama turns both men off to out-of-control, prima donna flag officers, and encourages them, especially Muller, to cultivate their own information and support networks in their services.

In Muller's case, this means over 1916 learning more about the U-Boat service and its operations. U-Boat production. Tactics. Talks with skippers. One of the first things he learns by spring or summer 1916 is how, despite how enthusiastic Tirpitz was unrestricted submarine warfare by 1915 and 1916, he did very little pre-war, or even up until the day he resigned, to build very many of them for a mass unrestricted campaign, compared to other ship types. This increases Muller's distaste for the man.

Over the rest of the year he learns other things, from engagements with U-Boat Captains/skippers. The difference between following Cruiser rules and unrestricted rules actually is not that urgent to them, and most of the time, for the armament they have cruiser tactics are what they naturally use, because they are better armed and can more effectively see what they are doing against targets when they surface and use their guns rather than their sparse number of torpedoes. It's also good for crew exercise and morale when they get to surface and storm aboard a captured prize. This is contrary to Muller's expectation, when it turns out that it is more the Admirals, not Captains and crew, who chafe at the ROE restrictions.

This further adds to Muller's skepticism of the unrestricted submarine chorus, now being championed by Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, head of the Imperial Admiralty Staff, and the popular Generals of OberOst, Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

Muller makes contact with naval intelligence people, who on the one hand are supporting "analysis" naval figures like Holtzendorff are using to purport that unrestricted ROE would be a huge factor in crippling British tonnage for vital imports, but also obtains reports and data on German interned merchant tonnage in US ports, US fleet strength including in destroyers, and the role of US and other third party and western hemisphere ports in any successful blockade breaking Germany is accomplishing. Much or all of this material being left on the cutting room floor when being ultimately prepared for and presented by Holtzendorff.

Ultimately, Muller's efforts, pre-briefing of the Kaiser at opportune moments and making allies in the navy and sowing doubts alters the bureaucratic battle within the German fleet and military that led to the presentation of unrestricted submarine warfare as a "miracle cure" for Germany's desperate war effort by the end of 1916.

en.wikipedia.org

9 January 1917 German Crown Council meeting - Wikipedia


en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

While it would be dramatically fun to have Muller present a counter-memo to Holtzendorff debunking his memo, Pless conference - Wikipedia

Muller probably would have had to do groundwork beforehand to undermine it, pointing to its blindspots or errors which included:

  • Underestimating the amount of *immediate* assistance the US Navy and customs authorities could start providing to the Entente blockade
  • Underestimating the amount of interned German and Austrian shipping the Americans and Entente could almost *immediately* put into service supplying the Entente, undoing at least a few months worth of U-Boat campaigning in terms of tonnage sunk
  • Underestimating the amount new escort vessels, including destroyers, that would become available from the US Navy from nearly the beginning of hostilities that would negate some positive effects of U-Boat campaigns.
  • Over-estimating the additional marginal tonnage sunk and cargo voyages prevented by indiscriminately targeting all shipping including neutrals
  • Underestimating the decent progress of the current campaign
  • Underestimated the number of boats needed to achieve the cargo losses promised per Holtzendorff.
Therefore, with the waters sufficiently muddied and unrestricted U-Boat warfare no longer a "slam dunk" military/naval solution but for "scruple" and "diplomacy", but from a hard effectiveness point of view, the Germans do not decide to adopt it on 9 January 1917.

…but they don't rule it out either.

In a compromise, they keep up the current "sharpened" U-Boat campaign against Allied merchant vessels, virtually all armed at this point. They also commit to shift naval construction allocations to enhance numbers of submarines and their torpedo capabilities of submarine for unwarned sinkings for that option and under waterline damage.

With a greater focus in mind on the naval, and not just military, implications of the USA entering the war against Germany in reaction to an unrestricted U-Boat campaign, the idea that in our timeline led to the Zimmerman Telegram, an offer of alliance to Mexico, and then through Mexico, to Japan, is pursued. But, the whole matter is handled with greater care and security. No messages are sent to Zimmerman over wireless or the wires, even encrypted. Instead, only encrypted *written* instructions delivered in another voyage of the cargo submarine Deutschland, set for January-February 1917 to America and to be courier conveyed to Carranza, with the overture to Japan discussed in Mexico City, in their embassy if possible.

The intention is to line up the contingent alliances with Mexico and Japan *before* authorizing unrestricted submarine warfare, and not authorizing it beforehand. And the hardcopy/in-person delivery method makes sure Britain's Room 40 never sees any of the discussion, which almost certainly dead-ends without conclusion. From Muller and like-minded people's point of view, Japan with its Navy is the more important of the two, to offset a possible entry of the US Navy, However, Japan switching sides is ultimately even more outlandish than Mexican-American war. Without signals intercepts, the British and Americans hear nothing of the German overtures to Mexico or Japan, except the vaguest rumors, or whatever those two countries choose to share. The Mexicans would say nothing and keep mum I'd say. And while the Japan would report an offer, at the same time, playing loyal while highlighting their value and options, it might not just be regarded in British circles as Japanese self-aggrandizement for diplomatic leverage.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
OK – so Germany is going into January, February, March, 1917 operating its ground and naval forces consistently. No new crisis with the USA, and bam! we have the February Revolution in Russia overthrowing the Tsar.

In April 1917 we have the Nivelle Offensive and then mutinies by French troops.

I will go ahead and make another interpretive leap. The Entente will figure out how to survive 1917 financially and economically.

There are some thoughts they could not, and they were running out of backing collateral in North America for loans. And indeed, the Wilson Administration was advising lenders not to make unsecured loans to overseas borrowers.

Certainly, without declaring war, which is not happening, the US government is not guaranteeing Entente loans or granting unlimited credit. Nor can it present a "Liberty Loan" as a patriotic duty or sell war bonds for US defense or Entente purposes. And there were internal British memos about running out of financial liquidity at some point in spring 1917.

However, these British memos were likely based on maintaining certain fiscal and trade orthodoxies and assumed non-imposition of different types of austerity and rationing that Britain's coalition government would have been willing to do rather than lose the war, even if the measures would have been anathema to an Asquithian Liberal government following its 1914 and beforehand principles.

Additionally, while American creditors could in theory start calling British and other Entente loans short, and strictly to account, and then seizing British-owned collateral for non-payment, causing a run on that, resulting in its liquidation and a drying up of credit, that may not be the most likely thing to happen. Banking and industrial concerns were not as strictly separated then, and big lenders would know abruptly pulling credit, rather than extending and stretching out repayment terms, could kill export markets expected for the quarters ahead instantly. So some concerns with cross-ownership across different sectors may literally continue to bank on British and Entente victory, having sunk so much business and investment in them already, convinced they will win, and counting on them as product markets in the near-term.

In any case, the British do still have their shipping resources, untapped, as-yet-untaxed resources and even if running into difficulty getting credit for purchases in the US, can still make vast food and raw material purchases and some light manufacturing purchases from their Dominions and to some extent Latin America.

Now British and Allied shipping should still face a hard time from the German U-Boat campaign, even as it remains under restrictions. It should get worse from them through June-July-August, even if never as bad as it got in real history. And I would expect the British would start convoying by the time they need to, when they calculate that is the more efficient and sustainable overall alternative.

