by Mark Berch

At first glance, the notion of Russia wanting a triple alliance might seem a case of overkill. After all, Russia can sometimes accomplish more on her own some thing — six supply centers in Winter 1901 — that other Powers find difficult or impossible even with a good ally. But this alliance has a lot to offer Russia, even if it short-lived.

Anglo-German alliances in 1901 are quite common. These can start with France or Russia as the first victim, or with both attacked at more or less the same time. If Russia can convert this alliance into an English-German-Russian alliance, or proposes one right from the start, she can reap tremendous advantages at the very beginning of the game. Sweden will be uncontested, giving Russia the build. St.Petersburg will not be a security worry. Indeed, if there is a dire need for a build in the south, Russia may well decide to leave St.Petersburg open altogether. This would especially be true if Russia failed to gain Rumania. Russia would be able to allocate Army Moscow to the south in Spring 1901. Germany's chances of gaining three builds in 1901 (always a worrisome possibility for Russia) would be nearly eliminated since Belgium would be expected to be either English, or subject to a standoff with France. England would be expected to build a fleet in Liverpool and/or a fleet in London, not an army Edinburgh. And perhaps most important of all: the German armies would be moving west, not east, or at a standstill. That's a good sized list. Notice that even if the alliance only lasts two years, and England and Germany turn on Russia, all those advantages still accrue. For England and Germany to attack in 1903, major redeployment will be needed, especially by England; giving Russia further time. In short, this alliance gives Russia a significant number of advantages that come right at the start of game; and success of the alliance will, at least initially, make Russia harder to attack by England and Germany.

What the alliance doesn't necessarily provide is direct assistance in Russia's first campaign. The normal form for this alliance will be for Russia to first attack Turkey, preferably in alliance with both Italy and Austria. The alliance with Italy is important to both to put naval pressure on Turkey, and to keep Italy from harassing France. If Italy participates in the attack on France, two problems result. France will go down faster, meaning that England and Germany will grow faster than Russ: which may give them ideas, especially if Russia is bogged down in the south. Second, Italy will become a more formidable opponent in the next phase of the game. Austrian participation is also desirable, since an Italian-Russian coalition versus an Austrian-Turkish alliance is a fairly balanced contest, and resolution may have to await German entry into Tyrolia and Bohemia.

Assuming that France and Turkey have been dispatched, or virtually so, the game is ready for the second phase. England will try to force the Mediterranean, and Russia and Germany will take on Austria. Germany will again be operating with an ally, although she has the disadvantage of being in the middle. If Russia has taken Ankara, and Italian participation in the war against France has been either late or non-existent, then both ends of the Italian-Austrian alliance will be unable to stop the naval attacks. It is possible that Italy and Austria will be able to create a good army wall, then once the Ionian falls, the Balkans will also. Russia should be in a good end game position. With the three Turkish home supply centers as the essential southern anchor, a second northern fleet is all Russia will need to sew up the stalemate line, and some cases, won't even need that. Germany's position will be much more exposed. Eliminating Germany for a two way draw will be a real option. Depending on what England has left in the north, even a German-Russian alliance against England would also be feasible (although this will probably require a very adventurous Germany. And finally, Russia may well have the position to stab both England and Germany, and scramble for the win. This would likely entail taking both Norway and Naples, and a fast push through the Balkans toward Venice.

A second route for Russia is more difficult, and involves Austria as the first victim, rather than Turkey. This attack on Austria can be done with or without German help. The former is more likely. Indeed, the likely impetus for this is that Germany, for some reason, wants to attack Austria, and is looking for an ally. Or perhaps Russia, having set himself on the Russian-German-English alliance, can't seem to make a go of an alliance with Austria.

This plan presents a number of drawbacks. For Russia, the main problem is that in the second phase, she will have to take on a Turkey already strengthened by the fall of Austria, without help from her primary allies. She will probably get no help from Italy either, as Italy will be busy fending off the English fleets. Indeed, Germany may even want Russian help in attacking Italy through Tyrolia. Second, it will cramp Germany, whose armies will have no where to go except an awkward attack on Italy. Third, if Germany does participate in the early attack on Italy, that will lessen the army pressure on France, much to England's annoyance.

A third arrangement is to cut short the alliance after Turkey has been crushed by Austria and Russia. Here, Russia is talking up the alliance, but using it primarily to gain the short term advantages, those that accrue in 1901-1902. Here, Austria and Russia turn brutally on Germany, quite possibly even before the last Turkish center has been taken. It is probably best to invite England into the campaign only after the stab has occurred, since there is such a good chance that England would tip Germany off. This allows Russia almost all the advantages of the English-German-Russian alliance without any of the long term disadvantages. The role of Italy in this is a delicate one. If English help is deemed essential; then Russia cannot afford to have England feel threatened by Italian fleets. For this, a temporary phony Italian-Austrian war may be needed — perhaps a scrap over that last Turkish supply center. This will increase England's freedom of action navally, and reduce her fear of the emerging Austrian-Russian superpower. On the other hand, if English help is not really essential, or if Russia believes it to be unavailable anyhow; then there's no need for that. The game is then Italy, Austria, and Russia versus England and Germany. If there's anything left of France, she should be willing to throw in with the enemies of England and Germany.

The ability of Austria and Russia to move armies quickly into Germany should mean that Germany will go down pretty fast. This is especially true if Italy or even France can pounce on Germany's holdings in France — Marseilles should be vulnerable. At this point, Russia's ability to build fleets in St.Petersburg will be the crucial variable If Russia cannot do so, the game may turn on whether Italy can break through and take the Mid Atlantic. Russia still retains the option later in the game of allying with Italy to squeeze out Austria, who will eventually be spread over a rather large area once the German campaign is over and the allies push into France.

Finally, Russia needs to be on guard against an early termination of the English-­German-Russian alliance by England and Germany. If the early campaign against France goes well, France may be willing to puppet as early as Fall 1902. This is particularly true if Italy turns on France in 1902, or if the allies succeed in taking Brest and either Paris or Marseilles in 1902. Fortified by their 1902 builds, they may decide that the triple alliance is of no further value. If Russia has not taken a center from Turkey in 1902 (a very common occurrence for Austria and Russia; especially if there is no Italian pressure on Turkey), a twelve- or even eleven- center English and German alliance may decide that a six center Russia, deployed in the south, should be dealt with immediately. Germany will have his fleet, his 1902 build, an army which never made it out of Germany in 1902, and quite possibly an army in Denmark, or available for Denmark. England will be able to move into the Skagerrak or Barents in Spring 1903. It would be a period of some danger for Russia.

But that's a worse case scenario. This alliance has a lot to offer Russia. If England and Germany seem to be getting along well in the early negotiations, Russia should try to invite herself in!

Mark Berch
c/o the Editor

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