Germany and the Central Powers in the World War, 1914- 1918

By Walther Hubatsch; Oswald P. Backus | Go to book overview
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11. From Brest-Litovsk to Compiegne

Peace of Brest-Litovsk. With the armistice concluded on December 15, 1917, the Russian revolutionary government had reached its main objective. However, it tried to postpone as long as possible the conclusion of a peace treaty with the Central Powers. This was contrary to the desires of the Supreme Command, which wanted to secure a stable situation in the east as quickly as possible in order to be able to withdraw the army units stationed there and to send them to other theaters of operations. Peace negotiations between representatives of the Central Powers and of the Soviet government, which had begun on December 22, 1917, were interrupted after a few days and not resumed until January 9, 1918. The victors did not agree on their aims and were delayed for many weeks by Trotsky's well conceived tactics of negotiation. First, therefore, a separate peace with the Ukraine was concluded on February 9, 1918. The Ukraine was recognized as an independent state, and it promised to send urgently needed grain to Germany. When Trotsky one day later stated that Russia regarded the war as over, but refused to accept the peace terms of the Central Powers, the Supreme Command took this as foreshadowing the end of the armistice. After an announced deadline had passed on February 18, an advance began along the entire eastern front, mostly by rail, without meeting with any serious resistance. By the beginning of March, Kiev, Gomel, Orsha, Pskov, and Narva had been reached. The 10th Army, commanded by General von Falkenhayn who had been recalled from Turkey, was already preparing for an advance on Petrograd and on Moscow via Smolensk when a peace treaty was ratified at Brest-Litovsk on March 16, 1918, after the Soviet government had come to terms with representatives of the Central Powers on March 3. The Allies had not reacted to an invitation to take part in the peace negotiations.

Security program. The representative of the Supreme Command, Major General Max Hoffmann, during negotiations had finally overcome objections by State Secretary von Kuehlmann and Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister von Czernin, and forced execution of a pro. gram which was to protect their position in the east and was simultaneously to guarantee the food supply of the Central Powers. Russia promised to cede Poland, Lithuania and Courland. Furthermore, Livonia, Estonia, Finland, the Aland Islands, and the Ukraine were to


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