In any case, in real history, and in this timeline, Germany and Austria and the Ottomans were *utterly unable* to go over onto the offensive on *land* against the western powers at any point between August 1916 and March 1918 (a whole 20 months!) or against Italy between August 1916 and October 1917 (14 months) and I don't see what would make that change here. From August-December 1916, all the Central Powers could accomplish on land in Europe was holding off the Brusilov offensive, mounting a counterattack to it, and counterattacking the Romanians and squeezing them out of Wallachia and Bucharest. Any other successes by the Bulgarians and Ottomans were defensive stalling, and in Anatolia/Caucus, the Turks were failing at that.

In 1917, the Central Powers, despite the rot and end of discipline and motivation in the Central Powers and the mutinies against senseless offensives in France, were unable to mount any land offensives from January through August of the that year. And they had to fend of persistent British assaults in Flanders from May or June through November, the brief French Nivelle offensive in April, some Italian offensives in the summer, a feeble sally from Salonika that year, a successful British advance in Mesopotamia, and British gains in southern Palestine and Jerusalem by the end of the year along with Arab Revolt actions.

And this was all in our timeline before US troops were really in the trenches in any quantity. So the absence of US forces from the war and the trenches through August 1917 does not look at all like it provides Germany or the Central Powers a war-winning opportunity in that time.

What Germany was able to do in 1917 was mount a defense and counter-attack that manhandled Russia's June Kerensky offensive, and sent Russian morale further plummeting.

Then, in September, taking advantage on ongoing rot/melt of Russian forces, the Germans took Riga.

Then in October-November, the Germans and Austrians together battered the Italians at Caporetto and threw them out of much of Venezia back to the Piave.

Without America in the war, there's not an apparent opportunity for the Germans to advance to an enemy capital in 1917 to claim a victory, but things can't be better for the Allies either. The Allies' offensives are failing.

It is a legitimate question if the Russian Provisional Government even *attempts* an offensive. In our timeline, the Provisional Government was being prodded forward and pep-talked into not only keeping in the fight, but attacking by the mission of American Elihu-Root, who made clear that American financial largesse was on offer for Russia *if* it fought for victory, but "no fight, no loan". Without the Yankee carrot, the British and French alone might not have enough to offer the Russians to motivate a real offensive from them, even if the Russians would not yet be ready to make a separate peace. Indeed, if Wilson is still on the outside, not wanting a German victory, but not wanting *anybody's* victory, and supporting a negotiated peace, Wilson might be finding the Russian democratic socialist parties, with their presence in the Petrograd Soviet and in some Provisional Government posts, with their talk of" no annexations and no indemnities" among the most receptive among any politicians in any belligerent state.

*Without* the US having declared war on the Central Powers, and that being noted as a growing danger for them, it is an open question whether or not the Center and Social Democratic parties in the Reichstag voice support for a negotiated peace in July 1917 as they did in our timeline. It is also an open question whether Pope Benedict is moved to offer is August 1917 mediation proposal, which some have interpreted as motivated by the danger to the Catholic Habsburg monarchy by this point in time.

I imagine Britain's blockade would continue to tighten around Germany, although be little less airtight, a little more leaky, with the USA not a belligerent. It would still get harsher.

But unless things change to somehow produce a negotiated end to the war by November 1917 – not absolutely impossible, but still requiring a near-miracle, and highly unlikely, we would likely have a Bolshevik Soviet revolution pulling Russia out of the war by this point in time.

That would probably ease pressure in Germany for unrestricted submarine warfare, though it still wouldn't be ruled out, and even though the blockade would be stinging.

The persistent effects of blockade, even without American participation in the war and prospect of ever-growing numbers of American troops, probably would *still motivate* Germany to invest in a spring 1918 do-or-die offensive in the west.

This would have to follow a punishment expedition in the east to stop dilly-dallying and get the Bolsheviks to sign the Brest-Litovsk peace.

By March 1918, we do have some questions about how the Allies have postured themselves defensively, not having American troops in France or on the way.

Q1: Have the French raised significantly greater numbers of colonial troops from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Indochina, trained them, armed them, and put threm in the battle-lines in France or at least in the fields and factories of France in numbers far exceeding our timeline?

Q2: Have the British sent significantly more of their own men, Dominion men, and possibly men from non-white colonies like India, the Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa to fronts in the Middle East, Salonika, and France?

Q3: Is that helping keep manpower in terms of battalions comparable to our timeline or not?

If not, why not?

Q4: Have the British or French in any manner found something sufficient to bribe Japan with to send a Japanese Expeditionary Force (JEF) to Europe to fight with them? Has it even been discussed? Has Japan mentioned a price? Did the Allies turn away horrified at the price or think about it? –Ultimately, I think any such bargain is really unlikely.


Given the technology of the time, and the tactics, I don't think a decisive breakthrough and exploitation of Allied lines, gaining either the Channel ports, or Paris, is likely in 1918, and failure to meet these objectives will be devastating to German morale.

However, there is an important question remaining.

Q4: Would the British and French need to pull back and abandon peripheral fronts, or starve them, to survive the 1918 German offensive?

For example, pull out of Salonika, dismount the troops in Marseilles or the Channel ports, and head to the lines. Pull back any troops sent to Italy after Caporetto. Strip the forces in the Mideast fronts, Palestine and Mesopotamia, to the bare minimum, and get them back to France?

Q5: [Also, would none of the British, French, nor Italians have any troops to spare to intervene in Russia to guard supplies or help the White Russians? I would not see the Americans involved in Russia, even in Siberia, if they are not already in WWI. This leaves only the Japanese to possibly involve themselves.]

Possible implication 1)
If the Allies have to do this to survive, they stop the Germans, but they are too exhausted to immediately launch non-stop counter-attacks beating the Germans back. The Allies have to cut off the most threatening forward positions, build up colonial reinforcements and supplies, build up gas and tanks and aircraft, keep up the blockade, and be ready to have a go in 1919.

Possible implication 2) And thanks to withdrawals in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Italy, the Central Powers of the Ottomans, Bulgarians, and Austro-Hungarians will be under less pressure along with Germany and they'll all make it through another nasty winter and New Year.

Possible implication 3) – If on the other hand, the Allies are able to halt the Germans in the west through external/colonial/home reinforcements, German logistical over-reach, while *not* stripping down the other fronts, it is a different story.

The Allies without the Americans would probably have too thin a manpower buffer to prosecute the OTL 100 days offensive of hammer blows in the west. But the men in the west who survived the German onslaught and building up for 1919 will be cheered a bit by good battle news in the fall in September from the Middle East, and then the Balkans from Vardar Macedonia, as in October and November the Bulgarians, then Ottomans, and then Austro-Hungarians collapse.

To the surprise of almost all, the decisive campaigns entering German soil over the winter months of 1918-1919, and compelling German surrender and setting off German revolution are not on the western front, they are rather the efforts led by Armando Diaz crossing Austrian Tyrol, Austria proper, Vienna, and Salzburg, to advance to Munich, and parallel advances by Franchet D'Esperey's L'Armee D'Orient of Frenchmen, Serbs, and Greeks, riding the Austro-Hungarian rails, soon joined by Czech and Polish volunteers, collecting in Prague, advancing into Saxony and Silesia, and then on to Berlin and Brandenburg from the south. The role of the hard-worked western front armies is to keep contact with and pressure on the German western front forces and collect increasing numbers of PoWs.

