By Francois Cuerrier
Germany and Austria are often lumped together in the category of “central powers”, both occupying the middle ground and both surrounded by four neighbors. The operative connotation is that defense becomes difficult if not impractical without the benefit of a secure rear.
But the comparison must end there: whereas the main Austrian preoccupation is with avoidance of an early two-front war, Germany can usually count on the benevolence of its eastern neighbors. A poor Austrian performance will usually be reflected by partition in 1902-1903, while for Germany the serious obstacles will commonly arise in the mid-game, when even 10-center positions end up sandwiched.
Normally only France and England are the immediate enemies, but even they wil lmake little headway until at least one of Hel, Ska, or Bal have been secured. Even this outflanking maneuver can be delayed or even halted completely by two German fleets (given Russian assistance or neutrality), but in the end your own doom is no longer in question as under the best of circumstances the coup de grace will come from some eastern power sooner or later.
Great potential has been bestowed on the position, for once the west is stablized it becomes relatively easy to barrel armies out of the eastern borders… but success will depend on your ability to break away from the rest of the pack early in the game. Quick, easy access to most of the mapboard is available, but with time suffocation will set in as powerful rivals start tugging away at opposite ends of the empire. German tolerance for long, drawn out games is low – beware of “allies” who keep pace with you.
England: its alliance will be most profitable, but also fraught with danger. Together, you can overrun most of France and Russia even against unified opposition, if only because this contest will not exactly be two on two: Russia’s resources will in all likelihood be tied up somewhere further south, and its northern forces are often too far flung to coordinate effectively. Indeed, you should be very open to English offers in this direction, because this is your most distinct diplomatic advantage: if France cannot be trusted, then at least you will be able to outbid her for English favour.
Yet the English alliance is a curse in disguise. In supporting English claims to Scandinavia, you will make no friends in Saint- Petersburg, though in the aftermath they are hardly in a position to retaliate and a few years later should even thank you for not taking Warsaw as well. Still, English preponderance in the area is undersible because it opens up your flank, if nothing else.
Of bigger concern will be the inevitable restrictions that the English will attempt to place on the size of the German fleet as final price for the cherished alliance. This demand is very difficult to sidestep, although any request for cooperation against Russia should be met by the build of a second fleet as “security” against the unpredicatble reactions of a presumably hostile Russian fleet. Still, in the long run it will not be possible to continue building fleets, meaning that in the end naval supremacy will have to be conceded. Your only opportunity will come if, all of a sudden, you find yourself with two builds, bringing your naval arsenal to four.
A competant England will always outpace your own growth, however, as StP/Swe are easier targets than say, Warasw; and the French coastal centers are more vulnerable than your own share of the spoils because of the difficult Bur/Pic line. Do not expect to do too well into the mid-game, because you will increasingly become a tempting target as the French/Russian threats are gradually reduced, and then eliminated. England may continue its expansion into the Mediterranean, but in order to get anywhere in the Balkans you will still have to literally turn your back.
France: quite possibly a better long term ally, if only because of the absence of any restrictions on your fleet. Still, such an alliance is hard to set up.
The best the French will usually volunteer is a “free for all” on the English centers, Nwy/Edi. You should commit the French to a support in 1902, perhaps in return for support into Lon in 1903. If necessary, blurt out that you are not interested in distracting English attention only so he can pick up some easy centers, and that if he is interested in removing England as his only inevitable mid- game stab risk, some cooperation is in order.
While France seems assured of both Lpl/Lon, you are likely to run amok of Russian competition over the distant Edi/Nwy. Generally you will have the upper hand as few Russias can afford a second northern fleet as early as 1902; nevertheless, they can easily act as the spoiler, and contingency plans should be made accordingly.
Belgium is probably the sorest point, as both of you have equal claim and ambition over that neutral. Your diplomacy should be aggressive: at the very least, Belgium should be yours until the conquest of England. French expansion will be quicker as a result of the alliance, and some compensation is deserved in return. Remember that as Germany you cannot permit even your allies to outpace your growth.
