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Strategy Article


Russia's Northern Offensive


Rod Walker


Hoosier Archives #55


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Russia has two fronts, distinctly separated, and symbolised by her two distinct naval frontages, BAL/BAR, and Black Sea. Allan Calhamer gave Russia 4 units because of this and there is a Russian fleet on each front. There are times when Russia may wish to concentrate initially on one front or the other. Before putting forward the option of a northern opening I want to preface this article with some observations of a general nature:

  1. I believe that early concentration may unnecessarily antagonise its object. Concentration in the north is usually anti-English, but choosing your enemies before which know which enemies have chosen you is not too bright.
  2. Concentrating on the north means ignoring the south. There is then no protection against a Turkish or Austrian stab. It also means the abandonment of the right to sway events in the south, at least immediately.

The decision to concentrate in the north is a weighty one. It should not be made except for compelling reasons. If it needs be done, however, then " 'twere best 'twere done quickly," to use the words of Lady MacBeth.

The most common northern opening is F StP(sc)-GoB, A Mos-StP, followed in the fall by F GoB-Swe, A StP-Nwy (hopefully keeping the English out), or A StP-Fin, making things hot for England in S02, even though he will take Nwy in 1901. The other army is then used in the south, or hangs around wondering what to do.

But if you are going to intervene in the north, and abandon your interests in the south for the nonce, then you may as well do so quickly. There is another sequence which offers interesting possibilities. This sequence is:

Spring 1901:

F StP(sc)-GoB, A Mos-StP, A War-Lvn

Fall 1901:

A StP-Fin, F GoB C A Lvn-Swe, A Lvn-Swe. Winter 1901: Build F StP(nc)

This is accompanied by suitable diplomacy, hopefully inducing both F and G to attack the wicked witch of the north, England. In particular, German forbearance is needed to allow Russia to take Sweden in A01. At the end of 1901, Russia has 4 units poised in Scandinavia. Norway should fall in 1902.

The importance of this position lies, however, not in the fall of Nwy, but in its aftermath. Taking Nwy away from E is one thing; taking anything else is another. If Russian diplomacy has been successful, E may be glad to recognise the fait accompli in return for Russian non-aggression in the future. In turn, Russia should be glad to grant this. In S02, he should have moved F GoB-BAL (either on the feeble excuse that he needs to get the fleet out for use against England, a real need if he continues his naval war to the west or while duping Germany that in fact he’s going to order F(GoB)-Swe, A(Swe)-Nwy). He is then in a position to launch an attack on Germany. A strong advance into central Europe is far more important than the side show against England (Russia needs to weaken, not destroy, England at this stage at least).

By the end of 1902 (Russia will probably build A War in W02), the Russian position is going to be good in the north. He dominates Scandinavia, holding a strong defensive position, anchoring his offence there. He has taken, or is threatening Den. He has armies poised to the east and north of Ger. Again, I emphasise that this is possible only when Russia's diplomatic position in the south is so secure that he can afford to devote a very minimal attention to that sphere. His very weakness in that area, combined with successes in the north, may undermine his position. He must be careful, therefore, to engage in strong and aggressive diplomacy with his southern neighbours, so that while he seeks to dominate the north, he does not lose the south.