In Germany's increasingly desperate situation, there are attempts to shift forces to close the wide open breach in the south and east at the tail end of the war, by transferring troops and units from the western front via the rails to Bavaria, Saxony, Brandenburg. However, success is limited. Because of the late start, Allied forces are reported breaching the Reich borders at Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, before much in the way of any transfers have been completed. Some local commanders who haven't lost faith resist redeployments, not wanting their sectors in the west to break. Other units embarked on the rails and roads, "get lost" on their way to the other fronts as soldiers desert and wander home to check on family rather than stay in order or mass on the other border. Some troops resort to minor self-wounding, self-maiming to avoid further duty. Others in more exposed positions, especially as bad news from the southeast spreads, surrender to the nearest Allied forces to get rations and a dry cot.

These forces all add up to total disintegration of the German position before the winter is over, possibly before the end of February, definitely before the end of March, 1919.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
What we haven't discussed or covered very well so far is the likely altered politics and diplomacy of a situation, starting from 1917, where there is no new German unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, no Zimmerman Telegram, and no US belligerency.

So, here's the header:

The altered politics of 1917-

An early item this political year is the leader of the largest neutral power, Woodrow Wilson, opining about what he thinks peace should look like, in his "Peace without Victory" speech:

Woodrow Wilson, Peace Without Victory, 1917

Unlike our timeline, in this alternate universe, this is not followed up by the rapid succession of events bringing America into the war on the Entente side.

The next, much more important, political development is Russia's February (old calendar) Revolution, from March 8-16, overthrowing the Tsar.

In the military sphere, the Germans retrench their western front back to the Hindenburg Line from February 9 - March 15, 1917 - no reason this should change. The British should seize Baghdad also from the Ottomans in March.

On March 24th, 1917 - Emperor Charles of Austria will give an encouraging reply to the alleged French terms reported to him by Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma. - no reason this should change.

On March 27th, under pressure from the Petrograd Soviet's publication of "An Appeal to All People's of the World", the Russian Provisional Government proclaims its war aims do not include any "annexations or indemnities" but somewhat contradictory do include carrying out treaty agreements. The last part at least intended to signal Russia won't be rushing off to sign a separate peace even if willing to negotiate a peace (as a group with its Allies) with the enemy. [Of course, Russia's Allies have a list of desired reparations and territorial discussions as a starting point for any peace talks. So, there is an impasse.]

In a situation diverging from our timeline a bit, American President Woodrow Wilson, who is not on the verge of bringing his own country into war but still trying to mediate a "peace without victory" in line with his January speech, loudly applauds the public position taken by the Russian Provisional Government disavowing aggressive, acquisitive war aims that could be obstacles to early peace, and challenges other belligerents, on both sides, to follow suit.

In the short term, the sound in response is crickets chirping amid silence, or evasive comebacks and excuses.

On April 3rd, Lenin arrives back in Russia and propounds his April theses, calling the earlier calls for peace by everyone else not good enough, the dual power not good enough, an immediate end to the war, and all power to the Soviets.

On April 18th, Pavel Milyukov writes his letter to the Western Allies basically saying the inter-Allied secret treaties are still valid, and Russia's claims to Constantinople and the straits contained in them are still valid. This gets intercepted and exposed in print on the 20th and causes a public scandal and mass demonstrations in Petrograd that forces Milyukov to resign, and a change in composition of the Provisional Government to let in non-Bolshevik Socialist Ministers.

The Nivelle offensive is launched and fails badly from April 16 to May 9th in France. It coincides and is followed by troop mutinies in France.

A key political question for the rest of spring/summer 1917 - Britain and France are just like our timeline, pressing for Russia to, at a minimum, stay in the war, and discounting any aspirations of any Russian parties to negotiate peace, except basically on terms of Central Powers surrender. They also want to encourage, if at all possible, a Russian offensive this year to keep the pressure on Germany and Austria-Hungary to keep them from turning west and south, and possibly defeat them by concentric attacks from multiple directions. They certainly will convey that their amount of support for Russia is contingent on how much Russia is fighting and how committed it is to the war.

However, the western Allies in this timeline will lack the "carrot" of American financial aid and material resources, backed by American emissaries like Elihu Root, saying, "you want goodies, gotta fight!", encouraging offensives in addition to remaining firmly part of the coalition. The upside promise of Entente coalition membership is looking a little less attractive on balance, and a little less like a guaranteed long-term bet, from a Russian point of view, without the Americans in. In fact, the Americans they do see, are applauding Russians peace talk and encouraging everyone to pledge to explicitly minimize their war aims like the Russians have, and then get started on peace talks. The Americans, unlike in our timeline, are not impeding their own Socialists and labor leaders from meeting with international ones in Russia or Europe, or trying to use them to propagandize hanging tough in the war, which is what they used Samuel Gompers of AFL and some moderate Socialists for by summer of 1917. While present and future (reconstruction) British and French aid appears to hinge on continuing the war, American future (reconstruction) finance does not seem to hinge on war continuation one way or the other.

At the same time, the downside of making a separate peace with Germany, of risking German victory over the western Allies and domination of the continent and further adjustment of any settlement more in favor of its militarist regime, remains just as bad as ever. And non-Bolshevik Socialist politicians and theoreticians remain ideologically committed as ever to the idea that Russia is not ready for the immediate social, proletarian revolution, but that it must remain at the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and so not endorse mass, illegal seizures of land, factories, and homes without due process of bourgeois law after the Constituent Assembly.

So, in this changed circumstance, does the Russian Provisional Government still mount 1917 "Kerensky Offensive"? If it does, does it still do it in June?

Whether or not it does this offensive, does it avoid making a separate peace or switching to a volunteer or contract army until November 1917, and fall in the face of a second, Bolshevik Revolution?

Or do the Provisional Government Ministers, Kerensky and others, see their odds as different enough that they refuse the offensive and stand pat on the defensive? Or they make an ultimatum to their Allies, peace talks with the enemy by X date, with you or without you?

Or do the Russians or their Allies work out alternate expedients in summer 1917 or fall 1917 knowing their situation is more desperate?
For example:
a) Holding the Constituent Assembly early, in the late summer or fall, to rebuild governing legitimacy and allow decisions
b) Emphasizing their dire situation to their Allies, and insisting on Allied troop intervention or augmentation to stiffen their front, by any means necessary- sending in western troops through Persia, the north, or the Trans-Siberia, sending in second-rate colonial troops from India or the Entente powers colonial possessions, funding a Japanese force to come in via the Trans-Siberian Railway, to help fight against the Germans and Austrians, paying Japan not only in money for mercenaries, but trading away Russian properties and influence like the Chinese Eastern Railway in northern Manchuria and protectorate over Outer Mongolia
c) Evacuating the Provisional Government capital from Petrograd to Moscow, in anticipation of an inability to hold Petrograd against the Germans (and secretly, against internal disorder)

So, 1917 will feature plenty of opportunities for alternate permutations of politics.

