Was it a mistake for Germany not to wait unil 1917 and beyond to fight a World War?

Was it a mistake for Germany not to wait unil 1917 and beyond to fight a World War?

  • Yes

  • No


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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,701
SoCal
#1
I voted Yes. Germany was gambling on a quick victory in the West in 1914 and didn't know what to do when it failed to achieve this goal. It lucked out a bit when Russia descended into revolution, but as a result of Britain and the US being in the war, Germany never managed to win on the Western Front and instead ultimately lost as a result of being overwhelmed by the Western Allies. In turn, had Germany wanted until 1917 or beyond to fight a World War, Germany would have very likely not had to fight against either Britain or the US (the Schlieffen Plan would have become outdated by 1917 and thus Britain would have likely remained neutral, and without Britain, the US almost certainly likewise remains neutral). This would have significantly boosted Germany's chances in any World War--even if it would have had to fight against a stronger Russia. British and US participation was ultimately what doomed Germany in WWI in real life and IMHO it would have probably taken Russia a long time for it to become powerful enough to compensate for the lack of British and US allies in an alt-WWI that would have broken out in 1917 or later.

In a later WWI, Germany would not have had any hope of winning a quick victory. However, it would have been in a very good position to win a long war--something that would have still been true even if Hungary would have refused to renew its union with Austria and would have instead allied with France and Russia.

Speaking of which, it's possible that British and US participation in WWII likewise titled the balance of power against Germany in that war as well.

Anyway, any thoughts on this?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,701
SoCal
#2
Also, as a side note, I think that 1905-1906 would have been a great time for Germany to fight a World War had the Haber-Bosch process for producing ammonium already been developed and commercialized by that point in time. Had this process already existed back in 1905-1906, Germany wouldn't have had to worry about running out of munitions and would have been in a much stronger position to fight a World War than it actually was in 1914 in real life (due to Russia being much weaker in 1905-1906). Since this process didn't exist back in 1905-1906, though, Germany's best move would have been to wait until 1917 or later to fight a World War. Of course, this assumes that there would have eventually been a World War to begin with--and frankly, the outbreak of a World War could have been completely avoided indefinitely with successfully good and skilled leadership and diplomacy.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,647
Australia
#3
No one wanted war, at least not on the scale that it became, so Germany would not have fought the Franco/British alliance in 1917 or at all if it could have been avoided. It was the complex web of treaties and alliances between all the European powers that began the inevitable descent into war in 1914.
 
Nov 2015
1,750
Kyiv
#4
I voted Yes. Germany was gambling on a quick victory in the West in 1914 and didn't know what to do when it failed to achieve this goal. It lucked out a bit when Russia descended into revolution...
I think the Russian revolution of February 1917 was itself a product of the World War I. Without this war, Russia had a great chance to do without this revolution. As for October 1917, I believe that this was not a revolution, but a counter-revolutionary Bolshevik coup, which strangled the green shoots of Russian democracy that appeared in February
 
#5
None of the above. I think the question is a bit misleading. Germany did not start the World War, they simply were under treaty obligations.

If anyone really started it, it would be the Russians & the Serbs.
The Serbian Black Hand had killed the Austrian Crown-Prince in a premeditated terrorist attack, and that organization was merely a (no so secret) extension of the Serbian secret service. That means that Austria's reaction towards Serbia was both legal, to be expected and quite understandable. Austria made demands to Serbia via an ultimatum, which was refused and Austria shelled Belgrade.

People could have left it at that but the Russians decided it was wise to stick with their Serbian allies and mobilized their forces, although they had no hope in hell of ever winning against Austria plus it's main ally: Germany. Most countries were full of themselves, all thought they could easily defeat most others... I do not think that the Russians were even really thinking that they actually might need their allies. Or maybe they did, but were sure that the French would jump into action with the prospect of once more occupying Alsace-Lorraine, which may explain the Russian actions better.
Of course this left the Austrians and Germans with little other options than to mobilize as well. The Germans demanded the Russians to demobilize, but they didn't.
Again the Russians could have backed down, but did not do so. At the end of the ultimatum the Russians hadn't demobilized, so Germany declared war on the 1st of August.

