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Diagrams Drawings. Clausewitz observed of Russia that "it was a country which could be subdued only by its own weakness and by the effects of internal dissension. In order to strike these vulnerable spots of its body politic, Russia would have to be agitated at the very center. The purpose of this study is to describe German planning and operations in the first part of the campaign against Russia. The narrative starts with Hitler's initial plans for an invasion of Russia and ends at the time of Germany's maximum territorial gains during the battle for Stalingrad.

A subsequent volume will depict the course of events from the Russian counteroffensive in November to the capture of Berlin in April The material for this study was obtained from German military records now in the custody of The Adjutant General, Department of the Army. Monographs by former German general officers who had an active part in the planning and operations provided additional information.

Franz Halder, Chief of Staff of the German Army from ; Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici, a former corps, army, and army group commander on the Russian front: and several others. The study was written by Mr. George E. In his presentation, the author made every effort to give an objective account of Germany's initial efforts to conquer Soviet Russia in World War II. On 16 July he issued the directive for the operation. Three days later, in a speech before the Reichstag, Hitler made peace overtures to Great Britain. When they did not produce the expected reaction in Britain, he could only conclude that his last remaining enemy was continuing the war hoping for a change in the U.

On 21 July, after discussing the invasion of England with his military advisers, Hitler asked Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the Army, to study the Russian problem and submit plans for a campaign against the Soviet Union. In regard to the latter the following was mentioned:. The military objective would be to defeat the Russian Army or at least to seize so much Russian territory that the armaments plants in eastern Germany, particularly those in Berlin and Upper Silesia, and the Romanian oil fields would be beyond the range of Russian air attacks.

At the same time the German ground forces would have to advance far enough to bring important production centers of European Russia within striking distance of the Luftwaffe. The political aims would include the creation of an independent Ukraine and a confederation of Baltic States under German domination. The Army would need approximately combat divisions; the Soviet Union had some good Russian divisions in Europe. If the campaign against Russia was launched that autumn, some of the German air power committed against Britain would have to be transferred to the East.

The following day, Brauchitsch informed Generaloberst Gen. Franz Halder, Chief, Army General Staff, of the discussions that had taken place at the previous day's conference and asked him to study the various problems involved in an operation against Russia. Halder thereupon requested Lt. Hans von Greiffenberg, Chief, Operations Division, to assign a special assistant to the preparation of a tentative plan for a campaign against the Soviet Union. On the basis of data provided by Kinzel on 26 July, Halder concluded that an attack launched from assembly areas in East Prussia and northern Poland toward Moscow would offer the best chances for success.

After the seizure of Moscow the Russian forces defending the Ukraine and the Black Sea coast would be compelled to fight a series of battles with reversed front. The first draft of the Operations Division plan placed the main effort south of the Pripyat Marshes. The plan also called for divisions. Halder, however, preferred to place the main effort north of the Pripyat. Two days later, 29 July, Generalmajor Brig.

Erich Marcks was temporarily assigned to Army High Command headquarters to draw up a campaign plan against the Soviet Union. General Marcks was chief of staff of the Eighteenth Army, which had recently been assigned to the Russian border and was preparing plans for defense against a possible Russian attack. The same day General der Artillerie Lt. Walter Warlimont, Chief, National Defense Division, and a group of officers working on his staff that Hitler had made up his mind to start a preventive war against Russia.

Sous-thèmes

The Army and Luftwaffe were to employ all available forces to eliminate forever the Bolshevist danger in the East. Originally, Hitler had intended to invade Russia in the autumn of , but Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel had pointed out the difficulties of a winter campaign in Russia and had presented convincing evidence that the existing road and rail net in the newly acquired Polish territories would not be capable of supporting the assembly of strong German forces.

Hitler had thereupon postponed the campaign, setting the tentative invasion date for mid-May Strict secrecy concerning the plan was to be observed by everybody. The conferees queried Jodl whether it was assumed that Great Britain would be completely subjugated by spring or whether Germany was to become involved in a two-front war by its own volition. Jodl replied that the campaign against Russia would be conducted independently of developments in the West. He added: "In the autumn of , after the consummation of the Russian defeat, our Luftwaffe.