There will also be a different propaganda and PR environment, especially within the western Allied countries, as the USA is not joining in as a western ally, using all the techniques of the advertising industry and nascent Hollywood in the service of pro-Allied, anti-German propaganda of the Creel Committee. US private business will still be supporting the Entente. Americans will still be making loans, at increasing interest - but the American government won't be promoting bond drives as a matter of *patriotic duty* in the US in 1917 and 1918, so that's less liquidity for the common Entente pool.

Instead, the US on the outside looking in, is trying to play peacemaker and mediator. Unless something changes his motives, from August onward, the Pope will start trying to play peacemaker and mediator also, largely out of concern for the Austro-Hungarian empire and the fate of the Poles and Belgians. [There is a chance he may maintain silence longer if America is not in, and this superficially makes Austria-Hungary appear less vulnerable in August 1917].

These international political factors will add political complexity to the challenges of pro-war governments in Britain, France, and Italy, and encourage the peace camps in these countries to speak up. This will only increase if the Bolshevik revolution occurs on schedule, and the Bolsheviks reach an armistice with the Germans in December and later a peace and reveal the secret treaties.

The British, French, and Italian governments can plausibly resist domestic and international peace pressures, by mainly calling the peace advocates naive or ill-informed, and by justifying their expressed war aims based on ethnic, territorial, linguistic, and historical basis (especially in the case of France and Italy), and for reparation on the basis of real, viscerally felt damage. And Bolshevism in Russia would be a double-edged sword. It would mobilize radical workers seeking social change and peace, but fear of social change at home, and becoming chaotic or turning society upside down like Russia can be used to reinforce the commitment of the middle and upper classes and capitalists and traditionalists of all kinds, religious and cultural, to patriotism and winning the war. Presuming the Central Powers still ultimately impose the territorial losses of Brest-Litovsk on Bolshevik Russia, the Entente Powers can use that as superb propaganda that the Germans seek only a peace of domination and must be defeated. Indeed, Wilson would condemn those terms, and Entente leaders would make political capital out of that, both at home, and with Americans.

Assuming all these political factors only change how different people around the world talk and write about the war, but that it changes no material outcomes of the war, then we are still led back to our most likely or least unlikely default endgame scenario for the war of the Entente finishing off the Germans and Central Powers in early 1919, without the Americans.


----But this world should have some postwar politics significantly different from our own world.
One would think that there would be less closeness at the end of the war between the USA at government levels and British and French officialdom and elites, with a good bit of actual resentment over Wilson's policy throughout the war of unhelpful peace posturing, even as American business sold war material at handsome profit.
The Americans could be seen as unwelcome meddlers on the political level, almost like Bolsheviks-lite with bad, destructive political ideas. Their only saving grace would be they're a rich Uncle, whose trade is indispensable in the postwar.
The German public and officialdom would also have resentment of the Americans at being the arsenal of its enemies. But at the same time, likely less resentment, for the US not having come into the war.
As neutrals through and through, the Americans would not have intervened in Russia against the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks would still hate them as capitalists but perhaps not rate them as quite as pernicious as the British, French or Japanese, and consider Americans more potentially *useful*.

America, as a never-belligerent neutral, would not have the standing to deny Italy its claims from the Treaty of London or to press Britain and France to deny Italy its claims from the Treaty of London, unless Britain and France came up with their own stupid reasons for frustrating Italy. Nor would America have the standing to deny China its claims to the German concessions in Shandong province Chinese, in the short-term, or the long-term. Going forward, it would have far less standing to strong-arm the British Empire into abandoning the Anglo-Japanese alliance.

In place of a League of Nations, as Wilson envisioned it, the immediate postwar Eurasian order would be led by a four -power pact of Britain-France-Italy-Japan. It would have minor partners like Belgium, the new, only partly satisfied, Yugoslavia, Romania, a new Poland, the new Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Greece. This would not rule out a later, open to every nation, international organization, but while Wilson is President, he would not regard the four-power pact, or an extension of it, as a satisfactory start for a sound League of Nations and would likely stand aloof. He could quite rightly criticize the exclusion of large countries representing hundreds of millions of people including China and Russia, and sizeable industrial countries from the defeated powers, like Germany.

A potential positive effect of going into the 1920s with an international order centered around a four-power pact or continued Entente, could be that London, Paris, Rome, and Tokyo could all be careful to coordinate with each other, deal with each other pragmatically, and avoid conflicts of interest or breaches with one another becoming irrevocable, leaving them in good shape to remain at peace with one another for several decades ahead, and well-positioned to avoid ruinous arms races. London, Rome and Tokyo might look with understanding, sympathy, and non-obstructionism on Paris's priorities for containment of German power and enforcement of reparations. London, Paris and Rome might be tolerant of Japan's defense and sometimes forward assertions of its "rights" in China as long as they are not totally excluded from economic opportunity there. London, Paris, and Tokyo may let Rome do its own thing in Africa, including the Horn of Africa, the Adriatic, and the Balkans, without particular friction. The British Empire may be unharassed by Rome, Tokyo, and Paris over its Ireland and India and Egypt and Middle East (Palestine and Iraq and Arabia) policies, and its imperial policies towards openness or restriction toward external immigration or trade.

On the other hand, lack of near-term, compelling common interests may see these four powers drift apart, as may a desire to distance themselves from the pain of the war (in the case of Britain and France), from the strains of democratic/parliamentary instability (in the case of Italy), or specific policy disagreements over geopolitical questions such as reparations and possible occupation of the Ruhr (between the Franco-Belgians and the British) or mutual suspicions about intentions and agendas in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Greece, and Turkey (between France and Britain)
 
If Russia would just say to their Allies May 1917 we need to get out of the war, initiate an American sponsored peace conference now, or we will do it separately, the Germans wouldn't know the full extent of Allied problems.

Worst case, Germans pick up Belgian Congo, and Angola, (losing Namibia to South Africa and islands to Japan), Russia is hands off the Balkans diplomatically, and the balance of power doesn't change much. European borders don't change except in the Ballans.
 
This is not an uncommon scenario, but what if the US does not join into WWI, especially in 1917?

To make things clear, I'll specify exactly what changes from our actual history to make it not happen.

World events in Europe, World War I and its various fronts, North America including the USA and Mexico, and every place else run almost precisely as they did in real history up through 1916, including Wilson's reelection in November that year.

The slight divergence from our timeline that starts happening in 1916 is an elevated level of petty personal political drama in the military circles around the Kaiser, that turns out to have consequences that are not so petty, but are policy relevant, after all.

They start in the mind of Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Alexander_von_Müller) Chief of the German Imperial Naval Cabinet and personal friend of the Kaiser, and distress he feels over the increased tension in early 1916 that led to the resignation of Alfred Von Tirpitz as State Secretary of the Imperial Naval Office on March 15, 1916. The famous Tirpitz, aligned with the Kaiser for years as a booster of the large fleet, had increasingly been at odds with the Kaiser and Bethman-Hollweg over restrictions on U-Boat rules of engagement in the aftermath of the Lusitania sinking and the American negative reaction to it. Tirpitz agitated against restrictions in the press, and threatened to resign multiple times before doing so, causing the Kaiser stress, and thus causing Muller stress.

