Military history

5

The Russian Steam Roller

THE RUSSIAN COLOSSUS exercised a spell upon Europe. On the chessboard of military planning, Russia’s size and weight of numbers represented the largest piece. Notwithstanding her shoddy performance in the war against Japan, thought of the Russian “steam roller” gave comfort and encouragement to France and Britain; dread of the Slav at their backs haunted the Germans.

Although the defects of the Russian Army were notorious, although the Russian winter, not the Russian Army, had turned Napoleon back from Moscow, although it had been defeated on its own soil by the French and British in the Crimea, although the Turks in 1877 had outfought it at the siege of Plevna and only succumbed later to overwhelming numbers, although the Japanese had outfought it in Manchuria, a myth of its invincibility prevailed. The savage cavalry charge of yelling Cossacks was such a fixture in European minds that newspaper artists in August, 1914, were able to draw it in stirring detail without having been within a thousand miles of the Russian front. Cossacks and inexhaustible millions of hardy, uncomplaining mujiks willing to die made up the stereotype of the Russian Army. Its numbers inspired awe: 1,423,000 in peacetime strength; an additional 3,115,000 to be called upon mobilization, and a further reserve of 2,000,000 in territorials and recruits to make a total available force of 6,500,000.

It was envisaged as a gigantic mass, initially lethargic, but once thoroughly roused into motion, rolling forward inexorably with, no matter how many losses, endless waves of manpower to fill the places of the fallen. The army’s efforts to purge incompetence and corruption since the war with Japan were believed to have brought improvement. “Everyone” in French politics was “immensely impressed by the growing strength of Russia and her tremendous resources and potential power and wealth,” Sir Edward Grey noticed when he was in Paris in April 1914 to negotiate a naval agreement with the Russians. He shared the, impression himself. “Russian resources are so great,” he told President Poincaré, “that in the long run Germany will be exhausted without our helping Russia.”

To the French the success of Plan 17, the irresistible march to the Rhine, was to be the proving of their nation and one of the great moments of European history. To ensure their breakthrough of the German center, they were bent on having the Russians draw off a portion of the German forces opposing them. The problem was to get Russia to launch an offensive upon Germany’s rear at the same time as the Germans and French launched theirs on the Western Front, that is, as nearly as possible to the fifteenth day of mobilization. The French knew as well as everyone else that it was physically impossible for Russia to complete mobilization and concentration of her forces in fifteen days, but they wanted her to begin battle on M-15 with whatever she had ready. They were determined that Germany must be forced to fight on two fronts from the first moment in order to reduce the German superiority in numbers against themselves.

In 1911 General Dubail, then Chief of the War Ministry Staff, was sent to Russia to indoctrinate the Russian General Staff with the need for seizing the initiative. Although half the Russian forces in a European war would be concentrated against Austria and only half of those destined to take the field against Germany would be ready by M-15, the spirit in St. Petersburg was bold and willing. Anxious to restore glory to their tarnished arms, and leaving details of planning to look after themselves, the Russians agreed, with more valor than discretion, to launch an offensive simultaneously with France. Dubail obtained a promise that as soon as their front-line forces were in position, without waiting for concentration to be completed, the Russians would attack, crossing the frontier of East Prussia on M-16. “It is at the very heart of Germany that we should strike,” acknowledged the Czar in a signed agreement. “The objective for both of us ought to be Berlin.”

The pact for an early Russian offensive was hardened and sharpened in annual Staff talks that were a feature of the Franco-Russian Alliance. In 1912 General Jilinsky, Chief of the Russian General Staff, came to Paris; in 1913 General Joffre went to Russia. By now the Russians had succumbed to the spell of élan. Since Manchuria they, too, had to compensate for the humiliation of military defeat and the consciousness of military deficiencies. Colonel Grandmaison’s lectures, translated into Russian, enjoyed immense popularity. Suffused with the glittering doctrine ofoffensive à outrance, the Russian General Staff improved on its promises. General Jilinsky undertook, in 1912, to have all of the 800,000 men destined for the German front ready by M-15, although Russia’s railways were manifestly inadequate to the task. In 1913 he advanced the date of his offensive by two days, although Russia’s armament factories were producing less than two-thirds the estimated need of artillery shells and less than half the need of rifle cartridges.