Night Combat

On 29 July, also, data provided by the Navy made it obvious that the seaborne invasion of England could not be undertaken before the middle of September because of the Navy's inability to carry out and secure landings on a sufficiently wide front. The invasion was to be indefinitely postponed on 17 September.

The quicker the USSR was defeated, the better. The entire campaign made sense only if the Soviet Union was smashed in one fell swoop: territorial gains alone would prove unsatisfactory, and stopping the offensive during the winter months might be dangerous.

Therefore, it was best to wait until May and then bring the campaign to a successful conclusion within five months. It would have been preferable to conduct the operation during the current year, but that solution did not seem practicable. Two converging thrusts were envisaged--a southern drive toward Kiev and into the. Dnepr bend, with the Luftwaffe neutralizing the Odessa area; and a northern one across the Baltic States in the direction of Moscow. A secondary operation, by which the Baku oil fields were to be seized, was to take place later. To realize this plan Hitler directed that the strength of the Army, instead of being cut as recently ordered, was to be increased by the activation of 40 divisions.

It remained to be seen to what extent Finland and Turkey might be interested in such an operation. After the successful conclusion of the campaign the Ukraine, White Russia, and the Baltic States would come under German domination, whereas Finland could expand its territory toward the White Sea. On 1 August Marcks and Halder discussed the campaign: the objective, rail and road communications, and the possible course of operations as well as the missions of the Navy and Luftwaffe.

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Two large forces were to be formed, one for the drive on Kiev, the other for that on Moscow. Halder pointed out that the Kiev force would operate from insecure bases if it jumped off from Romania. Also, the seizure of the Baltic States would have to be a secondary operation that would not interfere with the drive on Moscow. Halder then asked Marcks to put his plan in writing, including details pertaining to organization, logistical support etc. The objective of the campaign was to defeat the Russian armed forces so that the Soviet Union could not threaten Germany in the future.

German troops would have to seize all territory west of the line Rostov-Gorki-Archangel to eliminate the danger of Russian bombing attacks on Germany. From the military-economic viewpoint Russia's most valuable regions were the food and raw-material producing areas of the Ukraine and the Donets Basin as well as the armament-production centers around Moscow and Leningrad.

The industrial areas of Asiatic Russia were not greatly developed. The principal objective was Moscow, the nerve center of Soviet military, political, and economic power; its capture would lead to the disintegration of Soviet resistance. To the north and west Moscow was screened by huge forests and swamps which extended from the White Sea past Leningrad through Vitebsk to a line Kobrin-Slutsk-Kiev.

The most extensive forests were between Leningrad and Moscow and in the Pripyat Marshes. South of the Pripyat Marshes were the lightly wooded regions of eastern Poland and the Ukraine. The terrain was favorable, but mobility was limited by the scarcity of good roads--only one main west-east highway via Kiev-- and by the Dnepr River which constituted a major obstacle. Because of its better road net the area north of the Pripyat permitted greater mobility, whereas the Ukraine offered better terrain conditions. In the north fighting would, of necessity, be largely restricted to roads.

Russian Tactics. The Red Army would adopt defensive tactics except along the Romanian border, where it might attack in an attempt to seize the Romanian oil production centers. In any event heavy air attacks on the oil fields would have to be expected. On the other hand, the Russians could not repeat the maneuver of , by which they had avoided giving battle. A modern force of divisions could not simply abandon its sources of supply. It was therefore to be assumed that the Red Army would take up defensive positions which would protect most of European Russia, including the eastern Ukraine.

The general line Dvina River-Polotsk-Berezina River-eastern edge of the Pripyat Marshes-Prut or Dnestr Rivers would serve this purpose, especially since it was partly fortified from earlier days. A withdrawal to the Dnepr also seemed feasible. West of their prepared positions the Russians would probably fight a delaying action.

By spring the German Army would have 24 panzer, 1 cavalry, 12 motorized infantry, and infantry divisions, or a total of divisions, available for a campaign against Russia. This figure did not include the occupation forces to be left in western and northern Europe. Disposition of Russian Forces. As of August the main concentrations were in the Baltic States in the north and in the Ukraine in the south. In general, the Russian troops in the west were about equally divided between the areas north and south of the Pripyat Marshes with a reserve force around Moscow.