Possibly the most common source of distrust after the Ven/Tri border, paradoxically, is possible that neither of you will have tipped his hand against England, and a “stab” of sorts can occur if one of you reneges on his naval commitments, leaving the former “ally” holding the bag vis-a-vis a furious England. As Germany, at least, the scales are tipped in your favour for you can always point to Russia for an excuse (but don’t be surprised if the argument doesn’t wash); France will be hard pressed to explain F Bre. Obviously no article can rationalize choices/breaches of trust: rely on your own instincts.
Russia: Historically German relations with this neighbour have been dictated by convenience, and in the game very little is changed. The only occasion where active Russian involvement might be welcomed is in the event of a hostile EF alliance, though in this case he will have no good reason to take some of the beating for you and will tend to mind his own business.
Otherwise Russia is mostly a nuisance that must be temporarily accommodated, a latent threat to be dealt with later. This is not too hard to do, for he is in no position to spare the units required for a campaign against you. Your diplomacy should ensure that he never does.
Your immediate concern is to weaken your opponent. As soon as Russia gets past six centers, she gains the ability for a limited war on a second front – if not against England, then against you. Since you will be helpless in guiding her choice of opponent, it is best to prevent matters from getting this far in the first place. The easiest way, no doubt, is by propping up Austria, the natural bulwark to Russian expansionism. You can achieve this by threatening to bounce over Sweden if any attack on Austria is made in 1901. After this your involvement should be limited to encouraging attacks on Russia, possibly even an AT alliance, though too strong of a southern power block will cause you problems down the road as well.
If your main alliance is with England, you may be asked to bounce Russia out REGARDLESS of its southern policy. This is fair game, for Russia does not have the means to retaliate with much credibility, and in any event at five centers usually makes too good of a target for AT to pass up.
If your main alliance is with France, then perhaps some of your own armies will be available for an eastern campaign as early as 1902. The opportunity to compensate for French gains in Lpl/Lon should not be passed up, and in the right circumstances a demilitarization agreement of the French border will free the units you need to create LEBENSRAUM.
Italy: Certainly the most critical player to your own welfare, he amazingly is vastly underused. He must be persuaded to move west. Any other Italian policy will undermine your own goals somewhat.
Arguably your very first letter should go to Italy. In it, you should mention that Russia may back off any contemplated action against Austria for fear of losing Sweden. This alone will make any Italian think twice, introducing an element of doubt regarding the realiablitity of his only natural ally – and if he passes the letter along, it will reinforce Russia’s impression that you mean business. Your second argument should be that you are prepared to move A Mun- Tyr in F01 if Italian intentions appear hostile, ensuring that any sneak attack on Munich will fail, and causing the classical F01 A Tyr SA Ven-Tri to fail (if A Ven SA Tyr-Tri, then you slip in and AG can kick Italy out in 1902). All of a sudden the attack on Austria becomes less attractive, except possibly for the normally unsuccessful A Ven-Tri.
From this there’s only a small step to persuading Italy to go west. Turkey is the only other target, and lately has been an unpopular one at that – for good reason, because Smyrna is the lone likely gain. France, on the other hand, offers Spa/Mar/Por. Since your letter is so anti-French in tone, Italy may reasonably assume that he has at least one ally. Austria will usually be only too pleased to offer guarantees of neutrality as may be required.
Your initiative is really two-fold: leave AT free to weaken Russia, and get Italy to bog down the French. There’s nothing like a small Italian expedition to take the fun out of French gains against England, enabling you to become the dominant partner in the alliance. And if France is the enemy, then you WANT England and Italy to compete for the coastal centers.
Even if your diplomacy in this respect fails, do not despair: a strong Italy can still come in handly later on against either a former French or English ally…
Austria/Turkey: In the early stages of the game, you may want to encourage an AT alliance against Russia, but not to the point that they will trust each other so implicitly to the point of leaving their common border undefended. It is amazing how many Austrias do this, only to be gobbled up by Turkey later on. Once they’ve divided up the Russian centers, it is of course desirable that they go at one another’s throat until you reach the position from which you can tip toe in and decide the outcome of their war…to your own advantage. An early AT attack on Italy is bad news, removing this useful ally while at the same time turning them into the dominant power block of the game.