The immutable regularity of the formation of any coalition, and military first of all, is the obligatory presence of its main open or “backstage” mastermind. An analysis of the events on the European arena preceding the outbreak of the First World War clearly indicates that the leading Russian researcher Andrei Zayonchkovsky, whose opinion is now shared by many experts, was the inspiration for the creation of the anti-German coalition, if not the coming war as a whole.
Adhering to the formally declared policy of refusing to join any European blocs at the end of the 19th century (the so-called brilliant isolation policy), London finally found itself before a choice: either to be an outside observer of the expanding German trade-economic and, as a result, military expansion and as a result, to be drawn into inevitable armed clashes on the sidelines, or to lead the European forces who disagree with such a course of Berlin. Pragmatic Britons chose the second and did not lose.
While London had a whole series of unresolved international contradictions with France and especially with Russia, he could not take the initiative of the war with Germany. But since 1904, having settled all its “misunderstandings” with France, Great Britain entered into an unofficial alliance with it, objectively directed against Germany, and in 1907, Russia, which was defeated in the war with Japan, became compliant and approached London on the issue of delimitation of "influence" in Central Asia. St. Petersburg, having shifted the center of its foreign policy from the Far East to the Balkan Peninsula, inevitably had to face Austro-Hungarian, and therefore German interests. In September 1912, British Foreign Minister Edward Gray assured his Russian counterpart Sergei Sazonov in a personal conversation that if a war broke out between Russia and Germany, “Britain will make every effort to deliver the most sensitive blow to German power.” In the same conversation, the head of the British Foreign Ministry informed Sazonov that a secret agreement had been reached between London and Paris, “by virtue of which, in the event of war with Germany, the United Kingdom pledged to assist France not only at sea but also on land, by landing troops on the mainland ".
Thus, no matter how the crisis develops in Europe, whether in the Balkans or around the question of the entry of German troops into the territory of Belgium, according to the secret conventions of the Entente, its members tied by London with corresponding obligations were inevitably drawn into war.
WHEN AMOUNT IS VALUE
One of the regularities in the development of the military-political coalition is the almost automatic striving of its member states for quantitative expansion, including, which is desirable, at the expense of the members of the opposing union. All this was clearly demonstrated on the eve and already during the unfolding war.
However, the involvement of new members in their coalition often comes up against the initially diametrically opposed positions of countries already included in the coalition. So it was, for example, with Turkey, whose central place in the then Muslim world caused London's keen desire to entangle it with various agreements and post-war promises.
The opposite was the position of St. Petersburg. He needed Turkey not at all in the role of an ally, even the most meek and docile. The Russian leadership needed Constantinople and the Straits, and the best excuse to take them would be a war with Turkey. The position of Russia in this matter prevailed. Perhaps this was the only “victory”, if it can be called that, of Russian diplomacy for the entire war in the confrontation of interests within the Entente. Not without the active work of the German agents in October 1914, Turkey officially sided with the central or “middle powers”, as the German-Austro-Hungarian military alliance was dubbed by this time. Another significant failure of the Entente was the fall of 1915 of the year to the side of Germany and its allies Bulgaria, which, at first, significantly changed the configuration of the overall situation of the parties not in favor of Russia and its allies.
However, these failures were partially offset by the transition to the side of the Entente of Italy in the same year and the opening of a new front that diverted considerable forces of Austria-Hungary and Germany, and also the performance of the Entente of Romania on the side of Romania, although somewhat late, but significantly complicating the position of the Austro-Hungarian troops.
Ultimately, the quantitative advantage was on the side of the Entente. If during the first week the war engulfed only eight European countries - Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand, Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro - on the other, in the future the German bloc was rooted in only two countries (Turkey and Bulgaria ), and on the side of the Entente, declaring war on Berlin and Vienna, besides those mentioned by Italy and Romania, Japan, Egypt, Portugal, Cuba, Panama, Siam, Greece, Liberia, China, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti and, most significant, USA with their impressive industrial potential in those years. The role of the United States as a member of the coalition in question should be highlighted.
THE ROLE OF AMERICA
At the turn of 1915 – 1916, the European allies of Russia became obviously unstable, formed not without their help by the internal situation in the country, fraught with its early exit from the war. Only the USA could objectively compensate such a giant. Even before the war, and with its unleashing especially, the British leadership directed incredible efforts to drag Washington into the “European meat grinder”. Germany contributed indirectly to this: with its “unlimited submarine war”, accompanied by numerous casualties, including among American citizens, she finally inclined Congress to the decision to enter the war on the side of the Entente.