France mobilized the next day, in support of Russia. They did not declare war yet, but didn't have to. The Germans and Austrians could not demobilize until and unless Russia did so, and they clearly had no intention of doing so.
Ergo logically the only option left was war with Russia. The French mobilization clearly showed that they intended to keep themselves to their treaty obligations, hence war with Germany and Austria. As a result on that same day (August 2nd) Germany demanded from Belgium passage through Belgium in order to attack France, which was refused. That same day French forces were moving towards Germany and German forces moved into Luxembourg (which had no army of any consequence). The next day (August 3rd) Germany declared war on France and on the 4th they declared war against and invaded Belgium.
Because of that Belgium invoked their treaty with the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom declared war with Germany on the 4th of August.

And the rest, so they say, is history.
 
Jul 2017
335
Argentina
#6
Hey Futurist.
Your hypothesis relies on the belief that, after 1917, after the Russian revolution of 1917, Russia wouldn’t have come into WWI, giving Germany one les enemy to fight for almost the first three years of the war. About it, I agree with Dir on post #4. If it was not because of WWI, maybe Russia wouldn’t have gone throw that messy 1917 process. Don’t forget Germany itself fueled that process sending Mr. Vladimir with a train full of money.
Anyway, Germany never chose the day to begin the war. It was triggered in 1914, just as it could have been triggered before. Or after.
I think it was very different in WWII, when the nazi did choose a day to invade France, to invade Austria, the Sudetes, Polska, etc.
IMHO.
¡¡¡aguanTe Talleres!!!
 
Apr 2015
37
USA
#7
There are a few misconceptions in this thread.

(1) Russia was expanding its railroad network with French financial and technical assistance. So the conventional wisdom at the time, which hindsight can neither confirm nor deny, was that Germany was better off fighting the Triple Entente sooner rather than later.

(2) The Schlieffen Plan did not bring Britain into the war. If Germany had respected Belgium's neutrality (and focused its armies in the east while bottling-up France on their narrow border) then France would have invaded through Belgium, with Belgium's passive assistance, and Britain still would have joined France. It is known. The papers with these plans were found.

(3) Germany and Austria started the war. The Austrian attack on Serbia was not "legal" and Russia was treaty-bound to assist Serbia. The German Kaiser was the only person who could decide whether the war would happen or not (other than the Austrian Kaiser of course), by telling the Austrian Kaiser whether to proceed with the attack on Serbia or to back down.

(4) The Central Powers were never going to win a long war. That required U-boats and wrecking the British economy, which required the U.S. to protect its interests.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Spartakus X
#8
Number #1 and #2 are quite true. The suspicions about the preparations by the other side was rife in all countries. And all had been preparing for a situation like this.

As to #2, the Belgium 'neutrality' was always a bit suspect as they were always behaving more like an extension to France. The Brits didn't want them to join France, the majority of the Belgian population was and is Dutch speaking (Flemish) and did not want to join France as well, but had no say in any matters. The Belgians mostly concentrated their fortresses for a defense against Germany, and counted on their allies to prevent any attempts by the Dutch. But no preparations were made against the French which was very suspect in German eyes.

As to #3, of course it is legal. The murder was quite clearly done by Serbia and as that was against the crown-prince which is a clear act of war.
Now of course one could say Russia was also merely treaty-bound but their friends in the Balkans (the Serbs) were seen as puppets of the Russians. Also the Serbs could have acquiesced to the Austrian demands, but most likely they didn't do so because the Russians told them that there was no need, that they had their back.

The German Kaiser was the only person who could decide whether the war would happen or not (other than the Austrian Kaiser of course), by telling the Austrian Kaiser whether to proceed with the attack on Serbia or to back down.
Not really because by that time the Russians had already mobilized. Backing down was something that the Russians could have done, as in things like handing over the people from the Black Hand.
Now of course any country involved in the conflict could have backed down at some point and tried actual diplomacy instead of ultimatums, but all considered themselves so good that they could easily defeat anyone else on the world. They were not really inclined to go for peace.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,479
Sydney
#9
the rise of Russia was a major concern for the Germans generals
to wait didn't seems to be an option as the Russian empire was growing in strength quite rapidly
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,928
Dispargum
#10
...the Schlieffen Plan would have become outdated by 1917 and thus Britain would have likely remained neutral, and without Britain, the US almost certainly likewise remains neutral...
Given that the German plan to invade France in 1940 initially resembled the Schlieffen Plan before von Manstein modified it, I don't know why the Schlieffen Plan would have been abandoned by 1917. The essential factor in both wars was that the German Army was too big to pass between Luxembourg and Switzerland and needed Belgium for the additional maneuvering room.
 

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