No unified command. Since the beginning of the war, the first success of the diplomats of the Central Powers had been achieved in Bulgaria, and even that success concerned only military matters. In all decisive problems, military interests had been given priority. As Bethmann Hollweg said, "Hardly ever has the totality of a great nation been forced in such a way to serve the interests of war." At the end of 1915, it had become clear that the forces of the Dreibund would not suffice to continue on the offensive. Defensive actions, however, could not yield a decision. Austria-Hungary urged an attack against Italy which was not fully prepared for war, but von Falkenhayn claimed that it was not possible to speed the end of the war by that means. Thereby he posed the question, vital to the camp of the Central Powers, of whether or not there should be a unified command. Until then, cooperation had been sought through meetings of the chiefs of staff whenever it seemed necessary--a procedure which was preferable to government proclamations or meetings of the monarchs. This system had been retained during the Serbian campaign. Thereafter, however, interests had clashed sharply. Especially in problems concerning the Mediterranean fronts, Austria-Hungary refused to depend entirely upon her stronger ally. No agreement could be reached concerning the continuation of common operations.
Verdun 1916. Falkenhayn was still seeking a decision on the western front. He dared not attempt to break through the enemy lines, however, and thus he came upon the idea of tying up the adversary with limited forces in a sensitive sector of his front and causing him to make continual counterattacks. This should force him to exhaust his reserves, protect the German front, and perhaps, after having weakened the enemy, permit the German army to resume mobile warfare. After first having considered an operation in Upper Alsace, Falkenhayn finally decided that Verdun would be a better point for his ingenious strategy. There, the German artillery could operate at an advantage. The 5th Army under Crown Prince Wilhelm, to which the attack had been entrusted, misunderstood Falkenhayn's intentions and thought it had to take the fortress area.
After a lengthy preparation and some delays caused by adverse weather conditions, the German attack began on February 21, 1916,