5 April 1917 Washington declared war on Germany, the law on universal military service was promulgated on May 18, and the landing of American troops in France began on June 13 of the same year. By the truce day in the fall of 1918, out of the total number of 3750 ’men called in, thousands of Americans were transported to France by 2087. They were included in the 41 division, of which 30 was effective by the end of the war. And yet, as representatives of the Allied Command themselves noted, the role of the US Army in the war was auxiliary, especially at the beginning. The American units and formations were simply poorly trained, therefore, despite the presence of so-called technical advisers from among the British and French officers, the role of the formations of the US Armed Forces was only to change the British and French divisions in the calm sections of the Western Front. As Ferdinand Foch wrote, at the end of the war, the supreme commander-in-chief of the Allies, “managed by generals who had no experience, the US Army could not cope with the tasks set.” And yet, US involvement in the war on its side was a great success for the Entente powers.
As we can see, the number of coalition participants is an important factor in armed confrontation. And here the direct contribution of each member of the coalition to the confrontation on the battlefield is not obligatory, since the build-up of the political and diplomatic capital of the coalition plays a significant role, which directly affects the moral and volitional state of the opposite side. Not to mention the real and potential contribution to the common cause of coalition participants with significant military-economic and military capabilities proper.
COALITION WITHOUT ACTION COORDINATION
The most important regularity that determines the success of a coalition on the battlefield is the existence of a so-called allied plan of war, encompassing all the elements of preparation for it, ensuring the achievement of its goals through the use of armed forces (SC), supported by all favorable economic and political measures. In that sense, a war plan for 1914 did not exist in any country. However, in France and in Russia, and especially in Great Britain, preparation for a war on a state scale was nevertheless carried out, but without due coordination with the allies. Indeed, between Russia and France there was a written convention of the 1892 of the year, which had a semblance of a plan of war, which was gradually refined as it approached an armed denouement during the meeting of the chiefs of both general staffs. In essence, it turned out that, due to Russia's closest dependence on French financial assistance, St. Petersburg was simply imposed serious obligations on its allies, who virtually excluded any creativity in developing a joint action plan. The “military secret”, which, in theory, was supposed to surround the collective work, in fact allowed on the part of St. Petersburg concessions in all directions, which turned out to be harmful to Russian interests with the outbreak of war.
There was no written documentation about military participation in the future war of the third member of the Entente — Britain. Always very cautious in tying themselves with concrete obligations, London was in no hurry to develop a plan of operations for its army on the mainland, and even less so that it was coordinated with anyone. When General John French was appointed Chief of the British General Staff in March 1912, he took some steps to ensure that in the event of a war transports of British expeditionary forces, as well as sending his assistant to France to reconnoitre and consult with representatives of the French and Belgian military leadership, However, all these activities were in the nature of the initiatives of the British military, the government did not want to bind itself before the outbreak of war by any external obligations. It is noteworthy that only a year and a half after the start of the war, in December 1915, at the initiative of Russia, its representative in France, General Jacob Zhilinsky, sharply spoke out demanding coordination of the actions of the allied armies. Despite the fact that the French in the first place and even the British supported the Russian general, a specific plan of concerted military actions was not worked out. Limited to wishes. Moreover, the complete lack of consistency in the actions of the allies belonged not only to the European theater of war. Attempts by the Russian command in the Middle East to coordinate their actions with the British also failed. The interaction of the Russian expeditionary corps in Persia and the British - in Mesopotamia was limited only to the establishment of radio communication between them and nothing more.
The only example of coordinated actions of the Entente powers can be two secret documents signed in 1912 by the British and French regarding the distribution of the naval forces (Navy) of both powers in the event of war: the French Navy was assigned the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of France was assigned to the British fleet. On the eve of the war, in May-June 1914, all three governments of the Entente countries intended to conclude a common naval convention regarding the distribution of areas of responsibility and the operational tasks arising from this, but the negotiations were interrupted by the war that had begun.
As for the "middle powers", in their partnership there was the absence of a military convention as such, with all the ensuing consequences, up to the creation of a single command. Although, on the basis of article 1, a union agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary provided for the help of each other with all of their armed forces. The absence of more specific operational commitments between the two armies was due to several reasons. But the main one was that the German General Staff did not want to open their cards in advance to an ally, whose military value he regarded as low. And the question of Italy’s membership in the coalition by the time the war began was already in serious doubt. In general, as the leadership of Germany and Austria-Hungary believed, the two chiefs of general staffs, by constant personal communication, eliminated the need for a written document that allegedly could have a harmful effect on the freedom of action of both armies in a real war.