The Allies did not seriously concern themselves with Russia’s military defects, although Ian Hamilton, Britain’s military observer with the Japanese, had reported them pitilessly from Manchuria. They were: poor intelligence, disregard of cover, disregard of secrecy and swiftness, lack of dash, lack of initiative, and lack of good generalship. Colonel Repington who had pronounced judgment weekly on the Russo-Japanese War in The Times arrived at opinions which caused him to dedicate a book of his collected columns to the Emperor of Japan. Nevertheless the General Staffs believed that simply to get the Russian giant in motion, regardless of how he functioned, was all that mattered. This was difficult enough. During mobilization the average Russian soldier had to be transported 700 miles, four times as far as the average German soldier, and Russia had available one-tenth as many railroads per square kilometer as Germany. As a defense against invasion these had been deliberately built on a wider gauge than those of Germany. Heavy French loans to finance increased railroad construction had not yet accomplished their goal. Equal speed in mobilization was obviously impossible; but even if only half the 800,000 Russian troops promised for the German front could be put in position by the fifteenth day for a lunge into East Prussia, however faulty their military organization, the effect of their invasion of German territory was expected to be momentous.

To send an army into modern battle on enemy territory, especially under the disadvantage of different railway gauges, is a hazardous and complicated undertaking requiring prodigies of careful organization. Systematic attention to detail was not a notable characteristic of the Russian Army.

The officer corps was topheavy with a superabundance of aged generals whose heaviest intellectual exercise was card playing and who, to save their court perquisites and prestige, were kept on the active list regardless of activity. Officers were appointed and promoted chiefly through patronage, social or monetary, and although there were among them many brave and able soldiers the system did not tend to bring the best to the top. Their “laziness and lack of interest” in outdoor sports dismayed a British military attaché who, on visiting a frontier garrison near the Afghan border, was appalled to find “not a single tennis court.” In the purges after the Japanese war large numbers had resigned or been forced out in an effort to loosen the mass clogging the top. In one year 341 generals, nearly as many as in all the French Army, and 400 colonels had been retired as inefficient. Yet despite improvements in pay and promotion there was a shortage in 1913 of 3,000 officers. Much had been done since the Japanese war to clean away the decay in the army, but the Russian regime was still the same.

“This insane regime,” its ablest defender, Count Witte, the premier of 1903–06, called it; “this tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness, and stupidity.” The regime was ruled from the top by a sovereign who had but one idea of government—to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father—and who, lacking the intellect, energy, or training for his job, fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat. His father, Alexander III, who deliberately intended to keep his son uneducated in statecraft until the age of thirty, unfortunately miscalculated his own life expectancy, and died when Nicholas was twenty-six. The new Czar, now forty-six, had learned nothing in the interval, and the impression of imperturbability he conveyed was in reality apathy—the indifference of a mind so shallow as to be all surface. When a telegram was brought to him announcing the annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, he read it, stuffed it in his pocket, and went on playing tennis. When the premier, Kokovtsov, returning from Berlin in November 1913, gave the Czar a personal report on German preparations for war, Nicholas listened to him with his usual intent, unwavering gaze, “looking straight into my eyes.” After a long pause, when the premier had finished, “as if waking from a reverie, he said gravely, ‘God’s will be done.’” In fact, Kokovtsov concluded, he was simply bored.

At the bottom the regime was based upon an ant-heap of secret police who penetrated every ministry, bureau, and provincial department to such a degree that Count Witte felt obliged each year to deposit the notes and records he was keeping for his memoirs in a bank vault in France for safekeeping. When another premier, Stolypin, was assassinated in 1911 the perpetrators were discovered to be the secret police acting as agents provocateurs to discredit the revolutionists.

Between the Czar and the secret police the mainstay of the regime were the Tchinovniki, a class of bureaucrats and officials drawn from the nobility who performed the actual business of government. They were responsible to no constitutional body and subject only to arbitrary recall by the Czar, who, bent by the winds of court intrigue and his wife’s suspicions, exercised it constantly. Under the circumstances able men did not hold office long, and one who refused it, pleading “poor health,” inspired a colleague to comment, “In those days everyone was in poor health.”

