This edition of the Daily Dissembler is dedicated to the memory of Robert Audin, who passed away recently at too young an age. Robert was an avid war gamer, painter, and blogger. He played Russia in the Diplomacy game I ran here in 2014, and I like to think he would have enjoyed the Dissembler's gentle silliness. He was creative and clever, with many ideas and projects that sadly died with him. Rest in peace, friend. MP+
It is now clear that Turkey and Austria-Hungary are acting in concert. Their combined forces have destroyed for good the Russian Black Sea Fleet – gone forever the Romanov dream of an untrammeled sea-going passage to the Mediterranean. Further, the purpose of Turkey’s raising the army in Smyrna has been revealed. Pursuing the Russian Army counterattacking from Armenia and recapturing Sevastopol, it is now on the borders of that Tsarist province. The three-pronged attack in the fall season cannot fail to ensure that Sevastopol changes hands a third time.
That might not be so misplaced a trust. Germany’s attention has been focused westward hitherto. Its excursion into the Tyrol is explainable in terms of distracting Austria-Hungary, and hoping thereby to disarm the threat presented by a Austro-Turkish alliance. It has not worked, and not helped much, withal, but this effort hasn’t harmed Germany very much – not in the short term anyhow. In view of Russia’s plight, would Germany turn and take a bite out of the corpse of an ally that is dying? Possibly – likely if the alternative were to cede the opportunity to England. But that seems unlikely in the short term, as to do so would weaken Russia in the north and England is the more likely to gain. Having said that, I have been proved wrong already so far! With nothing to fear from the West, Germany is free to decide ‘where to next’. There, I refuse to speculate, so many are the possibilities.
That is understandable. If the Italian is in any way in partnership with the Austrian and the Turk, it makes sense to forego Greece the more to concentrate on western conquests. Marseilles has fallen, and France can not soon retrieve it. The puzzle is the move into North Africa. Why there? It seems that the plan is to bring the Fleet into the Western Med, then to convoy the African Army into Spain with support from Marseilles. There is not a great deal France can do about this if England continues the pressure from the Channel. But as this army could equally well have embarked from Tunisia as North Africa, why ‘telegraph’ the punch? To this writer it seems it would have been cagier to have kept the army in Tunisia. More flexible, too, as were the sudden need arise in the autumn to bring that army quickly to the home country, it might have been accomplished at once, the army being convoyed across the Tyrrhenian Sea. The King must really trust the Emperor!
Could France – can France – resist Italy’s planned tide of conquest into the Iberian Peninsula? Possibly, if Germany stays (apparently) neutral, and England abandons its war with France. That England might well patch up a peace with France, now, is not unlikely, given the loss of its Norwegian supply base, and French naval superiority in what we probably ought now to call ‘La Manche’. France has been canny enough to send its newly raised fleet from Brest into the Channel, which leaves La Republique with resources sufficient, by the look, to retain possession of Spain and Portugal both – at least for the time being.
Will England persist with its war against France, or try to retrieve its fortunes in Scandinavia? No alternatives to these options suggest themselves, and neither of them seem especially promising of favourable outcomes. The Spring battles in the Channel have left England’s naval resources somewhat dislocated. Were the Channel Fleet now in London instead of the Army (which had gone to York, say) then England might well have reasserted its control of Norway. Even that plan could not have been successfully concluded before mid-1903. Can it be achieved at all? One would have to hope that in the next eighteen months nothing would conspire to prevent it. How likely is that?
Suppose England were instead to persist in its efforts to subjugate the Republic. Something might be achieved with the former’s overall superiority at sea, but it would take at least half a year to bring it into concerted action, placing all three somewhere along the Irish Sea-Channel coast-North sea line.
Rioters Association 1 July 1902