It could be assumed that the same disposition would hold in any war with Germany. Whether a point of main effort would be formed in the north or south would depend upon political developments. In all probability the troop strength in the north would exceed that in the south. Once the Russian lines had been pierced, the Red Army, being spread over a wide front, would no longer be able to coordinate its maneuvers and would be destroyed piecemeal. The Russian Air Force was a redoubtable opponent whose attacks against the few major highways might be very effective.

Conduct of Operations. In view of the dimensions of the theater and its division into two parts by the Pripyat Marshes, it seemed unlikely that a decisive victory over the Russian Army could be scored in one single operation. During the initial phase two separate offensives would have to be launched against the main concentrations of Russian forces; later, beyond the extensive forests, the operation could be unified. The German Army would have to concentrate its forces in the northern part of the theater, crush all opposition, and capture Moscow. To this end it would build up its main effort between Brest Ljtovsk and Gumbinnen and advance first toward the line Rogachev-Vitebsk.

Weaker German forces assembled between Jasi and Jaroslav, south of the Pripyat, were to attack in the direction of Kiev and the Dnepr southeast of that city. They would thus forestall a Russian offensive on Romania and form the southern arm of a pincers that would be closed east of the upper Dnepr. To the north of the main effort, a secondary attack force would thrust across the Baltic States toward Leningrad and seize the Russian naval bases. The Offensive in the South. An attack against the Russian forces in the Ukraine would have to be launched to protect the Romanian oil fields.

If the main effort could have been made from Romania and secondary thrusts from northeastern Hungary and southeastern Poland, this operation might have become the principal attack across the Dnepr toward Moscow. But neither the political situation in the Balkans nor the road and rail nets in Hungary and Romania would permit the assembly of the necessary forces prior to the tentative date set for the launching of the campaign.

A thrust from southeastern Poland in the direction of Kiev and the middle Dnepr, though quite feasible, could not possibly be made the principal operation because the maneuvering space was too narrow and the distance to Moscow too great. This southern thrust, however, would have to be executed with sufficiently strong forces to destroy the Russians in the western Ukraine and gain the east bank of the Dnepr. Any further advance would have to be coordinated with the principal operation in the northern part of the theater and could be conducted either due eastward toward Kharkov or northeastward.

In any event, the main effort of the offensive in the south would have to be on the left, with Kiev the principal objective. A secondary attack force, jumping off from Romanian territory, could link up with the main effort grouping along the middle Dnepr.

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Three major roads would be available for the advance toward the river line between Dnepropetrovsk and Cherkassy. The Main Effort. The main effort was to lead to the destruction of the Russian forces west of Moscow by a direct thrust on the capital. Once in possession of Moscow and northern Russia, elements of the main-attack force would turn south and seize the Ukraine in conjunction with the southern groups.

The principal attack would have to be directed from East Prussia and the northern part of Poland toward Moscow because no decisive operation could be launched from Romania and an initial sweep toward Leningrad would only lengthen the distance to be covered and lead into the dense forests northwest of Moscow. During the advance on Moscow the left flank would be protected by a special force that was to be committed across the Dvina River toward Pskov and Leningrad.

After capturing the latter important industrial city this force might operate in conjunction with the mainattack force. The road and rail nets west of the Russian border were capable of supporting the advance on Moscow. The terrain that had to be crossed by the forces jumping off from East Prussia was difficult. They would have to traverse a forest and lake belt between the Dvina and Dnepr.

There, the battle for the traffic arteries would be decisive. Airborne troops would have to take possession of the eastern exits from large forest areas and thus keep the roads open. Since surprise and speed were of the essence, armored and motorized infantry forces supported by tactical air power were to break through the enemy lines, with ordinary infantry divisions following closely to encircle and destroy the isolated enemy forces. The strength of the first attack wave was limited by the relatively small number of through roads. At most, two division-size units could advance abreast on any one road.

The bulk of the infantry with its horse-drawn vehicles would have to march on such side roads as were available. As a result, all units would have to be. The enormous width of the funnel-shaped theater necessitated keeping strong motorized forces in reserve and so distributing them that they could easily be shifted within the theater.

