Today’s prominent Russian military theoretician of the turn of the XIX – XX centuries, General Nikolai Mikhnevich, who made a significant contribution to the theory of coalition wars, wrote: “These wars are characterized by mistrust, envy, intrigue ... sometimes you have to give up too bold an enterprise so that not to back off an ally, or to rush into action to keep him behind. ” These patterns were fully manifested during the formation of the Entente - the military-political alliance of the three European powers: Great Britain, France and Russia - and, more importantly, when this bloc conducts coalition operations against the alliance of the central powers in Germany, Austria-Hungary and first Italy during the First World War.
WHO IS THE INSPIRER?
Immutable regularity in 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 faced with a choice: either to be an outside observer of the broader German trade, economic and military expansion and 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 British chose the latter and, as evidenced история, have not lost.
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 in the 1904 year, by settling all its “misunderstandings” with France, the UK entered into an unofficial alliance with it, objectively directed against Germany. And in the 1907 year, Russia, which was defeated in the war with Japan, became more compliant and went to rapprochement with London on the issue of delimiting “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 Secretary Edward Gray assured his Russian counterpart Sergei Sazonov in a personal conversation that if war broke out between Russia and Germany, “Britain will use all efforts 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.
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 already in it, the coalition included. 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 general position 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, which diverted significant forces of Austria-Hungary and Germany, and later on the side of the Entente of Romania, which significantly complicated 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 states: 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, in addition to those mentioned Italy and Romania, officially stood Japan, Egypt, Portugal, Cuba, Panama, Siam, Greece, Liberia, China, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras , Haiti and, most significant, USA their impressive even in those years industrial potential.
Thus, the number of coalition participants is a very important factor in armed confrontation. Moreover, the direct contribution of each member of the coalition to the confrontation on the battlefield is not required. Here, a significant role is played by the build-up of the political and diplomatic capital of the coalition, which directly negatively affects the moral and volitional state of the opposing side. Not to mention the real and potential contribution to the common cause of coalition participants with significant military-economic and military capabilities proper.
UNION OF WAR
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, which achieve its goals through the use of armed forces, supported by all favorable economic and political measures.
In that sense, a war plan did not exist by 1914 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 (1892), which had a semblance of a plan of war, which was gradually refined as it approached the armed denouement during the meeting of the chiefs of both general staffs. Essentially, 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 collective work, in fact allowed from 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 to concrete obligations, London was in no hurry to develop a plan of operations for its land army on the mainland and, moreover, to coordinate it with anyone else. When General John French was appointed Chief of the British General Staff in March 1912, he took some steps to secure British expeditionary forces in the event of a war, as well as sending his assistant to France to reconnoitre and consult with French and Belgian military leaders. However, all these activities were in the nature of the initiatives of the British military, but the government did not want to bind itself before the start of the war with any external obligations.
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. But even despite the fact that both the French in the first place and the British supported the Russian general, a specific plan of concerted military actions was not worked out. Were limited to one wishes. Attempts by the Russian command in the Middle East to coordinate their actions with the British also failed each time. 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 the coordination of the actions of the Entente powers are two secret documents signed in 1912 by the British and French regarding the distribution of the naval forces of both powers in the event of war: the French navy was assigned the Mediterranean and the French coastline and the British fleet. On the eve of the war itself, in May – June 1914, all three governments of the Entente 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 written 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 assistance to each other with all its 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 at the beginning of 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. Such, for example, 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. However, in a modern, extremely complex "economy" of war, the presence of 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 the countries-members of the coalition were headed by commanders-in-chief, responsible before their country and not united in a single organism by 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 even in 1915, operations in both European theaters of military operations developed in the same way independently - the ideological unity of the actions of the armed forces of the Entente countries did not exist. Not to mention the operations in other parts of the world.
And this is despite the fact that the need to unite actions under a single leadership was already realized by practically all allies. "The inconvenience to which Allied forces are due to ununited control is well known," a British representative in the Russian headquarters, General Williams, reports 15 in May 1915. - In a real war, they consist in the fact that the languages of the allies are very different, and also that each of the allies has their own interests, which can adversely affect mutual relations ... Until now, the strategy of the allies both in the East and in the West, it was expressed that each of them fights against the common enemy more or less separately. ”
And 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.
The joint actions of the Allies during the 1916 campaigns of the year at 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.
Nevertheless, the general 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 was adopted for the 1917 year, in which, pursuant to the general plan of the Entente, strict coordination of the actions of the Russian armies with the Western allies was planned both in the winter and in the summer. 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, in a coordinated manner in time and according to a single plan with the general 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, as is known, 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 in fact a deliberative body without any commanding and executive functions. But the development of the situation required another.
Finally, during the development of an action plan for the 1918 year, it was decided to create an Executive Military Council chaired by the 59-year-old French General Ferdinand Foch. The new Soviet was to coordinate the actions of the commanders-in-chief of the allied armies and create its own reserve. In fact, 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 attack that began in early spring 1918, threatening 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 Foch the "strategic leadership of operations" while maintaining the allied forces commanders. Moreover, the latter were given the right in case of disagreement with Foch to appeal to his government. However, the presumptuous General Pershing on the same day declared that the United States had entered the war "not as allies, but as an independent state, so he will use his troops as he pleases." And only after another powerful strike by the Germans on the Lys River, Foch did indeed secure the powers of the supreme commander of all the allied forces in all their volume. This happened on 14 in May of 1918, and subsequently had a positive effect on the development of Entente operations.
Thus, as the experience of the formation of the unified military leadership of the Entente powers showed, the regularity in this case is that the issue of a single allied command in the coalition even of such confessional-ethnically and mentally close powers as the western members of the Entente cannot be resolved so that it is painful not to affect the fundamental rights of the supreme power of each of the states participating in the union. And it is always very sensitive for the leaders of the countries that make up the coalition. Although formally such a command was created at the end of the war, but in essence it was the result of a delicate compromise that could be destroyed at any moment.
RESPECT FOR ALLY
The most important regularity of coalition hostilities is non-show, informal mutual respect, embedded in the consciousness of the political and military leadership of the member countries of the union, the ability to combine and even subordinate their often narrow, limited national interests in the political sphere to the interests of the ally. Especially if these interests are realized in a specific situation on the battlefield. Many studies are devoted to ignoring this pattern during the First World War.
A textbook example is the categorical, arrogant pressure exerted by France on Russia, and openly using elements of financial blackmail, to induce the latter to enter the war in the presence of combat-ready only a third of the armed forces and the almost complete unwillingness of rear institutions. But in the subsequent years of the war, the consumer attitude of the Western allies towards Russia did not undergo any changes. 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 pool their resources ... "
In the spring of 1915, the Russian commander-in-chief 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.
There are a great many examples of the self-sacrifice of the Russian troops for the sake of the interests of the Western allies. It is a well-known fact that the decisive successes of the armies of the South-Western Front (Brusilovsky 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, although the British should be grateful to the Russian Expeditionary Corps, which actually saved the 1916 from the defeat of the British who fell into a difficult situation in Cult-el-Amare (Mesopotamia). Including this provided for the next years the strong positions of Britain in the Middle East.
By their unlimited pressure on the Russian command, often forced to throw new and new formations and units into the furnace of war, the Western allies quite consciously, apparently already thinking about the post-war world order, pushed Russia towards an internal explosion and ultimately to a military collapse, but at the same time they tried to squeeze out all the benefits for themselves as quickly as possible, while the Russian army had not yet surrendered. Such is the "allied pragmatism"!
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. ” 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 connections of phenomena”, whether we like it or not, have been and continue to be realized in the course of 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.