Published on 2 May 2016
The winter 1916 ends with the invasion of Serbia and Montenegro and unrestricted submarine warfare. And the spring of 1916 starts with the Battle of Verdun at the Western Front and Russian successes in Anatolia. The British are in trouble in Ireland and in Mesopotamia but are still carving up the Middle East in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Eastern Front drowns in spring thaws while the Russian homefront is in disarray.
May 3, 2016
April 22, 2016
Published on 21 Apr 2016
With the spring in Russia and the Caucasus came the thaws on the Eastern Front and all the way down to Mesopotamia. The soldiers had to adapt to survive let alone fight. The Battle of Verdun still rages on though the French are not moving more airplanes to the area to break the German air superiority.
April 15, 2016
Published on 14 Apr 2016
The Russian offensive at Lake Naroch were an utter failure but the Russian General Aleksei Brusilov is already gearing up for the future mother of all offensives on the Eastern Front. At the same time the meat grinder at Verdun is sucking in German and French troops alive. Erich von Falkenhayn realised that his initial idea probably won’t work but he still tries to capture the Mort Homme and Cote 304. In far away Mesopotamia the siege of Kut is still going on even though the British and Indian soldiers are already killing the hunger with Opium pills.
April 3, 2016
I have said on a few occasions that, in my opinion, based on my reading of history, wars are, as often as not, caused by fear. Even Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression is, I think, a result of his fear of what is happening to Russia: a steady decline back into political and strategic irrelevance. It is not at all unreasonable to suppose that fear of the societal changes that very large scale migrations will bring cannot and will not provoke people into electing governments that will, out of fear of the unknown, attack their neighbours in a misguided effort to sauve qui peut in their own societies.
I think Sir Max [Hastings]’s “think-tank friend in Washington,” was (still is) wrong when he “observed last week: ‘Democracy only works where there is a broad consensus about the distribution of wealth and power.’ And it is because this consensus faces unprecedented stresses in consequence of migration in Europe, that he believes some factions may resort to violence, even outright war.” The “broad consensus” is not about wealth or power, it is about respecting the rules, living with and within the “institutions” which make democracy work. Those institutions are strong in e.g. Britain, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries; they are weaker in e.g. France, which, for example, tossed out a democratic government and constitution in 1958 when the Algerian war went sour.; they are weaker still, in my opinion, in the entire “Southern tier” of Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and the Balkans and in the Eastern European states that only recently tossed off the yoke of Russian/communist rule. If trouble is going to start it will happen, I think, in those weaker states. A European war is likely to start when one of the countries with weaker institutions decides, our of fear, that it must break the rules that hold Europe together.
Ted Campbell, “Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Europe(2)”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-03-22.
March 27, 2016
Published on 26 Mar 2016
More pictures from Flo’s Great Grandfather: https://imgur.com/a/R1T92
It’s chair of wisdom time again and this week we talk about the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea, submarine warfare and trench mortars.
March 25, 2016
Published on 24 Mar 2016
The Russians want to relieve the pressure of their French allies at Verdun by starting a huge spring offensive near Lake Narroch. But this is not the only reason: The spring thaws are coming and the Germans on the Eastern Front have the high ground. At the same time, the epic struggle at Verdun is continuing: Neither the French nor the German Army can gain a decisive advantage at Fort Vaux. At sea, the British use the depth charge successfully for the first time and the German ship Greif tries to run the British Blockade.
February 19, 2016
Published on 18 Feb 2016
The sinking of the Lusitania is still causing diplomatic tensions between Germany and the USA. While the Germans insist they were forced by the British blockade to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare, the Americans think otherwise. In the meantime the Russian Army is taking Erzurum in the Caucasus and the big offensive at Verdun is delayed for a week.
February 12, 2016
Published on 11 Feb 2016
The situation for the Italian soldiers was dire during the winter battles, but even though Luigi “The Generalissimo” Cadorna maintained a tight grip on the strategy used, the equipment of the Italian soldiers was greatly improved. At the same time, the Russians were advancing on Erzurum in the Turkish Caucasus and war at sea counted a few more casualties on all sides.
February 6, 2016
Published on 4 Feb 2016
The preparations for the huge German offensive at Verdun are almost complete. Thousands of artillery pieces are moved, millions shells brought to the front. Erich von Falkenhayn would soon unleash is offensive on the Western Front. At the same time, Russia headed south to the Caucasus once more in search for a desperately needed victory against the Ottomans.
January 18, 2016
In The Guardian, Alec Luhn reports on the rise of craft brewing in the heart of vodka-swilling Russia:
It is a drizzly Monday night, but Craft rePUBlic is boisterous with the chatter of brewers and beer aficionados. Those just walking in are greeted with a half pint of Red Nelson, a saison beer made with hibiscus tea and orange peel by local brewer Alexei Sazonov, who is celebrating his birthday at the craft beer bar.
Sazonov works at Bottle Share, one of a growing number of microbreweries driving what has been dubbed the “craft revolution” here, but he created Red Nelson at home under his nickname, Big Hedgehog. Sazonov says of the major Russian beer brands, whose bland lagers dominate store shelves and taps: “They boil it quickly, ferment it quickly and sell it quickly. A microbrewer brews beer he wants to drink himself.”