Thus, instead of a clear plan of coordinated actions between the main participants of both coalitions, there were only mutual military commitments, outlining only in general terms the size of the forces being deployed and the guiding idea of their operational use during the war. The only excuse for this could be completely inexplicable dreams of the transience of the upcoming war, as the Germans said, “before the autumn leaf fall”. And already in the course of the unfolding confrontation, especially in the second half, the participants of the Entente began to conclude agreements formally necessary for any military coalition (for example, such as the declaration of the three powers about the obligation to not conclude a separate peace during the war).
Of course, no war proceeds exactly according to plans drawn up in peacetime, but in a modern, extremely complex “economy” of war, having a clear, agreed baseline is the most important regularity of coalition actions, and for the first operations it may be the most important one.
Central to the military coalition at all times has been, is and will be the question of a unified command. During the preparation and during the First World War in the framework of the Entente, he acquired a peculiar sound.
The armed forces of all countries - members of the coalition had at the head of their Armed Forces commanders in charge of their country and not united in a single organism with a single common will. No one, and especially the British, and then the Americans, did not want to obey the general of the other army, and the governments and parliaments were afraid of losing control over the armed forces of their country. From the very first days of the war the attempts of Russia (as a whole within the coalition) and France (on the Western Front) to establish autocracy were unsuccessful. The similarity of coordination was achieved by the communications apparatus and periodically convened conferences, which discussed strategic assumptions and procurement issues related to the planned operations.
For the first time, the acute question of the immediate formation of a unified command was raised by Russia at the end of 1914 as a result of the unjustified significant losses of the Russian army due to the inconsistency of the actions of the allies with it. But in 1915, operations in both European theaters of war (theaters of war) developed the same way. The ideological unity of actions of the Armed Forces of the Entente countries did not exist here, let alone operations in other parts of the world.
Only at the end of 1915, the Allies took concrete steps towards the unified management of hostilities. French General Joseph Joffre, who received "the supreme command of all the French armies," aggressively begins to introduce into the consciousness of the allies his single operational plan for the 1916 year; he offers it on behalf of France to all the commanders-in-chief of the Allied armies or their representatives at the Allied conference in Chantilly, near Paris, and seeks the adoption of some of its provisions.
Of course, this conference could not replace the single firm leadership of the armed forces of the Entente. The common grounds for joint actions developed at its meetings were nevertheless vague. They clearly revealed only the desire to provide mutual support in order to avoid individual defeats. And yet it was a step in the right direction.
However, the joint actions of the allies during the 1916 campaigns of the year in different theaters expressed themselves only in the form of sporadic attempts, not united either in time or in duration. Although, without exception, experts noted clear progress in combining the operations of the armies of the various Entente powers, in their opinion, unified management in the manner of Chantilly conferences did not pass the exam.
As a result, the overall direction of operations remained in the hands of the periodically convened conferences. Formally, the Entente plan for 1917 for the year was reduced to the earliest use of its superiority in forces and means to give the campaign a very decisive character. In Russia, at a meeting of the commanders-in-chief of the fronts at the rate of mid-December 1916, the plan of action for 1917 was also adopted, in which, in pursuance of the general plan of the Entente, a strict coordination of the actions of the Russian armies with the Western allies was planned . But it turned out as in previous years: when the Russian front stopped by the middle of summer and the Germans were free, on July 31 the British launched an offensive against Ypres; when the British took a monthly break in their offensive (from August 16 to September 20), the French launched an attack near Verdun (August 20 – August 26), and the Italians attacked the Isonzo (August 19 - September 1). In other words, practically all operations, perhaps with the exception of those conducted near Verdun and Isonzo, for one reason or another, could not be realized as intended - coordinated in time and according to a single plan with a common command.
And only the actual defeat of Italy in October 1917 of the year forced the leadership of Great Britain, France and Italy to create the so-called Supreme Military Council. Its structure included heads of state or government. In the intervals between the plenary meetings of this body with the participation of the highest officials of the member states, military representatives from four allied armed forces — British, American, Italian and French — sat in the council (Russia had left the war by this time). However, each of these representatives was vested with the authority of a “technical adviser” who was responsible only to his government, and he himself had no right to decide any important issues. Thus, the council was a deliberative body without any commanding and executive functions, although the development of the situation required a different one.
Finally, during the development of an action plan for 1918, it was decided to create an Executive Military Council, chaired by French General Ferdinand Foch, who was to coordinate the actions of the commanders-in-chief of the allied armies and create his reserve. However, in reality, the members of this council defended the interests of only their own country, while the commanders-in-chief remained responsible only to their governments. As a result, mainly because of the position of Great Britain, which categorically refused to allocate its troops there, no general reserve was created. Thus, the Allies could not put the general interests of the Entente above the interests of their states.