Primary Missions of the Ground Forces. The primary mission of Army Group South was to destroy the Russians in the western Ukraine and to establish bridgeheads across the Dnepr from which the army group forces could continue eastward or northeastward. Army Group North was to seize Moscow. To accomplish this, motorized units would have to drive through the forest areas between Rogachev and Vitebsk with airborne troops assisting them at the forest edges.

If the Russians chose to make a stand between the jumpoff line and the forests or the Dvina, they would have to be pushed northward, away from the direct route to Moscow. While the reduction of these enemy forces was under way, the armored and motorized units were to move on until they reached the Russian capital. The Mission of the Air Force. The Luftwaffe was to neutralize the Soviet Air Force, disrupt rail and road communications, prevent the concentration of Russian ground forces in the forests areas, support the German spearhead units with dive-bomber attacks, prepare airborne operations, and secure the air above traffic bottlenecks.

The Mission of the Navy. The Navy was to neutralize the Russian fleet in the Baltic, safeguard the iron ore shipments from Sweden, and transport supplies across the Baltic as soon as the Army had seized the ports. A special staff was to be formed to coordinate supply problems and establish bases behind the two army groups. It was anticipated that the Russians would attempt to carry out large-scale demolitions and destroy supply dumps, rail lines, and bridges. This could be partially prevented by keeping them off balance and by preparing appropriate countermeasures.

In the Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia agents might be able to seize bridges and railroad installations and thus prevent their destruction. All railroad tracks beyond the former Polish border would have to be converted from the Russian wide to normal gauge. A military administration would have to be set up for the occupied areas. In the Baltic States, White Russia, and the Ukraine the military government agencies would have to work toward turning their authority over to autonomous, non-Communist local governments.

Time Phasing. The most favorable season for the campaign was from mid-May to mid-October. After a mild winter, it might be possible to start as early as the beginning of May. It was anticipated that all units needed for the initial operations would be assembled before the outbreak of hostilities.

In the event of an unexpected outbreak of fighting, the forces scheduled to be assembled in the Army Group North area would need approximately 10 days to arrive in their designated areas and those in the south 9 days. During the initial phase of the German offensive the Russians would probably fight delaying actions over distances of up to miles, until they reached their prepared positions.

The German infantry divisions would take three weeks to cover this distance. The panzer divisions would have to advance so rapidly and penetrate so deeply that the Russians would be unable to man a continuous defense line. The issue of the entire campaign would depend on the success of the armored thrusts. The struggle for the forest areas and river courses would dominate the second phase.

Since the depth of this zone was miles, it would take weeks to cross it. At this stage the German forces would either achieve a decisive breakthrough or destroy the previously shattered Russian forces individually. During the third phase Moscow and Leningrad would have to be seized and the drive into the eastern Ukraine initiated. The distances to be covered were and miles respectively. Whether this phase could be executed immediately after the second would depend upon the condition of the railroads, the serviceability of the track-laying and wheeled vehicles, and the degree of success hitherto achieved.

If the Russians were beaten, a few armored or motorized divisions would suffice to keep them off balance, and to seize Moscow and Leningrad. This would require one or two weeks if sufficient tanks and motor vehicles were available. If, however, the bulk of the Red Army was still capable of offering organized resistance, the start of the third phase would have to be delayed until sufficient supplies were brought up to support the continuation of the offensive. In this case it might be weeks, depend ing on the time needed for the supply buildup.

The fourth and last phase of the offensive would see the Germans pursuing the Russians to the Don, the Volga, and the Severnaya Dvina. The distances to be covered were miles in the south and up to in the center and north. After the Germans had captured Kharkov, Moscow, and Leningrad, the Soviet command would have lost control over its forces but complete occupation of the territory acquired during this phase would be neither possible nor necessary. Motorized forces and rail-transported infantry would be responsible for this operation.

The time needed for this phase was estimated at weeks. The total time required to attain the designated objective would therefore vary between a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 17 weeks. In the event that the Soviet government did not collapse or make peace, the offensive might have to be continued to the Ural Mountains.