Russia, of course, is known for vodka rather than beer, and a popular saying holds that “beer without vodka is throwing money to the wind”. According to the latest World Health Organisation data from 2010, 51% of alcohol consumed in Russia was spirits and only 38% was beer. This vodka culture has had deadly consequences for Russian men, whose average life expectancy of just 64 years lags behind that in European countries due mainly to heavy drinking and tobacco use.
Now a new generation of “beer geeks”, as they dub themselves, is working to change Russians’ approach to beer – and to drinking in general. With a focus on savouring the taste rather than drinking to get drunk, at least two dozen craft bars have opened in Moscow since the summer of 2014, serving Russian and foreign microbrews. They’re getting so numerous that the cultural magazine Afisha declared in August that it was “refusing to write reviews of the craft beer bars that are opening every week”.
Few expect beer to displace vodka as the national drink, especially after the government reduced the minimum price of the spirit in 2015 amid economic troubles. But there’s a long tradition of homebrewing in Russia, and the growth potential of craft beer is huge thanks to its relative affordablity; local craft brews typically sell for between 200 and 300 roubles (£2-3) a pint. Moreover, it’s easy to start a craft bar: no liquor licence is required if an establishment serves only beer, and startup costs are minimal, since a large staff, kitchen and lavish interiors aren’t typically necessary. As a result, craft bars are spreading from Moscow and St Petersburg to the regions.
January 12, 2016
Published on 7 Jan 2016
1915 was a year in favour of the Central Powers. But in early 1916, the Russians, British and French were sending more fresh troops into battle than ever before – and better equipped too. French General Joseph Joffre was confident that a huge combined offensive at the Somme in summer would turn the tide. But German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn had his own plans to bleed the French dry at Verdun.
January 9, 2016
Published on 31 Dec 2015
1915 was a year for the Central Powers except on the Western Front where the stalemate continues. But plans are being made on both sides to gain an advantage. Preparations for huge offensives are on the way and one French fortress is the focus of the German Army: Verdun.
November 26, 2015
Tom Kratman looks at what is known about the Turkish military’s attack on a Russian aircraft earlier this week:
Firstly, my condolences on the recent murder of your two pilots. While one might argue that shooting descending parachutists (as opposed to paratroopers) would be permissible in some circumstances, as when there is no reasonable possibility of capture, in this case there was such a possibility. Obviously, you’ll want revenge. I – and I think most Americans, at least such as are not in favor of a large and viciously fundamentalist Islamic state in the Middle East – understand and, generally speaking, approve of things like that, where called for. The situation, however, is more complex than that. Because of that complexity, I strongly encourage you to dispense with emotion, to the utmost of your ability, and reason carefully before acting.
I can’t offer condolences on the initial shoot down of your Sukhoi-24, because I really don’t know what happened. If it drifted into Turkish airspace, and the Turks shot it down, even if they pursued it out of Turkish airspace…well, you’re in an unenviable moral position to complain about any of that, given the conduct your predecessor in interest, the USSR, with regard to KAL 007. If, however, it never violated Turkish airspace, and the Turks crossed over to attack it, you may well have a casus belli against Turkey.
If the Turks are offering war I strongly advise you to decline the invitation. They are very nearly a peer competitor, having similarly sized armed forces, quite possibly better trained, an economy almost as strong as your own, and likely rather stronger when you count out export of raw materials. They’re not as technologically sophisticated as you are, but they have friends who are more so. And you just wouldn’t believe the long-standing love affair between the US Army and the Turkish Army, based on their performance in Korea in the early fifties.
A little aside is in order at this point. I’m not really so concerned about the incident that just took place, with one of your planes shot down by the Turks, and the ejected pilots murdered on the way down. What’s really bugging me is the almost instantaneous assumption of people over here that this was the first set of shots in World War V, World War III having been the Cold War, and World War IV the on-again, off-again, fiasco with the Islamics. On its own, this should not be capable of doing that. Add in paranoia, self-fulfilling prophecy, idiotic foreign policy on many fronts, from many fonts, a fairly inscrutable Turkey…I’m a little concerned that things might spiral out of control.
Earlier in this missive I said I don’t know what happened. Nonetheless, here’s what I think happened. I think that Sukhoi was on a strike mission against the Turkmen Brigades in Syria. I think you’ve been occasionally bombing the crap out of the Turkmen Brigades in Syria for a while now. That would tend to explain the vindictiveness of the folks on the ground who shot at your descending pilots. I think because of that bombing, the Turks, or at least one of the Turks, north of the border decided to help his or their close cousins in Syria. I think it made not a bit of difference whether or not you crossed the border; the Turks wanted to set an example and instill a little fear and friction on you, so would have crossed themselves even if you hadn’t. I suspect the order to do this came from the highest levels in Turkey, probably Erdogan, himself.
No, that doesn’t mean that whipping out the Polonium 210 dispensers would be a good idea.
November 22, 2015
Published on 21 Nov 2015
Indy sits int he chair of wisdom again to answer your questions about World War 1. This time we are explaining the secret to the German success on the Eastern Front in 1915, who Eugene Bullard was and how pilots would navigate.
October 30, 2015
Published on 29 Oct 2015
After the Great Retreat during the summer, the Russians are finally able to fight back the Germans at Dvinsk. With a new type of trench warfare, they are able to render August von Mackensen’s artillery useless and only take on small numbers of Germans at the same time. The German army is successful in Serbia though and so the situation for the Serbs looks grim. Meanwhile Benito Mussolini writes in his diary that the worst enemy is not Austria-Hungary, but lice. All of the soldiers and generals know one thing: Winter is coming.