Simmering with chronic discontent, Russia in the reign of Nicholas II was harassed by disasters, massacres, military defeats, and uprisings culminating in the revolution of 1905. When at that time the Czar was advised by Count Witte that he must either grant the constitution which the people were demanding or restore order under military dictatorship, he was obliged with bitter distaste to accept the first choice because his father’s cousin, the Grand Duke Nicholas, commander of the St. Petersburg Military District, refused to accept responsibility for the second. For this default the Grand Duke was never forgiven by the hyper-Bourbons, the Baltic barons of German blood and sympathy, the Black Hundreds—those “anarchists of the right”—and other reactionary groups who manned the ramparts of autocracy. They felt, as did many Germans, including the Kaiser in alternate hours, that the common interests of autocracies, formerly linked in the Drei-Kaiser Bund, made Germany a more natural ally of Russia than the democracies of the West. Regarding the liberals within Russia as their first enemy, the Russian reactionaries preferred the Kaiser to the Duma as the French Right of a later day were to prefer Hitler to Léon Blum. Only the growing threat of Germany itself in the last twenty years before the war induced Czarist Russia against her natural inclination to make alliance with republican France. Ultimately the threat even brought her together with England, which for a century had barred her from Constantinople and of whom one of the Czar’s uncles, the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, said in 1898: “I hope to live long enough to hear England’s death rattle. That is the ardent prayer I address to God each day!”

The cohorts of Vladimir dominated a court that was living out its age of Nero, whose ladies enjoyed the thrills of afternoon séances with the unwashed Rasputin. But Russia also had its Democrats and Liberals of the Duma, its Bakunin the Nihilist, its Prince Kropotkin who became an anarchist, its “intelligentsia” of whom the Czar said, “How I detest that word! I wish I could order the Academy to strike it from the Russian dictionary,” its Levins who agonized endlessly over their souls, socialism, and the soil, its Uncle Vanyas without hope, its particular quality that caused a British diplomat to conclude that “everyone in Russia was a little mad”—a quality called le charme slav, half nonchalance, half inefficiency, a kind of fin de siècle fecklessness that hung like a faint mist over the city on the Neva which the world knew as St. Petersburg and did not know was the Cherry Orchard.

Insofar as readiness for war was concerned, the regime was personified by its Minister for War, General Sukhomlinov, an artful, indolent, pleasure-loving, chubby little man in his sixties of whom his colleague, Foreign Minister Sazonov, said, “It was very difficult to make him work but to get him to tell the truth was well-nigh impossible.” Having won the Cross of St. George as a dashing young cavalry officer in the war of 1877 against the Turks, Sukhomlinov believed that military knowledge acquired in that campaign was permanent truth. As Minister of War he scolded a meeting of Staff College instructors for interest in such “innovations” as the factor of firepower against the saber, lance and the bayonet charge. He could not hear the phrase “modern war,” he said, without a sense of annoyance. “As war was, so it has remained … all these things are merely vicious innovations. Look at me, for instance; I have not read a military manual for the last twenty-five years.” In 1913 he dismissed five instructors of the College who persisted in preaching the vicious heresy of “fire tactics.”

Sukhomlinov’s native intelligence was adulterated by levity to cunning and cleverness. He was short and soft, with a catlike face, neat white whiskers and beard, and an ingratiating, almost feline manner that captivated those like the Czar whom he set himself to please. In others, like the French ambassador, Paléologue, he inspired “distrust at first sight.” Ministerial office, both appointment and dismissal, being entirely at the whim of the Czar, Sukhomlinov had won and kept himself in favor by being at once obsequious and entertaining, by funny stories and acts of buffoonery, avoidance of serious and unpleasant matters, and careful cultivation of “the Friend,” Rasputin. As a result he proved immune to charges of corruption and incompetence, to a sensational divorce scandal, and to an even more resounding spy scandal.