In this timeline, his protectiveness of the Kaiser, and his anger at Tirpitz prima donna self-aggrandizing style, angers Muller a great deal and makes him warier of prima donna Admirals and Generals trying to push around the Kaiser.

Admiral Muller like OTL takes care of personal naval/military management and briefing of the Kaiser, along with his Army counterpart Generaloberst Moriz Von Lyncker, and they see it as their duty to keep the Kaiser's spirits up, keep him engaged in affairs of state and public appearances, but well-advised in his and the state's best interest, which both Muller and Von Lyncker see as the same thing.''

But the Tirpitz drama turns both men off to out-of-control, prima donna flag officers, and encourages them, especially Muller, to cultivate their own information and support networks in their services.

In Muller's case, this means over 1916 learning more about the U-Boat service and its operations. U-Boat production. Tactics. Talks with skippers. One of the first things he learns by spring or summer 1916 is how, despite how enthusiastic Tirpitz was unrestricted submarine warfare by 1915 and 1916, he did very little pre-war, or even up until the day he resigned, to build very many of them for a mass unrestricted campaign, compared to other ship types. This increases Muller's distaste for the man.

Over the rest of the year he learns other things, from engagements with U-Boat Captains/skippers. The difference between following Cruiser rules and unrestricted rules actually is not that urgent to them, and most of the time, for the armament they have cruiser tactics are what they naturally use, because they are better armed and can more effectively see what they are doing against targets when they surface and use their guns rather than their sparse number of torpedoes. It's also good for crew exercise and morale when they get to surface and storm aboard a captured prize. This is contrary to Muller's expectation, when it turns out that it is more the Admirals, not Captains and crew, who chafe at the ROE restrictions.

This further adds to Muller's skepticism of the unrestricted submarine chorus, now being championed by Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, head of the Imperial Admiralty Staff, and the popular Generals of OberOst, Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

Muller makes contact with naval intelligence people, who on the one hand are supporting "analysis" naval figures like Holtzendorff are using to purport that unrestricted ROE would be a huge factor in crippling British tonnage for vital imports, but also obtains reports and data on German interned merchant tonnage in US ports, US fleet strength including in destroyers, and the role of US and other third party and western hemisphere ports in any successful blockade breaking Germany is accomplishing. Much or all of this material being left on the cutting room floor when being ultimately prepared for and presented by Holtzendorff.

Ultimately, Muller's efforts, pre-briefing of the Kaiser at opportune moments and making allies in the navy and sowing doubts alters the bureaucratic battle within the German fleet and military that led to the presentation of unrestricted submarine warfare as a "miracle cure" for Germany's desperate war effort by the end of 1916.

en.wikipedia.org

9 January 1917 German Crown Council meeting - Wikipedia


en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

While it would be dramatically fun to have Muller present a counter-memo to Holtzendorff debunking his memo, Pless conference - Wikipedia

Muller probably would have had to do groundwork beforehand to undermine it, pointing to its blindspots or errors which included:

  • Underestimating the amount of *immediate* assistance the US Navy and customs authorities could start providing to the Entente blockade
  • Underestimating the amount of interned German and Austrian shipping the Americans and Entente could almost *immediately* put into service supplying the Entente, undoing at least a few months worth of U-Boat campaigning in terms of tonnage sunk
  • Underestimating the amount new escort vessels, including destroyers, that would become available from the US Navy from nearly the beginning of hostilities that would negate some positive effects of U-Boat campaigns.
  • Over-estimating the additional marginal tonnage sunk and cargo voyages prevented by indiscriminately targeting all shipping including neutrals
  • Underestimating the decent progress of the current campaign
  • Underestimated the number of boats needed to achieve the cargo losses promised per Holtzendorff.
Therefore, with the waters sufficiently muddied and unrestricted U-Boat warfare no longer a "slam dunk" military/naval solution but for "scruple" and "diplomacy", but from a hard effectiveness point of view, the Germans do not decide to adopt it on 9 January 1917.

…but they don't rule it out either.

In a compromise, they keep up the current "sharpened" U-Boat campaign against Allied merchant vessels, virtually all armed at this point. They also commit to shift naval construction allocations to enhance numbers of submarines and their torpedo capabilities of submarine for unwarned sinkings for that option and under waterline damage.

With a greater focus in mind on the naval, and not just military, implications of the USA entering the war against Germany in reaction to an unrestricted U-Boat campaign, the idea that in our timeline led to the Zimmerman Telegram, an offer of alliance to Mexico, and then through Mexico, to Japan, is pursued. But, the whole matter is handled with greater care and security. No messages are sent to Zimmerman over wireless or the wires, even encrypted. Instead, only encrypted *written* instructions delivered in another voyage of the cargo submarine Deutschland, set for January-February 1917 to America and to be courier conveyed to Carranza, with the overture to Japan discussed in Mexico City, in their embassy if possible.

The intention is to line up the contingent alliances with Mexico and Japan *before* authorizing unrestricted submarine warfare, and not authorizing it beforehand. And the hardcopy/in-person delivery method makes sure Britain's Room 40 never sees any of the discussion, which almost certainly dead-ends without conclusion. From Muller and like-minded people's point of view, Japan with its Navy is the more important of the two, to offset a possible entry of the US Navy, However, Japan switching sides is ultimately even more outlandish than Mexican-American war. Without signals intercepts, the British and Americans hear nothing of the German overtures to Mexico or Japan, except the vaguest rumors, or whatever those two countries choose to share. The Mexicans would say nothing and keep mum I'd say. And while the Japan would report an offer, at the same time, playing loyal while highlighting their value and options, it might not just be regarded in British circles as Japanese self-aggrandizement for diplomatic leverage.

Awesome work, will need time to digest.
 
Worst case, Germans pick up Belgian Congo
Why would the Entente give the Germans the Belgian Congo? After their entire reason to join the war was to protect Belgian sovereignty? Not a chance in hell.
, and Angola,
WHY would the Portuguese agree to lose one of their colonies without gaining anything?
(losing Namibia to South Africa and islands to Japan), Russia is hands off the Balkans diplomatically
In what sense?
, and the balance of power doesn't change much. European borders don't change except in the Ballans.
All sides need to show something after exiting the war, they can't just have millions die and then nothing changes, why would've people fought? No politician will survive sending millions in the trenches and then not gaining anything in exchange.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
If Russia would just say to their Allies May 1917 we need to get out of the war, initiate an American sponsored peace conference now, or we will do it separately, the Germans wouldn't know the full extent of Allied problems.

Worst case, Germans pick up Belgian Congo, and Angola, (losing Namibia to South Africa and islands to Japan), Russia is hands off the Balkans diplomatically, and the balance of power doesn't change much. European borders don't change except in the Ballans.
Germany hands back occupied Russian Empire, Belgian, and French territories in mainland Europe? Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria hand back occupied Italy, Romania, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece? What do the Ottomans keep, give away, or get back?
 

