In my last post I discussed how important control of Gal is for Austria, with some discussion of what happens if Russia occupies or doesn’t occupy Gal in Spring 1901. The flip side of this coin, obviously, is what it all means for Russia. So let’s look at a few of the same scenarios as discussed in that previous post.
Russian occupation of Gal is a clear diplomatic signal to all powers that Russia is moving south and he is moving against Austria. The other possibility is that Russia greatly fears Austrian aggression, and in an effort to keep Austria out, the Russian attempts to bounce Austria. We’ll break these scenarios down, and what they mean for the Russian position against Austria.
Let’s look at the Russian aggression scenario first. As Russia, you have decided that you and one of either Italy or Turkey (or both!) are going to dismantle the Austrian. The only Russian army readily available to attack Austria is the army in War, as the army in Mos has to travel to Ukr first, and the fleet in Sev is useless for anything but occupying Rum in the case of a war with Austria. You have no choice in the matter, you have to get into Gal.
Assuming Austria sees this coming, which is entirely likely, the map for Fall 1901 might look something like this:
The fleet in Tri may or may not have moved to Alb, but this is relatively inconsequential. You may think you are in a very strong position, but the interesting thing about Gal is its asymmetric tactical importance: for Austria, an empty Gal is the same as one occupied by Austria; for Russia, an empty Gal is a giant wall that requires a great deal to get past. Austria will pull out one build this year, possibly two if he had moved Tri-Alb and he and Italy aren’t fighting. Vie can happily move Vie-Gal, which means that if Germany has made an anti-Russian move in the first turn, the army in War is tied down and can’t do anything useful about it if your primary goal is to occupy Gal. A first turn bounce in Gal, or any unoccupied Gal at the end of Spring 1901, sets Austria up for a very pleasant Fall 1901, filled with relatively straightforward choices.
The alternative scenario is as follows. Let’s suppose Austria opens Vie-Bud Bud-Ser and Russia opens War-Gal. The strategic situation here is totally different. Austria has to choose between a sacrifice a home supply center or clearing out of Ser. This also leads to an interesting decision by Russia, and it could lead to multiple interesting outcomes. Russia must gamble between Austria deciding to cover Bud and Vie, or holding Ser. If the Russian thinks Austria will cover his home SCs, then he should do nothing, hold Gal, and let Austria lose control of Ser in an attempt to cover both his home SCs. If he thinks Austria will continue to stab south against Turkey, he should move for either Bud or Vie, which gives him a 50% chance of picking up an Austrian SC. This is clearly a truly terrible Austrian opening in the face of anything but assured Russian friendship.
A more likely scenario is as follows: Austria moves Bud-Ser, and leaves Gal unbounced. This is a slightly easier defensive position for Austria, but it is still a poor position to be in.
Austria can self-bounce, and assuming he has moved his fleet to Alb, can still expect to bounce any Turkish advance on Greece, or pick up a second build. However, the occupation of Greece is no longer a guaranteed thing, as Austria must self-bounce in Bud to prevent Russian occupation. This is an aggressive first position, and leaves Austria in an awkward position, but it does not spell his demise, particularly if he has gotten into Gre.
The early Austrian position is surprisingly difficult to crack, even if Russia occupies Gal and has Turkish support. Austria gaining one build and filling in Bud with an army is all it takes to create a very hard nut to crack, one that will require Turkey to gain a build in Greece (assuming Turkey is your only ally in this). However, Russian occupation of Gal changes the dynamic of the war. As we have seen, if the Russian army does not occupy Gal in the Spring of 1901, Austria has a much freer hand to pick up two builds, assuming Italian neutrality. Paradoxically, despite seizing the early initiative with the occupation of Gal, Russia’s hands are still tied in attacking Austria until either Turkey gets an army in Greece (which then causes big trouble for Serbia) or Russia gets an army in Rum.
Because of the diplomatic troubles inherent in inflating Turkey quickly while Italy is left with only Tun, there is a good chance the Austrian player could have a very firm rear flank, trading aid in keeping Greece out of Turkish hands for future builds. There are alternative openings, such as bouncing in Gal, moving into Ukr, and having the fleet hold in Sev, so that you can get an army into Rum in the Fall, but even this only goes so far, particularly if Austria manages two builds.
As Russia, the door to Austria is Gal, but unfortunately the occupation of Gal is only the first step. It affords no overwhelming tactical advantage like a German occupation of Nth or a French occupation of Bel offers. The Eastern side of the board tends to develop slower because of the absence of these tactically critical supply centers. Whoever occupies Gal, be it Russia or Austria, gets to dictate who has to play defensive, but it by no means knocks the door open to the other side’s SCs.
For my final installment on the importance of Gal, I will look at the impact the Galician Question has on Turkish strategy and tactics.