Smitten in 1906 by the twenty-three-year-old wife of a provincial governor, Sukhomlinov contrived to get rid of the husband by divorce on framed evidence and marry the beautiful residue as his fourth wife. Naturally lazy, he now left his work more and more in the hands of subordinates while, in the words of the French ambassador, “keeping all his strength for conjugal pleasures with a wife 32 years younger than himself.” Mme. Sukhomlinov delighted to order clothes in Paris, dine in expensive restaurants, and give large parties. To gratify her extravagances Sukhomlinov became an early and successful practitioner of the art of the expense account. He charged the government traveling expenses at the rate of 24 horse versts per diem while actually making his tours of inspection by railroad. Netting a lucrative balance, augmented by inside knowledge of trends on the stock market, he was able to bank 702,737 rubles during a six-year period in which his total salary was 270,000 rubles. In this happy exercise he was aided by an entourage who lent him money in return for military passes, invitations to maneuvers, and other forms of information. One of them, an Austrian named Altschiller who had supplied the evidence for Mme. Sukhomlinov’s divorce and who was received as an intimate in the Minister’s home and office where documents were left lying about, was revealed after his departure in January 1914 to have been Austria’s chief agent in Russia. Another was the more notorious Colonel Myasoedev, reputed to be Mme. Sukhomlinov’s lover, who though only chief of railroad police at the frontier was possessor of five German decorations and honored by the Kaiser with an invitation to lunch at Rominten, the imperial hunting lodge just over the border. Not surprisingly Colonel Myasoedev was suspected of espionage. He was arrested and tried in 1912, but as a result of Sukhomlinov’s personal intervention was acquitted and enabled to continue in his former duties up to and through the first year of the war. In 1915, when his protector had finally lost office as a result of Russian reverses, he was rearrested, convicted, and hanged as a spy.

Sukhomlinov’s fortunes after 1914 are significant. He escaped prosecution at the same time as Colonel Myasoedev only through the influence of the Czar and Czarina, but ultimately, in August 1917, after the Czar had abdicated and the Provisional Government was already crumbling, he too was brought to trial. In the ruin and tumult of that time he was tried less for treason, which was the nominal charge, than for all the sins of the old regime. In the prosecutor’s summing up those sins came to one: that the Russian people, having been forced to fight without guns or munitions, suffered a loss of confidence in the government which had spread like a plague, with “terrible consequences.” After a month of sensational testimony in which the details of his financial and amorous speculations were brought out, Sukhomlinov was acquitted of treason but found guilty of “abuse of power and inactivity.” Sentenced to hard labor for life, he was liberated a few months later by the Bolsheviks and made his way to Berlin, where he lived until his death in 1926 and where in 1924 he published his memoirs which he dedicated to the deposed Kaiser. In a preface he explained that the Russian and German monarchies having been destroyed as enemies during the war, only the rapprochement of the two countries could restore them to power. This thought so impressed the Hohenzollern exile that he wrote out a dedication of his own memoirs to Sukhomlinov but was apparently dissuaded from using it in the published version.

This was the man who was Russia’s Minister of War from 1908 to 1914. Embodying, as he did, the opinions and enjoying the support of the reactionaries, his preparation for war with Germany, which was the Ministry’s chief task, was something less than wholehearted. He immediately halted the movement for reform of the army which had made progress since the shame of the Russo-Japanese War. The General Staff, after having been given independence in order to further its study of modern military science, was after 1908 once again subordinated to the Minister of War, who had sole access to the Czar. Shorn of initiative and power, it found no able leader or even the consistency of a single second-rate one. In the six years prior to 1914 six different Chiefs of Staff succeeded each other, with effect upon war plans that was hardly systematic.

While Sukhomlinov left work to others, he allowed no freedom of ideas. Clinging stubbornly to obsolete theories and ancient glories, he claimed that Russia’s past defeats had been due to mistakes of commanding officers rather than to any inadequacy of training, preparation, or supply. With invincible belief in the bayonet’s supremacy over the bullet, he made no effort to build up factories for increased production of shells, rifles, and cartridges. No country, its military critics invariably discover afterward, is ever adequately prepared in munitions. Britain’s shell shortage was to become a national scandal; the French shortage of everything from heavy artillery to boots was a scandal before the war began; in Russia, Sukhomlinov did not even use up the funds the government appropriated for munitions. Russia began the war with 850 shells per gun compared to a reserve of 2,000 to 3,000 shells per gun used by the Western armies, although Sukhomlinov himself had agreed in 1912 to a compromise of 1,500 per gun. The Russian infantry division had 7 field-gun batteries compared with 14 in the German division. The whole Russian Army had 6o batteries of heavy artillery compared with 381 in the German Army. Warnings that war would be largely a duel of firepower Sukhomlinov treated with contempt.

