By Bruce Linsey
The province of Burgundy presents a ticklish situation for France and Germany in 1901. At the root of the problem is the fact that a German army there, in Spring 1901 can really prove devastating to the French position. So the burden of initiating negotiations concerning this province lies squarely on the shoulders of the Frenchman.
It is my opinion that if France plans to leave Burgundy open in the Spring, he should not inform the German of this fact. Occasionally, in the event of a very certain affiance against England, an exception can be made. But it is generally a good idea to leave Germany with the impression that he will be stood off if he opens to Burgundy. That may well discourage him from slipping in. Consider Germany's point of view. He may reason, "Well, I'd like to gain that powerful position in the Spring. But I cannot, since France will 'be moving there anyhow. So why should I commit myself to a war with him if I can't take the upper hand? I think I'd rather not move there." But if he knows that Burgundy will be empty, he may well decide to take the chance and move in. So, as a rule of thumb, France should not inform Germany of his plans to leave Burgundy vacant. Germany should realize that France has to play it safe regarding this crucial spaces he should not take exceptional offense at a French opening to this province, or to a French announcement that such am opening is in the offing even if it doesn't materialize.
Suppose France does wish to move to Burgundy, though. Then there are several options. He could elect to inform Germany, and arrange a standoff from Marseilles. This will allow Army Paris to move safely to Picardy, while if Italy strays out of Piedmont, Army Marseilles can pick up Spain in the Fall. A problem could occur if Germany doesn't follow through with the bounce, because then either Spain or Portugal must be sacrificed until 1902. But Germany would most likely move as promised; why would he want to allow a French army into a province that borders on Munich, Ruhr, and Belgium if he antagonizes France in the process?
However, Germany might inform France that he doesn't want the standoff, and that he will opt for a move to Ruhr instead. If France really believes this, he should possibly consider moving A Par-Bur, A Mar-Spa. That way, if Germany proves to be treacherous and opens 'to Burgundy, he will fail. The drawback in this case is that Army Paris will be left in a poor position in the Fall. It will be forced to defend Burgundy again, and if a second bounce occurs Paris will, not be open for a build. So If France suspects that Germany is attempting to set up a stab from Munich, a far better option would be to support Army Paris into Burgundy with the army in Marseilles.
Once France has taken Burgundy with support, he has a couple of options. If Italy Is friendly, Army Marseilles can take Spain in the Fall while Army Burgundy supports England or Germany into Belgium, or moves there itself, Alternatively, France can forego either Spain or Portugal, and use some clever negotiation to permit himself to slip into either Munich or Ruhr, with Army Marseilles trailing into Burgundy for added strength,, If Germany outsmarts France, though, and keeps him out of German territory, both moves will be stood off and France will find himself in a rather embarrassing position (heh, heh) - especially if the standoff occurs in Munich and Germany builds there. So such a sneak French attack must be preceded by some fancy misdirection, often through a third party such as England, to ensure success.
The support into Burgundy can also be used if Germany does agree to a bounce. However, France may then be more or less committed to war with Germany after the Spring, since Germany can rightfully claim that It was unnecessary for France to break his deal and actually take Burgundy. All that was needed was the agreed-upon bounce.
I don't intend to go into detail in this article concerning the defense of Marseilles from an unfriendly Italy. Suffice it to say that if Italy opens to Pie wont, France's use of both armies will likely be defensive rather than offensive, and the possibilities win thus be more limited. Similarly, there is the possibility of a joint Franco-Italian attack on Munich (or even Franco-Austrian or Russian). Again, this article's intention is simply to concentrate on France's 1901 relationship with Germany, so these are not discussed here.
So there are many options available to France concerning the use of Burgundy in 1901. It's a touchy, delicate situation and the only sure thing is that regardless of French intentions, some discussion of this province is necessary in pre-spring negotiations with Germany.
Reprinted from Voice of Doom #78