Kalakali

Kicked
A key political question for the rest of spring/summer 1917 - Britain and France are just like our timeline, pressing for Russia to, at a minimum, stay in the war, and discounting any aspirations of any Russian parties to negotiate peace, except basically on terms of Central Powers surrender. They also want to encourage, if at all possible, a Russian offensive this year to keep the pressure on Germany and Austria-Hungary to keep them from turning west and south, and possibly defeat them by concentric attacks from multiple directions. They certainly will convey that their amount of support for Russia is contingent on how much Russia is fighting and how committed it is to the war.

However, the western Allies in this timeline will lack the "carrot" of American financial aid and material resources, backed by American emissaries like Elihu Root, saying, "you want goodies, gotta fight!", encouraging offensives in addition to remaining firmly part of the coalition. The upside promise of Entente coalition membership is looking a little less attractive on balance, and a little less like a guaranteed long-term bet, from a Russian point of view, without the Americans in. In fact, the Americans they do see, are applauding Russians peace talk and encouraging everyone to pledge to explicitly minimize their war aims like the Russians have, and then get started on peace talks. The Americans, unlike in our timeline, are not impeding their own Socialists and labor leaders from meeting with international ones in Russia or Europe, or trying to use them to propagandize hanging tough in the war, which is what they used Samuel Gompers of AFL and some moderate Socialists for by summer of 1917. While present and future (reconstruction) British and French aid appears to hinge on continuing the war, American future (reconstruction) finance does not seem to hinge on war continuation one way or the other.

At the same time, the downside of making a separate peace with Germany, of risking German victory over the western Allies and domination of the continent and further adjustment of any settlement more in favor of its militarist regime, remains just as bad as ever. And non-Bolshevik Socialist politicians and theoreticians remain ideologically committed as ever to the idea that Russia is not ready for the immediate social, proletarian revolution, but that it must remain at the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and so not endorse mass, illegal seizures of land, factories, and homes without due process of bourgeois law after the Constituent Assembly.

So, in this changed circumstance, does the Russian Provisional Government still mount 1917 "Kerensky Offensive"? If it does, does it still do it in June?

Whether or not it does this offensive, does it avoid making a separate peace or switching to a volunteer or contract army until November 1917, and fall in the face of a second, Bolshevik Revolution?

Or do the Provisional Government Ministers, Kerensky and others, see their odds as different enough that they refuse the offensive and stand pat on the defensive? Or they make an ultimatum to their Allies, peace talks with the enemy by X date, with you or without you?

Or do the Russians or their Allies work out alternate expedients in summer 1917 or fall 1917 knowing their situation is more desperate?
For example:
a) Holding the Constituent Assembly early, in the late summer or fall, to rebuild governing legitimacy and allow decisions
b) Emphasizing their dire situation to their Allies, and insisting on Allied troop intervention or augmentation to stiffen their front, by any means necessary- sending in western troops through Persia, the north, or the Trans-Siberia, sending in second-rate colonial troops from India or the Entente powers colonial possessions, funding a Japanese force to come in via the Trans-Siberian Railway, to help fight against the Germans and Austrians, paying Japan not only in money for mercenaries, but trading away Russian properties and influence like the Chinese Eastern Railway in northern Manchuria and protectorate over Outer Mongolia
c) Evacuating the Provisional Government capital from Petrograd to Moscow, in anticipation of an inability to hold Petrograd against the Germans (and secretly, against internal disorder)

So, 1917 will feature plenty of opportunities for alternate permutations of politics.
Can the Russians offer a status quo ante bellum peace for everyone, but with territorial adjustments based on plebiscites wherever necessary? Such a peace might look attractive to liberals in the CP countries. Of course, how would a plebiscite be held in Ottoman Armenia when the Ottomans have already murdered so many people over there? Would some sort of population/vote weighing scheme have to be used, or what?
 
Can the Russians offer a status quo ante bellum peace for everyone,
Offer? Yes. Will it ever be accepted? No.
but with territorial adjustments based on plebiscites wherever necessary?
Why plebiscites? Why would you want to hold a plebiscite when you can just demand the territory in a peace conference? It would be unnecessarily risky to rely on plebiscites when there are much simpler ways of getting these territories. And before Wilson nobody really cared about self-determination or similar things, and most people have reasons to go against plebiscites. Germany does not want Poles to decide on their destiny, nor does the Austro-Hungarian leadership trust its Slavic population.
Such a peace might look attractive to liberals in the CP countries.
There are no liberals in charge as far as I can see.
Of course, how would a plebiscite be held in Ottoman Armenia when the Ottomans have already murdered so many people over there? Would some sort of population/vote weighing scheme have to be used, or what?
At best they would just pretend to hold plebiscites but in practice decide on the borders at peace negotiations. "Strangely 100% of the people in Anatolia have decided that they want to remain a part of the Ottoman Empire"
 

Kalakali

Kicked
Offer? Yes. Will it ever be accepted? No.

Why plebiscites? Why would you want to hold a plebiscite when you can just demand the territory in a peace conference? It would be unnecessarily risky to rely on plebiscites when there are much simpler ways of getting these territories. And before Wilson nobody really cared about self-determination or similar things, and most people have reasons to go against plebiscites. Germany does not want Poles to decide on their destiny, nor does the Austro-Hungarian leadership trust its Slavic population.

There are no liberals in charge as far as I can see.

At best they would just pretend to hold plebiscites but in practice decide on the borders at peace negotiations. "Strangely 100% of the people in Anatolia have decided that they want to remain a part of the Ottoman Empire"
The problem is that the Russian people are tired of fighting a "predatory imperialist war", as evidenced by their reaction to the Milyukov Note:


So, Russia at least needs new war aims. Otherwise, its soldiers were going to become chronically deenergized and demotivated. (Doesn't help that military discipline was significantly destroyed, of course.)

The other European powers might not care about this, but then again, Russia could threaten to make a separate peace if the other European powers will threaten to continue with the war.

The German Reichstag did pass the Reichstag Peace Resolution in mid-1917, though admittedly it was mostly ignored by the German Government.

The problem that I see is that many Russians, especially in urban areas, were aggressively attracted to the Bolsheviks' message even though I fail to personally see its appeal. One could argue that fighting the war to the bitter end was the best way to produce revolutions in the CP countries, after all. And would a revolutionary Russia really have a better future in a CP-dominated Europe than in an Entente-dominated Europe? Is it really a smart idea to destroy Russian army morale and Russian military discipline and place all of Russia's subsequent hopes on German goodwill?
 
The problem is that the Russian people are tired of fighting a "predatory imperialist war", as evidenced by their reaction to the Milyukov Note:


So, Russia at least needs new war aims. Otherwise, its soldiers were going to become chronically deenergized and demotivated. (Doesn't help that military discipline was significantly destroyed, of course.)
Offering peace doesn't seem the best way to make soldiers fight, if a soldier hears that the government is doing everything to ensure that there is peace again he doesn't want to go to the trenches and die weeks before it all ends.
The other European powers might not care about this, but then again, Russia could threaten to make a separate peace if the other European powers will threaten to continue with the war.
There was NO ONE wanting to make a separate peace apart from the Bolsheviks (and even they didn't exactly want to do it either) so you would have to change the mindset of the entire Russian political class.
The German Reichstag did pass the Reichstag Peace Resolution in mid-1917, though admittedly it was mostly ignored by the German Government.

