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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 ноя 1874 - 24 янв 1965) Part III 1916–1918 (1923-31)

To All Who Endured

CHAPTER III

FALKENHAYN’S CHOICE

True strategy in 1915 pointed for the Allies to the south-eastern theatre, to the Balkan States, to Constantinople, to the weaker members of the hostile confederacy; and though everything was done at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and at the wrong place, nevertheless the general direction of the pressure was right, and in the long run produced results. There was however one way in which the true strategic direction could have been armed with tactical force.

Following this suggestion, the reader will no doubt perceive that the plan of British and Allied war which according to this account would best have served our interests in the year 1916 would have been a surprise attack upon the Dardanelles. Such an operation, if successful, would have been the only parry to a possible German eastward thrust, and the only means of holding Russia and preventing Roumania from being absorbed in the Teutonic combination.

The more morally impossible a military operation, the better chance it will have of success if it is physically practicable. Surprise—that sovereign talisman of War—springs from the doing of the exact thing the enemy is certain will never be tried.

During Christmas, 1915, Falkenhayn set himself to write a Memorandum for the eye of the Emperor. <...> He rejected plans for continuing the offensive against Russia: ‘According to all reports the domestic difficulties of the “Giant Empire” are multiplying rapidly. Even if we cannot perhaps expect a revolution in the grand style, we are entitled to believe that Russia’s internal troubles will compel her to give in within a relatively short period…. Unless we are again prepared to put a strain on the troops which is altogether out of proportion—and this is prohibited by the state of our reserves—an offensive with a view to a decision in the East is out of the question for us until April, owing to the weather and the state of the ground. The rich territory of the Ukraine is the only objective that can be considered. (курсив Черчилля) <...> A thrust at Petersburg, with its million inhabitants, whom we should have to feed from our own short stocks if the operations were successful, does not promise a decision. An advance on Moscow takes us nowhere. We have not the forces available for any of these undertakings. For all these reasons Russia as an object of our offensive must be considered as excluded.'

If the oceans were closed, Asia was open. If the West was barred with triple steel, the East lay bare. Only in the East and South-east and in Asia could Germany find the feeding grounds and breathing room—nay, the man power—without which her military strength however impressive was but a wasting security. Only in spreading their frontiers over new enormous regions could the Central Empires make themselves a self-contained and self-sufficing organism, and only by becoming such an organism could they deprive their enemies of the supreme and deadly weapon—Time.

‘As I now saw quite clearly,’ writes Ludendorff of the situation in October, 1916, ‘we should not have been able to exist, much less carry on the war, without Roumania’s corn and oil….’

Following upon this it would appear that the true strategic objectives of Germany in 1916 were the Black Sea and the Caspian. These lay within her grasp and required no effort beyond her strength. A continued advance against the south lands of Russia into the Ukraine and towards Odessa would have secured at comparatively little cost sufficient food for the Teutonic peoples. An upward thrust of Turkish armies sustained by German troops and organized by German generals would have conquered the Caucasus. Fleets and flotillas improvised by German science could easily dominate both the inland seas. The command of these waters would threaten simultaneously every point along their 5,000 miles of coast line, absorbing in negative defence ten Russians for every German employed, and multiplying in an almost unlimited degree the opportunities for further advance. Roumania completely encircled, cut from French and British aid by Bulgaria and Turkey, cut from the Russian armies by an Austro-German march from Lemberg to Odessa, could have had no choice but to join the Central Empires. The skilful employment of fifteen or twenty German divisions animating Austrian and Turkish armies would surely and easily have extended the territories which nourished Germany so as to include by the end of the summer of 1916 the whole of South-Eastern Europe, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Caspian. The Austro-German Front against Russia might have stretched from Riga to Astrakhan, with little more expenditure of force than was required to hold the existing Eastern line. At every moment and at every stage in these vast combinations the pressure upon Russia and upon her failing armies would have increased: and at every stage her troops and those of her allies would have been dissipated in vain attempts to wall in the ever-spreading flood in the East, or would have been mown down in frantic assaults upon the German trenches in France.

But the school of formula had vanquished the school of fact, the professional bent of mind had overridden the practical; submission to theory had replaced the quest for reality. Attack the strongest at his strongest point, not the weakest at his weakest point, was once again proclaimed the guiding maxim of German military policy.

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