After the destruction of their armed forces and the loss of their most valuable European territories, the Soviets would probably no longer be capable of conducting military operations but could still set up a government in Asia and maintain a state of war for an indefinite period. To this plan General Marcks added recommendations for the preparation of the campaign, including details regarding signal communications ; the construction and improvement of roads, bridges, railroad facilities, and billeting areas; the organization, equipment, and training of troops; and the procurement of cartographic material.

General Marcks discussed his plan with General der Kavallerie Lt. Ernst Koestring, the German military attache in Moscow, during the latter's presence at Army High Command headquarters. Koestring did not agree that the seizure of Moscow would be the key to victory. In his opinion the capture of Moscow would not be decisive because the Soviet Union had vast industrial resources beyond the Urals. Moreover, with their ability to improvise, the Russians would be able to reorganize their transportation net without Moscow.

It stated that greater military use was to be made of those. German-occupied territories of Poland which had not been incorporated into the Reich. The increasing threat of air attacks on western Germany made it imperative to utilize the comparatively safe eastern territories for the activation and training of new units. The necessary accommodations and facilities had to be built; supply depots had to be transferred from west to east; and road, rail, and signal communications had to be improved.


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The directive was signed by Keitel and issued to all interested military and civilian agencies. The Army General Staff and technical service divisions were particularly interested in implementing the directive, and a number of organizational measures were initiated by General Halder and his assistants. Friedrich Paulus, began to work on a strategic survey based on the Marcks plan. General Jodl had meanwhile asked his subordinates in the National Defense Division to prepare a campaign plan for his own information.

This study was to be drawn up without recourse to the plans that were being prepared by the Army, because Jodl wanted to check the Army plans before they were submitted to Hitler. The National Defense Division plan, submitted to Jodl on 19 September, stressed the need for concentrating the attack forces north of the Pripyat Marshes so that they could take the shortest route to Moscow via Smolensk.

Three army groups were to be employed; after Army Group Center had seized the Smolensk area, the continuation of the offensive was to depend upon the progress made by Army Group North. If the latter proved to be sufficiently strong to sustain the drive on Leningrad, Army Group Center would employ all its forces on the continuation of its thrust on Moscow. In the event, however, that Army Group North should be unable to make satisfactory progress, Army Group Center would have to halt its advance and divert forces to lend assistance.

In the Finnish Theater of Operations the National Defense planners wanted to concentrate all available German and Finnish forces in the south; no attack in the direction of Murmansk was contemplated. The thrust from southern Finland was to be coordinated with the advance of Army Group North and was to be directed across the Karelian Isthmus toward Leningrad or from east of Lake Lodoga toward Tikhvin. The strategic survey then being prepared by the Operations Division of the Army probably influenced the National Defense Division plan because of the close relationship between the Armed Forces and Army High Command personnel on the operating level.

Erich Raeder, suggested to Hitler that Germany should support the Italian attempt to seize the Suez Canal, whose possession would be vital for a farther advance across Palestine and Syria. Once this had been achieved, Turkey would be at Germany's mercy. The Russian problem would then have an entirely different aspect, since the Soviet Union was basically afraid of Germany. Under such circumstances it would be doubtful whether an invasion of Russia from the north would still be necessary. In expressing his approval of Raeder's ideas, Hitler stated that Russia would have to be tempted to turn toward Persia and India, where she could gain access to the open sea.

That would be far more important to Russia than her position in the Baltic. Hitler, also, was of the opinion that the Soviet Union was apprehensive of Germany's power. During October the Operations Division completed the preparation of a strategic survey which was submitted to General Halder on 29 October. In this study the Army General Staff formulated its own ideas regarding the most appropriate strategy for a campaign against the Soviet Union.

The authors of the study realized that the Red Army's numerical strength, the vast terrain to be covered, the adverse conditions of the Russian theater, and the necessity of defeating the Soviet Union with a minimum of delay raised a series of problems for which in many instances no fully satisfactory solutions could be found.

On the other hand, ever since the Red Army had performed so badly during the campaign against Finland in the winter of , the average German General Staff officer had a low opinion of the military potential of the Soviet Union. Moreover, it was generally assumed that the people in areas recently occupied by the Soviet Union were anti-Russian and anti-Communist, and that disaffection in the Ukraine, the Crimea, and the Caucasus was equally widespread. The purges of were considered as evidence of the vulnerability of the Soviet Union. The ratio of strength between German and Russian forces was not at all favorable.