The problem that I see is that many Russians, especially in urban areas, were aggressively attracted to the Bolsheviks' message even though I fail to personally see its appeal. One could argue that fighting the war to the bitter end was the best way to produce revolutions in the CP countries, after all.
The Russians weren't fighting to make revolutions happen in CP countries, they were fighting "For the Fatherland/Motherland" or "For the Republic", at no point did they fight to make others have revolutions.
And would a revolutionary Russia really have a better future in a CP-dominated Europe than in an Entente-dominated Europe?
That's not the point, people wanted the war and its sufferings to end and the government and other socialist parties did not give such an option. Therefore you turn to the only party which promises to bring peace.
Is it really a smart idea to destroy Russian army morale and Russian military discipline and place all of Russia's subsequent hopes on German goodwill?
TBF the Bolsheviks were not the ones who begun the process of disintegration of the Russian military, that was Order No.1 of the Petrograd Soviet. The Bolsheviks only went with the flow and added fuel on the fire.
 

Kalakali

Kicked
Offering peace doesn't seem the best way to make soldiers fight, if a soldier hears that the government is doing everything to ensure that there is peace again he doesn't want to go to the trenches and die weeks before it all ends.

There was NO ONE wanting to make a separate peace apart from the Bolsheviks (and even they didn't exactly want to do it either) so you would have to change the mindset of the entire Russian political class.

The Russians weren't fighting to make revolutions happen in CP countries, they were fighting "For the Fatherland/Motherland" or "For the Republic", at no point did they fight to make others have revolutions.

That's not the point, people wanted the war and its sufferings to end and the government and other socialist parties did not give such an option. Therefore you turn to the only party which promises to bring peace.

TBF the Bolsheviks were not the ones who begun the process of disintegration of the Russian military, that was Order No.1 of the Petrograd Soviet. The Bolsheviks only went with the flow and added fuel on the fire.
That's the problem. The Russian PG tried making its soldiers fight through other ways, and the soldiers didn't really have much motivation to do so and often either fought half-assedly or simply gave up. Might as well end this whole tragedy earlier so that the subsequent Bolshevik coup can be prevented.

Well, Yeah, that's the problem. The Russian political class wanted to fight on, but in so doing, they made the Bolshevization of Russia much more likely. It would be nice if Russian soldiers would have embraced the Russian political class's agenda in regards to this--it would have been best even for themselves as well, in the long-run--but alas, they weren't rational enough to do so. They wanted immediate gratification--which of course they ultimately didn't get either since the Bolshevik coup simply unleashed years of civil war and then eventual famines, purges, and another World War for their children to fight in.

I thought that the Bolsheviks were promising the Russian people a world revolution as soon as Russia itself would have a Soviet government? I'm just saying that total defeat of the CPs would be a better way to make revolutions happen in those places than simply installing a Soviet government in Russia would.

That's exactly my point. The other parties should have given the Russian people the option of ending the war, if the Russian people were so apathetic about fighting this war to a successful conclusion. Better that Russia drop out of the war than that Russia go Bolshevik.

Yes, the other socialists severely screwed up with that order. But didn't the Bolsheviks also subsequently spread defeatist propaganda among Russian troops on the front lines? That also surely helped, didn't it?
 
That's the problem. The Russian PG tried making its soldiers fight through other ways, and the soldiers didn't really have much motivation to do so and often either fought half-assedly or simply gave up. Might as well end this whole tragedy earlier so that the subsequent Bolshevik coup can be prevented.
You can try overtures for peace but this won't make your soldiers fight and you are quite dependent on the goodwill of other countries to make peace (you can threaten a separate peace all you want, but are you really willing to submit to German demands? Even "only" losing Poland and Courland was shocking for the Russian population [during early talks of Brest-Litovsk]).
Well, Yeah, that's the problem. The Russian political class wanted to fight on, but in so doing, they made the Bolshevization of Russia much more likely. It would be nice if Russian soldiers would have embraced the Russian political class's agenda in regards to this--it would have been best even for themselves as well, in the long-run--but alas, they weren't rational enough to do so. They wanted immediate gratification--which of course they ultimately didn't get either since the Bolshevik coup simply unleashed years of civil war and then eventual famines, purges, and another World War for their children to fight in.
It was quite difficult to predict all of this at the time, even the Bolsheviks themselves- while considering a more radical path than its socialist "colleagues"- didn't expect that it would turn out that way.
I thought that the Bolsheviks were promising the Russian people a world revolution as soon as Russia itself would have a Soviet government?
That's not why people voted the Bolsheviks, they didn't care about world revolution: they only wanted to stop the war.
I'm just saying that total defeat of the CPs would be a better way to make revolutions happen in those places than simply installing a Soviet government in Russia would.
But that's not what Bolshevik voters wanted, they wanted "Peace, bread and land". It is true that another Bolshevik slogan was "All power to the Soviets" but this wasn't calling for a world revolution and rather that the workers should be doing decisions rather than the PG who was not solving their problems.
That's exactly my point. The other parties should have given the Russian people the option of ending the war, if the Russian people were so apathetic about fighting this war to a successful conclusion. Better that Russia drop out of the war than that Russia go Bolshevik.
By the point they realized that it was already too late, everybody knew that a Bolshevik Coup was coming in Petrograd, but Kerensky couldn't do anything about it.
Yes, the other socialists severely screwed up with that order. But didn't the Bolsheviks also subsequently spread defeatist propaganda among Russian troops on the front lines? That also surely helped, didn't it?
Obviously but they only saw a situation prone to be exploited, they did the same thing in other sectors with less success (like with the peasantry). Point is: the soldiers had already shown that they were quite unenthusiastic about going to fight, the Bolsheviks did not create the problem.
 

Kalakali

Kicked
You can try overtures for peace but this won't make your soldiers fight and you are quite dependent on the goodwill of other countries to make peace (you can threaten a separate peace all you want, but are you really willing to submit to German demands? Even "only" losing Poland and Courland was shocking for the Russian population [during early talks of Brest-Litovsk]).

It was quite difficult to predict all of this at the time, even the Bolsheviks themselves- while considering a more radical path than its socialist "colleagues"- didn't expect that it would turn out that way.

That's not why people voted the Bolsheviks, they didn't care about world revolution: they only wanted to stop the war.

But that's not what Bolshevik voters wanted, they wanted "Peace, bread and land". It is true that another Bolshevik slogan was "All power to the Soviets" but this wasn't calling for a world revolution and rather that the workers should be doing decisions rather than the PG who was not solving their problems.

By the point they realized that it was already too late, everybody knew that a Bolshevik Coup was coming in Petrograd, but Kerensky couldn't do anything about it.

Obviously but they only saw a situation prone to be exploited, they did the same thing in other sectors with less success (like with the peasantry). Point is: the soldiers had already shown that they were quite unenthusiastic about going to fight, the Bolsheviks did not create the problem.
Was losing Poland, Lithuania, and Courland really that shocking for the Russian people, as opposed to the Bolsheviks in general? AFAIK, the Bolsheviks rejected that offer because they were anticipating a revolution breaking out in Germany and Austria-Hungary any day now. A more rational Russian government wouldn't be having this expectation. In any case, those territories aren't core Russian territories. Russia's East Slavic core would remain intact.

