Strategic Diplomacy (Part 3) – Germany

by Harry Drews

War plays a dominant part in the history of Europe. Many of the battles took place on the European plain because of its vulnerability and economic importance. Centred on this geographical feature is Germany. The German States and later the German nation found that survival was dependent on alliances. Germany could never go it alone successfully. The German head of state must remember the lessons of history. Powerful neighbours confront Germany on all sides. Alliances must be used as levers to quietly knock out the major powers one by one. At the same time, if any other single power is allowed to gain as much or more than Germany from Germany’s own policy, then the race of conquest will be lost.

The German position is so vulnerable but potentially so promising at the same time that the strengths and weaknesses of the other countries on the board must be constantly monitored. Germany is the worst position to play on a basis of minimum Diplomacy and maximum aggressiveness. Until at least two neighbours have been knocked out and a corner position established, Germany is always faced with the threat of being swamped from too many directions at once.

Germany’s strongest neighbour and therefore of the most danger to her long-term survival is England. England’s strength lies in her insular position and her ability to construct fleets at a faster pace than any of her neighbours. An Anglo-German alliance can handily defeat any other single power. Assume France is preoccupied with Italy then Russia can be vandalised. Similarly, France is doomed if Russia is preoccupied in the southeast. In either case the alliance next turns on the country first left alone. Germany’s problem is that England will always dominate the alliance. Germany has not the slightest excuse to build fleets. She may be able to establish a sound continental army, but sooner or later England will stab. And yet suppose England and Germany co-operate as long as possible. Can Germany ever stab England? Highly unlikely. The North Sea is the key to England from Germany’s viewpoint and Germany can never wrest it from her. Eleven supply centres are one or two spaces from the North Sea. St. Petersburg to Kiel, to Brest, to Liverpool, any English fleet in the North Sea will threaten most of Germany’s possessions, in fact most of her units would have to be pressed into garrison duty. Germany, alone, with a single fleet, or even a second or third, cannot usually storm the North Sea. Outside assistance is needed to destroy England. Care must be taken that this vital help is not eliminated in the joint Anglo-German operations.

Russia is the second most threatening power to Germany. Russia has such as enormous sphere of influence once she is established that she can throw fleets and armies at Germany from an arc of one hundred and eighty degrees. Russia’s value to Germany lies in her northern fleets. One possibility is initial peace in Scandinavia. Russia opens with a southern campaign. Italy moves to the east. England and Germany are left alone to dismember France. Germany’s wisest course after this is to induce Russia to strike at England. By this time Russia should have the capability to wage a two front war. With patience Germany can achieve enough to launch her third and final attack on Russia. Certain possibilities must be pointed out. Italy can be a very meddlesome force in the southwest. Also, Germany must secure the North Sea for herself. Let Russia in and it’s good-bye Germany. Sometimes allying with Russia to destroy England can be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Another possibility is to use Russia to strike England first. If Russia then has southern problems, and if France becomes embroiled with Italy, Germany can mop up. However, this doesn’t happen too often.

France is almost as potent a Germacide as Russia. The typical course of a Franco-German alliance is that England falls into the domain of France and Germany is the conqueror of Russia and Scandinavia. France is left fronting the North Sea with possible naval superiority. France can tackle Italy next but unless France is satisfied with a two-way draw, Germany will have to be stabbed. It is preferable that Germany stab France first. An effective arsenal of fleets can be built up throughout the Scandinavian and English campaign by Germany. If there is some Italian help at the right time then Germany has the eighteen for victory.

Perhaps we should pause a moment to clarify some uncertainties. I can see already a spate of objections: “In game such and such I played Germany and took Constantinople, Greece and Tunis, I was allied with both France and England to the end and neither had to stab either one.” The only way I can write an article like this in a reasonable amount of space is to make some reasonable assumptions. At least one of Austria, Italy or Turkey will have to become a viable power. If not then Russia or France must have filled the vacuum, in which case it is unreasonable to suppose that Germany could make up enough centres from the Balkans etc. to make up for the centres she is not going to be able to take from either Russia or France. Games in which there have been drop-outs or victory by concession or draw cannot really be considered as models for general strategic principals.

If we do that which should have been done first, count up the eighteen centres necessary for victory, the order of elimination of Germany’s three neighbours can be decided. The likely limits of expansion are Moscow and Warsaw to the Tyrolia in the centre, and Marseilles and Spain in the south-west. Nineteen centres fall within these plausible limits. To a large extent the execution list will be decided by the personalities of the players as revealed in communication with them. However, all things being equal the order might be England, then Russia, then France.

What is role of the three powers not yet examined? Italy is of most help if she keeps the east in turmoil and contains France in the west but takes none of the centres. It is the role of the helpful latecomer. Any centres Italy does take in the west will have to be made up by Germany in Austria and this could be difficult. Should Italy concentrate her attention on the western Mediterranean from the start of the game, then there may be dire consequences for Germany. An assault on England will fail if France was going to be Germany’s ally. Germany had planned to pick up critical centres from France, they may not be so easy to take. If Italy is involved in the west in the early stages of the game, then what are Austria and Turkey doing? If Germany does not watch the eastern situation, the balance of power could be upset and a runaway winner emerge from there. So, German policy can often be decided by analysis of the Balkan sector. Austrian strength should be welcomed because there usually is a limited threat to Germany, the balance of power will work out fine, and Austrian expansion is usually slow enough for Germany to match it. Should Turkey dominate the east then look out. With Germany acting as agent provocateur in the west, Turkey will usually win. Turkey’s decisive advantage is her initial position. Should Russia dominate the southwest, then the German cause will most likely be hopeless unless Russia and Turkey are locked in a stalemate.

To sum up, the German position is potentially one of the most fruitful. There is easy access to winning number of supply centres. There are many avenues of expansion so that policy can be made conditional on the capabilities of the other players and the course of events in other regions of the map. However, care should be taken to speak softly and show only a little stick. An open power drive is fatal if it is started before two neighbours are knocked out and a corner position established. The modus operandi is to play on your manifest weaknesses. The other players are willing to accept Germany as only a faint threat. Manipulate the players so that you quietly knock then off one by one. The German way is to tip-toe to a well positioned twelve centre holding, then rush the last six. Allow the game to become a mad race before this, and Germany will lose every time. 

Reprinted from Paroxysm 4, April 6, 1975.