by Mark Berch

Editor's Note: One of the first articles I worked with when I became a volunteer for the Pouch was an article by David Hood, which was being reprinted from Diplomacy World issue #50. David's article was a response to a similar essay on the RAG triple alliance by Mark Berch, which appeared in the same issue. So to provide a complete context, we're reprinting Mark's article in our own fiftieth issue with the kind permission of DW Editor Douglas Kent, and (we hope!) Mark.

Of the more secure triple alliances for Germany, perhaps the most promising is the Central Alliance with Russia and Austria. You may already be scowling: Germany is primarily a land power, and neither Russia nor Austria is primarily a seapower. But have a look at how this can work — for Germany.

In the south, obviously, Turkey will be the first victim. How fast this goes depends somewhat on Italy. Germany is unlikely to have much influence on what Italy does; but either choice will work to Germany's long-term benefit. If Italy allies with Turkey, the Austrian-Russian part of the alliance will bog down, giving Germany some opportunity to grow in the West. Austria and Russia should, however, hold a slight upper hand, especially with Germany at some point being able to support Austria into Tyrolia, or go there himself. A total stalemate, although a little unlikely, can happen. In that case, once Germany has dominated the West, he can then reassess the entire triple.

If Italy joins the attack, Turkey will crumble in due time. Then, however, Austria and Russia will have to take on a five- or six- center Italy in a sea battle. They should succeed; but again, it will likely be slow going, which will keep Germany from falling behind (which is always a risk to anyone who allies with Russia). This is particularly true if Italy has insisted that he'll cooperate with Russia and Austria versus Turkey only if Austria agrees not to build fleets — a reasonable request. Thus, the alliance will prevail in the south; but not at a speed that should alarm Germany.

In the West, Germany may have some flexibility. In theory, he can ally with either France or England, provided that Russia is not anxious to open Army Moscow to St. Petersburg in Spring 1901. If all other things are equal (and they rarely are), Germany is probably a little better off with England and Germany versus France. This is especially true if he can persuade England that he be allowed to build one fleet in, say, 1903 (the pretext will be the need to eventually fight Russia). In return, Germany should offer to permit England to build one army, so long as England does not place both armies in France. This is a plausible deal. The benefit of the second fleet outweighs the harm of the second British army. It will probably land up in Scandinavia, where it will be more Russia's problem than Germany's. Once France has been crushed, Germany can take on a powerful England with the aid of a Russian ally.

France and Germany versus England is a little trickier. The "plus" here is that when it's all over, you'll have the North Sea and, ideally, either two units in England proper, or one in England and one in the Norwegian. Russia will get Norway very easily — quite possibly in 1902. That will be a plus or a minus, depending on how threatening you find this. The problem is taking on France next without any significant ally — i.e., without Italian help. A lot depends on whether you can snatch Belgium right off the bat. If you can, it will be a lot harder for France to put together that exasperating army line.

One thing you'll probably want to do is urge France south as soon as possible. For his efforts there, he'll probably get Tunis. But he'll probably need to send to fleets down there to do it, so that will thin him out in the north, and hopefully he'll take his build in Marseilles. You may even catch a fleet in transit. If he uses an army in this (e.g., convoyed to North Africa, or slid into Tuscany), that will also simplify your task.

The point here, however, is not which confrontation is best. Your choice may be dictated by something as simple as who is willing to ally with you, or by the personalities involved. But, so long as Russia isn't pressing for an immediate anti-English campaign, either option is open. And if Russia is, a little lie might be in order. Tell him that France keeps urging a triple alliance and seems uninterested in attacking England. Or tell him that Italy is putting out a pro-Turkish line, meaning of course, that Russia should exert maximum force in the south.

Once the Central Alliance has gotten the upper hand, and the game enters the mop-up phase, different questions arise for Germany: What Next? If you vote a three-way draw, that's that. But many triple alliances collapse when the pressure to dominate the board operates and the players' individual ambitions are thus no longer restrained. There's a certain amount of diplomatic work you can do, although you must begin it long before this phase of the game. You should have been encouraging both Russia and Austria to talk about the Russian-Austrian aspect of the alliance (and not just a German-Russian and German-Austrian aspect). You want to gain clues as to how tight they are, whether some irritants arose, and more particularly, how they were resolved, etc. — but this essay is more about strategy and tactics.

The fear of being swallowed by Russia and Austria is a real one in any game where the West is dominated by either France alone or Germany alone. The only absolute security is the possession of a stalemate line. At a minimum, you will need all of the British home supply centers to accomplish this. If the game began with France and Germany versus England, you'll probably have that, since he will not have used Russian help. The flipside of that, however, is that for the stalemate line to be created, he must also bottle up the southern fleets. This will require fleets in the Mid-Atlantic and Portugal, plus a third one which can be further back in England or the North Atlantic. You'll also need a fleet shield in the north. There are several different ways of doing this. The bloodiest way to do this is a blitz attack on Scandinavia, taking St. Petersburg, and stomping out the last Russian fleets. You'll probably lose your entire homeland in the process, but those centers are not essential to forming a stalemate line.

All of that is the worst-case scenario, of course. If the game isn't going to come down to three-way draw, you want to see to it that somebody else gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop. The problem of Germany reaching a stalemate line is not distinctive to this triple (indeed, in the five triples Germany has with England, it is virtually impossible for Germany to gain the ultimate safety of a stalemate line) or even to Germany. The interior powers (Germany, Italy, and Austria) all have trouble reaching these lines.

The alternative to three-way or the Russo-Austrian steamroller is for you to ally with one power against the other. You're probably best off to send out feelers to both parties, unless you are quite sure that one of them won't be receptive. If one accepts, life is simple. If both accept, you can pick the best offer. Or you can accept both — and stab both, going now for the win. Whether you can pull off such wickedness depends a lot on the board position, but Germany is better placed to accomplish this than most countries in most triple alliances. Your new builds in Munich and Berlin are quite close to the targets of Warsaw and Vienna or Trieste. Even the army Kiel (if you can build three) can be sent immediately to Livonia if the fleet has been positioned in the Baltic. It's critical here to make sure that Russia is not building that winter. It would be nice if Austria didn't build either, but that is less critical. Such a build will cause you no immediate problems.

If neither accepts, you must get an accurate reading as to why you were turned down. If both are firm about a three-way, you're probably going to have to go along with it. If you think that they've already decided on a Russian-Austrian alliance, you know what you have to do.

But one of them may be a fainthearted jackal. He can't quite bring himself to terminate this long alliance. But if you do, he may be willing to feed on the carcass — either on the basis of a two-way draw, or a race for the victory. This requires some delicacy: if the stab is too devastating, he may fear that he'll never catch up with you.

So give it some thought the next time you draw black. The German Austrian alliance is a natural. If Austria is leaning toward Russia, why not wrap it up as a formal alliance, and see where it takes you?

Mark Berch
c/o the Editor
([email protected])

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