However, the powerful German offensive that began in early spring 1918 and threatened to seize Paris prompted an urgent meeting of the Franco-British conference, at which everyone unanimously called for the creation of a “real joint command” by the allied forces in France and Belgium to transfer it to Foch. But even at this conference, the rights of the commander in chief were not clearly formulated. The situation on the front did not improve. The Allies again urgently convened a conference in Beauvais (3 April) with the participation of both prime ministers and the representative of the United States, General John Pershing, where it was decided to hand over to the French general Ferdinand Foch the "strategic leadership of operations" while maintaining the allied forces, the latter were given the right in case of disagreement with Foch to appeal to his government. However, General Pershing on the same day said that the United States entered the war "not as allies, but as an independent state, so he will use his troops as he pleases." And only after the next powerful blow of the Germans on the Lis River to General Foch, were the powers of the supreme commander of all the allied forces in all their volume really secured. This happened on May 14 of the year 1918, and in the future the comprehensive powers of the new commander-in-chief had a positive effect on the development of the Entente's operations.
Analyzing the information presented, it can be concluded that in the process of forming a unified military leadership of members of a military alliance, it is natural that the question of a single allied command in a coalition even of such confessional-ethnically and mentally close powers as Western members of the Entente cannot resolved so as not to affect painfully the fundamental rights of the supreme power of each of the participating States. And although in the case of the Entente, such a command was formally created by the end of the war, but in essence it was the result of a delicate compromise that could be destroyed at any time.
RESPECT TO RUSSIA IN ANTANT WAS NOT
The most important regularity of coalition hostilities is non-demonstrative mutual respect, embedded in the consciousness of the political and military leadership of the countries of the alliance, first and foremost, the ability to combine and even subordinate their often narrow, limited national interests in the political sphere to the interests of an ally, especially if these interests are realized in specific setting on the battlefield. However, in the case of the Entente, the situation was very far from it.
A textbook example here is the peremptory, arrogant pressure exerted by France on Russia, and openly, using elements of financial blackmail, to induce the latter to enter the war with only a third of the armed forces in the presence of warheads and with almost complete unwillingness of rear institutions. But even in the following years of the war, the consumer attitude of the Western allies towards Russia did not change. The British Prime Minister Lloyd George on this occasion, admittedly after the war, acknowledged: “The military leaders of England and France, it would seem, did not understand the most important thing - that they participated together with Russia in a common enterprise and that in order to achieve a common goal it was necessary to unite them resources ... "In the spring of 1915, the Russian Supreme Commander sent a telegram to his French colleague with a request to launch an offensive to alleviate the position of the Russian front. But - it is useless. Only after repeated requests from Russia in mid-June, the French-British forces launched a series of local attacks, but they could not mislead the German command about their significance only as distracting, demonstrative actions and did not cause the situation of the Russian allies.
On the contrary, there are a great many examples of the self-sacrifice of the Russian troops in favor of the interests of the Western allies. It is a well-known fact that the decisive successes of the armies of the Southwestern Front (“Brusilov's Breakthrough”) in the spring of 1916 of the year saved the Allies from the humiliating defeat of Verdun and Trentino. About the substantial assistance of the Russian troops to their Western allies in Central and Asia Minor less is known. But the British should be grateful to the Russian Expeditionary Corps, who actually saved 1916 from defeating the English who had fallen into a difficult situation in Cult al-Amar (Mesopotamia), and thereby ensuring Britain’s strong position in the Middle East.
On the whole, one must admit that by their unlimited pressure on the Russian command, forcing him, often to the detriment of himself, to throw more and more new formations and units into the furnace of the war, the Western allies consciously, apparently already thinking about the post-war world pattern, pushed Russia towards internal explosion and ultimately to the military collapse, but at the same time sought to squeeze out all the benefits for themselves, while the Russian army had not yet passed. Perhaps, in the most cynical form, the attitude of the Western powers to his ally was expressed by the French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paleologue: “... when calculating the losses of the allies, the center of gravity is not in number, but in a completely different one. In terms of culture and development, the French and Russians are not at the same level. Russia is one of the most backward countries in the world. Compare our army with this ignorant mass: all our soldiers are educated, young forces are fighting in the first rows, who have shown themselves in science and art, talented and refined people, this is the color of humanity. From this point of view, our losses are much more sensitive than Russian losses. ” As they say, no comment. A reasonable question arises: is it worth joining a coalition where you have a vassal role, which will not be considered in the course of the war, much less after it? The answer is obvious.
The above patterns in the formation and functioning of the military coalition of a number of European powers during the First World War — the Entente — are therefore “objectively existing, repetitive, significant connection of phenomena”, whether we want it or not, have been and continue to be implemented. numerous military campaigns of the new time. The vitality of existing and planned political and military alliances largely depends on scrupulous accounting and, most importantly, skilful application of these laws.