Yes, there were a lot of things that the Bolsheviks didn't expect. Such as the fact that the monster-state that they created would subsequently end up devouring themselves as well (one of the few historical karmas out there; it's an extraordinarily massive tragedy that so many decent, innocent people also got killed by Stalin, of course). If only they were smart enough to realize that a lifetime on the opposition benches isn't all that bad.

That's what I'm saying: Give the people what they want so that the people wouldn't support the Bolsheviks. If the Russian PG will stop the war and give the Russian people peace, land, and bread, would the Russian people still be willing to support the Bolsheviks?

Yeah, the Bolsheviks didn't create the problem of soldier demoralization, but they arguably might have made it even worse. But in any case, this is why Russia should have changed its mentality pre-Bolsheviks and made peace prompto. Or at least done so in such a way that would not have undermined the overall Allied war effort to the maximum extent possible.
 
Was losing Poland, Lithuania, and Courland really that shocking for the Russian people, as opposed to the Bolsheviks in general? AFAIK, the Bolsheviks rejected that offer because they were anticipating a revolution breaking out in Germany and Austria-Hungary any day now. A more rational Russian government wouldn't be having this expectation. In any case, those territories aren't core Russian territories. Russia's East Slavic core would remain intact.
Alexander Zamaraev of Vologda province was angry about Germany's territorial demands. On 3 January 1918 he wrote in his journal:
"[...] The kind of world that the Germans are agreed upon has astounded even our Bolsheviks. They are set to take from us Poland, Lithuania and Courland and a monetary contribution in return for the upkeep of prisoners, and our men must purge Galicia and a part of Turkey. We are going to have to bear this German yoke for a long time. [...]"
BLOOD ON THE SNOW, Robert Service, pg.265-6.
These territories were considered a part of Russia.
Yes, there were a lot of things that the Bolsheviks didn't expect. Such as the fact that the monster-state that they created would subsequently end up devouring themselves as well (one of the few historical karmas out there; it's an extraordinarily massive tragedy that so many decent, innocent people also got killed by Stalin, of course). If only they were smart enough to realize that a lifetime on the opposition benches isn't all that bad.
You could say the same thing about the PG.
That's what I'm saying: Give the people what they want so that the people wouldn't support the Bolsheviks. If the Russian PG will stop the war and give the Russian people peace, land, and bread, would the Russian people still be willing to support the Bolsheviks?
No, but peace is not an option, land will piss off the Kadets even more and bread is not possible since even when stopping the war there will be food problems.
Yeah, the Bolsheviks didn't create the problem of soldier demoralization, but they arguably might have made it even worse. But in any case, this is why Russia should have changed its mentality pre-Bolsheviks and made peace prompto. Or at least done so in such a way that would not have undermined the overall Allied war effort to the maximum extent possible.
How can you not undermine the Allied war effort when one of its major components has just left the war?
 
At the same time, the downside of making a separate peace with Germany, of risking German victory over the western Allies and domination of the continent and further adjustment of any settlement more in favor of its militarist regime, remains just as bad as ever. And non-Bolshevik Socialist politicians and theoreticians remain ideologically committed as ever to the idea that Russia is not ready for the immediate social, proletarian revolution, but that it must remain at the stage of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and so not endorse mass, illegal seizures of land, factories, and homes without due process of bourgeois law after the Constituent Assembly.

So, in this changed circumstance, does the Russian Provisional Government still mount 1917 "Kerensky Offensive"? If it does, does it still do it in June?

Whether or not it does this offensive, does it avoid making a separate peace or switching to a volunteer or contract army until November 1917, and fall in the face of a second, Bolshevik Revolution?

Or do the Provisional Government Ministers, Kerensky and others, see their odds as different enough that they refuse the offensive and stand pat on the defensive? Or they make an ultimatum to their Allies, peace talks with the enemy by X date, with you or without you?

Or do the Russians or their Allies work out alternate expedients in summer 1917 or fall 1917 knowing their situation is more desperate?
For example:
a) Holding the Constituent Assembly early, in the late summer or fall, to rebuild governing legitimacy and allow decisions
b) Emphasizing their dire situation to their Allies, and insisting on Allied troop intervention or augmentation to stiffen their front, by any means necessary- sending in western troops through Persia, the north, or the Trans-Siberia, sending in second-rate colonial troops from India or the Entente powers colonial possessions, funding a Japanese force to come in via the Trans-Siberian Railway, to help fight against the Germans and Austrians, paying Japan not only in money for mercenaries, but trading away Russian properties and influence like the Chinese Eastern Railway in northern Manchuria and protectorate over Outer Mongolia
c) Evacuating the Provisional Government capital from Petrograd to Moscow, in anticipation of an inability to hold Petrograd against the Germans (and secretly, against internal disorder)

The Entente problem is, with the US staying neutral, and the Russians in the middle of a revolution... they are kinda Germany in 1918.

They have to attack NOW and try to win it before Russia collapses and releases the other half of the German army for action in the west, and for the odds to be good for the French, they need the Russians to keep German troops in the west, meaning a simultaneous offensive on all fronts, like in 1916.

They need the Russians to attack, even if they crumbled thereafter, Nivelle was going to work after all.

On the Russian side, Alexeyev believed the army NEEDED to attack in order to shake itself of the revolutionary virus, that all would be well if they advanced. Kerensky, which was the one really in control by then believed the offensive to be necessary, and devoted himself to planning and motivating the troops, doing a tour of the front and giving speeches that worked, at least for a while.

Most of the decisions in favor of the offensive were made before the US entered the war in April, so I am inclined to think they would attack nonetheless.

And a Russian attack IOTL was suicidal, ITTL would be even more so.
 
They have to attack NOW and try to win it before Russia collapses and releases the other half of the German army for action in the west, and for the odds to be good for the French, they need the Russians to keep German troops in the west, meaning a simultaneous offensive on all fronts, like in 1916.
They don't need to attack NOW or lose the war and the French are not the kind to recklessly attack after just being defeated like you suggest.
 
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They don't need to attack NOW or lose the war and the French are not the kind to recklessly attack after just being defeated like you suggest.

In a context where the US has not entered the war, we have to see it from French eyes, the Nivelle offensive was going to work, the French were sure about it, but they still took any action they thought would enhance the chances of success, including pushing and blackmailing a collapsing Russia into attacking on the east. No US means a Russian offensive is even more necessary, the Russians were believed to be circling the drain and by attacking they would at least be of help in the final battle, even if they collapsed as a direct consequence.

No US means no large reinforcements coming, or at least not white ones which were the ones that "counted" in their eyes, so the imminent Russian collapse adds a degree of urgency to the matter, once the Russians are gone there will be a lot more Germans available for the west front.

Which turns Nivelle into a "we can win it right here, right now" opportunity to "we HAVE to win it right here, right now".

In this context, 1917 France is in the same boat as 1918 Germany, win it now or never.
 
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