Greater only than his aversion to “fire tactics” was Sukhomlinov’s aversion to the Grand Duke Nicholas, who was eight years his junior and represented the reforming tendency within the army. Six foot six, of narrow height with handsome head, pointed beard, and boots as tall as a horse’s belly, the Grand Duke was a gallant and imposing figure. After the Japanese war he had been named to reorganize the army as chief of a Council of National Defense. Its purpose was the same as that of the Esher Committee after the Boer War, but, unlike its British model, it had soon succumbed to lethargy and the mandarins. The reactionaries, who resented the Grand Duke for his share in the Constitutional Manifesto and feared his popularity, succeeded in having the Council abolished in 1908. As a career officer who had served as Inspector-General of Cavalry in the Japanese war and who knew personally almost the entire officer corps, each of whom on taking up a new post had to report to him as Commander of the St. Petersburg District, the Grand Duke was the most admired figure in the army. This was less for any specific achievement than for his commanding size and looks and manner, which inspired confidence and awe in the soldiers and either devotion or jealousy in his colleagues.

Brusque and even harsh in manner to officers and men alike, he was regarded outside court as the only “man” in the royal family. Peasant soldiers who had never seen him told stories in which he figured as a sort of legendary champion of Holy Russia against the “German clique” and palace corruption. Echoes of such sentiments did not add to his popularity at court, especially with the Czarina, who already hated “Nikolasha” because he despised Rasputin. “I have absolutely no faith in N.,” she wrote to her husband. “I know him to be far from clever and having gone against a man of God his work cannot be blessed or his advice good.” She continually suggested that he was plotting to force the Czar to abdicate and, relying on his popularity with the army, to place himself on the throne.

Royal suspicions had kept him from the chief command during the war with Japan and consequently from the blame that followed. In any subsequent war it would be impossible to do without him, and in the prewar plans he had been designated to command the front against Germany, the Czar himself expecting to act as Commander in Chief with a Chief of General Staff to direct operations. In France where the Grand Duke went several times to maneuvers and where he came under the influence of Foch whose optimism he shared, he was extravagantly feted as much for his magnificent presence, which seemed a reassuring symbol of Russian might, as for his known dislike of Germany. With delight the French repeated the remarks of Prince Kotzebue, the Grand Duke’s aide, who said his master believed that only if Germany were crushed once and for all, and divided up again into little states each happy with its own little court, could the world expect to live in peace. No less ardent a friend of France was the Grand Duke’s wife Anastasia and her sister Militza who was married to the Grand Duke’s brother Peter. As daughters of King Nikita of Montenegro, their fondness for France was in direct proportion to their natural hatred of Austria. At a royal picnic in the last days of July, 1914, the “Montenegrin nightingales,” as Paléologue called the two princesses, grouped themselves beside him, twittering about the crisis. “There’s going to be a war … there will be nothing left of Austria … you will get back Alsace-Lorraine … our armies will meet in Berlin.” One sister showed the ambassador a jeweled box in which she carried soil from Lorraine, while the other told how she had planted seeds of Lorraine thistles in her garden.

For the event the Russian General Staff had worked out two alternate plans of campaign, the ultimate choice depending upon what Germany would do. If Germany launched her main strength against France, Russia would launch her main strength against Austria. In this case four armies would take the field against Austria and two against Germany.

The plan for the German front provided for a two-pronged invasion of East Prussia by Russia’s First and Second Armies, the First to advance north, and the Second south, of the barrier formed by the Masurian Lakes. As the First, or Vilna, Army, named for its area of concentration, had a direct railway line available, it would be ready to start first. It was to advance two days ahead of the Second, or Warsaw, Army and move against the Germans, “with the object of drawing upon itself the greatest possible enemy strength.” Meanwhile the Second Army was to come around the lake barrier from the south and, moving in behind the Germans, cut off their retreat to the Vistula River. The success of the pincer movement depended upon concerted timing to prevent the Germans from engaging either Russian wing separately. The enemy was to be “attacked energetically and determinedly whenever and wherever met.” Once the German Army was rounded up and destroyed, the march on Berlin, 150 miles beyond the Vistula, would follow.