Against the approximately Soviet divisions plus ample reinforcements estimated to be stationed in western Russia the Germans could at best put only including 19 armored divisions--into the field. Small contingents of Romanian and Finnish forces could be added to this total, but their equipment, capabilities, and combat efficiency were below the German.

In other.


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  • The only method of compensating for this deficiency was to mass forces at crucial points and take risks at others. The relative combat efficiency was not as clear cut. To be sure, the German forces had had more combat experience; their leaders were experienced in maneuvering large motorized forces, and the individual soldier was self-confident.

    The Russian soldier, however, was not to be underestimated, and it remained doubtful whether the Red Army would show immediate signs of internal disintegration. On the other hand, Russian leadership was certainly below the German average, particularly in making quick decisions in a war of movement. The element of surprise in launching the attack would probably compensate for some of the German numerical inferiority.

    Extensive deceptive measures were to be taken to achieve surprise, but Hitler's pretext that preparations along the Russian border were merely a deliberate deception to divert British attention from an imminent invasion of England could not be maintained indefinitely. In the final analysis, surprise was limited to the timing and direction of the German attack; to hope for more seemed unrealistic.

    The tremendous width and depth of European Russia was another problem that deserves serious consideration, especially in view of the disproportion of strength. Everything would depend on the German Army's ability to prevent the Russians from exploiting this space advantage. Whether they would give battle near the border or attempt an organized withdrawal could not be foreseen. In any event, it was essential to engage the enemy as soon as possible, if his quick destruction was to be achieved. The distribution of the German forces and the application of deceptive measures had to conform with this intention.

    The Russians had to be denied any opportunity to withdraw into the depths of European Russia where they could fight a series of delaying actions.

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    This objective could be attained only by strict application of the principles of mass, economy of force, and movement. Substantial Russian forces were to be cut off from their rear communications and forced to fight on reversed fronts. This was the only method by which the German Army could cope with the factor of space during the offensive operations.


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    Lacking the necessary forces, the German Army could not mount an offensive along the entire front at the same time, but had to attempt to open gaps in the front at crucial points, envelop and isolate Russian forces, and annihilate them before they had a chance to fall back. The problem of selecting the most propitious time assumed far more importance than on any previous occasion.

    For operations in Russia the May-to-October period only seemed to offer a reasonable guarantee of favorable weather. The muddy season began. The campaign had to be successfully concluded while the weather was favorable, and distances varying from five to six hundred miles had to be covered during this period. From the outset the German campaign plan would be under strong pressure of time. Intelligence Information. The intelligence picture revealed two major Russian concentrations--one in the Ukraine of about 70 divisions and the other in White Russia near and west of Minsk of some 60 divisions.

    There appeared to be only 30 divisions in the Baltic States. The disposition of the Red Army forces did offer the Soviets the possibility of launching an offensive in the direction of Warsaw. But, if attacked by Germany, it was uncertain whether the Russians would make a stand in the border area or fight a delaying action. It could be assumed, though, that they would not voluntarily withdraw beyond the Dnepr and Dvina Rivers, since their industrial centers would remain unprotected. Analysis of Objective Area. The almost impassable forests and swamps of the Pripyat Marshes divided the Russian territory west of the Dnepr and Dvina Rivers into two separate theaters of operation.

    In the southern part the road net was poor. The main traffic arteries followed the river courses and therefore ran mostly in a north south direction. The communication system north of the Pripyat Marshes was more favorable. The best road and rail nets were to be found in the area between Warsaw and Moscow, where the communications ran east and west and thus in the direction of the German advance. The traffic arteries leading to Leningrad were also quite favorable. A rapid advance in the south would be hampered by major river barriers--the Dnestr, the Bug, and the Dnepr-- whereas in the north only a single river, the Dvina, would have to be crossed.

    By thrusting straight across the territory north of the Pripyat one could strike at Moscow. The Red Army would not simply abandon the Russian capital, and in the struggle for its possession the Germans could hope to deliver a telling blow.