The German plan did not contemplate giving up East Prussia. It was a land of rich farms and wide meadows where Holstein cattle grazed, pigs and chickens scuttled about inside stone-walled farmyards, where the famous Trakehnen stud bred remounts for the German Army and where the large estates were owned by Junkers who, to the horror of an English governness employed by one of them, shot foxes instead of hunting them properly on horseback. Further east, near Russia, was the country of “still waters, dark woods,” with wide-flung lakes fringed by rushes, forests of pine and birch and many marshes and streams. Its most famous landmark was Rominten Forest, the Hohenzollern hunting preserve of 90,000 acres on the edge of Russia where the Kaiser came each year, attired in knickerbockers and feathered hat, to shoot boar and deer and an occasional Russian moose who, wandering innocently over the border, offered itself as target to the imperial gun. Although the native stock was not Teutonic but Slavic, the region had been under German rule—with some Polish interludes—for seven hundred years, ever since the Order of Teutonic Knights established themselves there in 1225. Despite defeat in 1410 by Poles and Lithuanians in a great battle at a village called Tannenberg, the Knights had remained and grown—or declined—into Junkers. In Königsberg, chief city of the region, the first Hohenzollern sovereign had been crowned King of Prussia in 1701.

With its shores washed by the Baltic, with its “King’s city” where Prussia’s sovereigns had been crowned, East Prussia was not a country the Germans would yield lightly. Along the river Angerapp running through the Insterburg Gap, defense positions had been carefully prepared; in the swampy eastern region roads had been built up as causeways which would confine an enemy to their narrow crests. In addition the whole of East Prussia was crisscrossed by a network of railroads giving the defending army the advantage of mobility and rapid transfer from one front to the other to meet the advance of either enemy wing.

When the Schlieffen plan had been first adopted, fears for East Prussia were less because it was assumed that Russia would have to keep large forces in the Far East to guard against Japan. German diplomacy, despite a certain record for clumsiness, was expected to overcome the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, an unnatural alliance as Germany regarded it, and keep Japan neutral as a constant threat to Russia’s rear.

The German General Staff’s specialist in Russian affairs was Lieutenant-Colonel Max Hoffmann whose task was to work out the probable Russian plan of campaign in a war with Germany. In his early forties, Hoffmann was tall and heavily built, with a large round head and a Prussian haircut shaved so close to the scalp it made him look bald. His expression was good-humored but uncompromising. He wore black-rimmed glasses and carefully trained his black eyebrows to grow in a dashing upward curve at their outer ends. He was equally careful and proud of his small, delicate hands and impeccable trouser creases. Though indolent, he was resourceful; though a poor rider, worse swordsman, and gluttonous eater and drinker, he was quick-thinking and rapid in judgment. He was amiable, lucky, astute, and respected no one. In intervals of regimental duty before the war he drank wine and consumed sausages all night at the officers’ club until 7:00 A.M., when he took his company out on parade and returned for a snack of more sausages and two quarts of Moselle before breakfast.

After graduation from the Staff College in 1898, Hoffmann had served a six-months’ tour of duty in Russia as interpreter and five years subsequently in the Russian section of the General Staff under Schlieffen before going as Germany’s military observer to the Russo-Japanese War. When a Japanese general refused him permission to watch a battle from a nearby hill, etiquette gave way to that natural quality in Germans whose expression so often fails to endear them to others. “You are a yellow-skin; you are uncivilized if you will not let me go to that hill!” Hoffmann yelled at the general in the presence of other foreign attachés and at least one correspondent. Belonging to a race hardly second to the Germans in sense of self-importance, the general yelled back, “We Japanese are paying for this military information with our blood and we don’t propose to share it with others!” Protocol for the occasion broke down altogether.

On his return to the General Staff under Moltke, Hoffmann resumed work on the Russian plan of campaign. A colonel of the Russian General Staff had sold an early version of his country’s plan for a high price in 1902, but since that time, according to Hoffmann’s not always wholly serious memoirs, the price had gone up beyond the stingy funds allotted to Germany’s military intelligence. The terrain of East Prussia, however, made the general outlines of a Russian offensive self-evident: it would have to be a two-pronged advance around the Masurian Lakes. Hoffmann’s study of the Russian Army and the factors governing its mobilization and transportation enabled the Germans to judge the timing of the offensive. The German Army, inferior in numbers, could choose either of two ways to meet a superior force advancing in two wings. They could either withdraw, or attack one wing before the other, whichever offered the best opportunity. The stern formula dictated by Schlieffen was to strike “with all available strength at the first Russian army that came within reach.”

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