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Past, present and future of Europe. Reflecting on the book Alfred von Tirpitz
Material posted: Grinyaev SergeyPublication date: 20-11-2010

A long time in one used bookstore I had to buy the book "Memories" by an outstanding German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. As often happens, I liked the book took its place on the shelf waiting for the hour "to read". Due to a number of reasons hands got to her only recently, and picking up, literally fell into her for a few days – was so overwhelmed by the context of the historical events described in the book!

A long time in one used bookstore I had to buy the book "Memories" by an outstanding German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. As often happens, I liked the book took its place on the shelf waiting for the hour "to read". Due to a number of reasons hands got to her only recently, and picking up, literally fell into her for a few days – was so overwhelmed by the context of the historical events described in the book! The period preceding the outbreak of the First world war, the period that has largely shaped the views of leading world powers on the foundations of modern geopolitics, appeared in a previously unknown world to me. Such a clear historical picture of that period I had ever seen.

Deeply loves his country, the Admiral, being one of the few, keenly aware of the main threats and challenges to security of their country is powerless in endless political battles with its political opponents, often supported from London, which was forced to resign in one of the most critical moments of the great war, and already by watching the sunset Germany and the apotheosis of destruction – the flooding of the German fleet at Scapa Flow. Fleet, which the Admiral had devoted the best years of his life.

The pain of the Creator of the fleet expressed in words, written at the conclusion of his book: "...the German people did not understand the meaning of the sea. In fatal hour he had not used his fleet. Now I can only put this Navy tombstone. In his rapid ascent to a world power and even more rapid fall, due to a temporary jerk of his policies and lack of national feeling, the German people survived the tragedy, unparalleled in history..."

Reading the book especially interesting for me was the acquaintance with the views of the gross-Admiral von Tirpitz today, when changing ideas about the most important security threats when reviewed fundamental interests of the leading countries of the world, when modern civilization is shaken by convulsions and comprehensive global crisis.

At the time, gross Admiral was one of the few among the senior military leadership of the continental powers, who have clearly recognized and deeply understand the role and importance of sea power. From Atlantic vision and understanding of the role of sea power and naval warfare and developed the modern Anglo-Saxon concept of "network war".

Very interesting for me was the position of Admiral in Russia, its role and place in the contemporary world and the understanding of the role of Russia in the future.

Today, many analytical communities, discussed the possibility of Russia's entry into the Anglo-Saxon military-political bloc of NATO. I wonder what would advise Russian diplomacy gross Admiral? What are the eternal values of the Anglo-Saxons, he said, predicted that Russia, which is ready to yield to the persuasion of a "reset"?

What is so special about the views of the gross-Admiral on contemporary politics? He saw Germany on the eve of the great war? As he himself defined the role and importance of the forces naval power, and its contrast to the strength of the continental powers? What is Russia's role in those events?

On these and many other questions are best answered by quotations from the book "Memories" Alfred von Tirpitz[1].

1. Understanding naval warfare

Almost inexhaustible treasures of love, of respect for constitutional authority, which William I had left to his grandson, did the Kaiser final authority on which depended the success of the enterprise, whose goal was to conquer Germany for the spiritual and material independence from the Anglo-Saxons, swept the world like an octopus.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was aware of the need for this even during the illness of his father, which I had reason to know during the trip on the jubilee Queen. Even then, thought it stayed on all connected with the sea the preconditions for the existence of Germany.[2]

The construction of the fleet is an applied technique and at the same time, the money issue. Germany has to get a strong fleet, we needed to abstain from unnecessary expenditures. To properly assess the success of naval officers and the branched state of the faithful officials only that, who will take into account our limited resources. No foreign fleet is not reached so much at such a low cost. To judge this matter with proper perspective, it is first necessary to put yourself two questions: 1) could we get more funds for the Navy and 2) could we build more and better cash. If the answer to these questions is no (in my opinion), then they will be brought to consider problems of sea power as a whole and business-like course to treat existing problems.[3]

The sole purpose of sea battle is not reconquer the territory, and the destruction of the enemy; with the advent of steam and modern tools it has become possible only by sinking, and not taking on Board the ship as before. While the ship rests on the surface, it maintains the combat capability is known and can be easily repaired. Therefore, the ultimate goal to attack is the application of lethal strike in the submerged part of the ship, and the ultimate purpose of defensive activities is to make ships unsinkable. Our ships were poorly protected from the action of the underwater weapons to 1906, and English - even during the world war.[4]

Because we wanted to give the ships the properties that are felt in battle, in peacetime, many officers could not appreciate them because we have sacrificed the combat capability of a number of secondary qualities and amenities that play a major role in peacetime. For example, the complete absence of doors in the underwater part was very uncomfortable, but in serious case, it could determine the fate of the ship. In every sea battle there comes the psychological moment when one party comes to the conclusion that "the enemies drown, and we didn't, the enemies are burning, and we're not", then that party no longer incurs losses, and the enemy loses everything.

Embodied in the steel and iron of our theories, we have abandoned much that would bring us immediate recognition and would get rid of critical advertising data comparisons with foreign shipbuilding firms. Our ships had a large weight due to the presence of heavy armour on the waterline, increased flooding and nesgoraemy and special methods of protection of control stations. In Germany for the crucial years of development, we have provided qualitative superiority over the British fleet, and this largely compensated for the paucity of our naval forces.[5]

Strengthening pre-war economic position of Germany in Antwerp, the liberation of our kindred Flanders from the Walloon-French foreign domination, the exclusion of Englishmen on the coast of the mainland - this was the only tangible goal that I was pursuing in the war; this goal is by no means annexationist. I'm not relate to a strategic point of view, according to which our position in the water triangle was getting desperate, so long as England was engaged in its sphere of influence Belgium and the Netherlands and expand their political power to the EMC.[6]

Our goal should be to maintain economic

the prosperity of our country, to save our ancestral lands, lying along the Rhine, from the decline of our Hanseatic city from turning into plain English the trading post, and our whole national organism by suffocation, prepared for him by England, and to reconstruct the building of our artificial world. But the end of the war, who retained the position of England on the Meuse and the Scheldt, meant for us, as for all the foolish, disconnected from continental Europe, the end of freedom and well-being; this end was defeated only after exhausting all possibilities to achieve the best outcome.[7]

Organization, training, worldview and the spirit of our Navy were focused on quick action and an attack is exactly the same as the German land forces - mobility war. Our best chance was a battle. Englishmen farther, the more hope to achieve their goals without the battle. So we had to force them to it. We would act politically and strategically correct only in case, if took the initiative from the British. Not using this initiative, we were deprived of our battle fleet its raison d'être. If the army and diplomacy managed to secure favorable outcome of the war, with zapiranjem naval forces, of course, we could be reconciled. But, as stated in the previous Chapter, fatal illusions decision-makers, who had hoped to withdraw from the war without creating a strong political and military front against England, led to our defeat. About the prospects of a modern sea battle are difficult to judge. When assessing the chances of both parties often talk too schematically. Often their powers compare only the lists of ships, assuming that both sides have the same number of ships needing repair, but forgetting that the side that starts the battle on his own initiative, may choose the moment favorable to her and unfavorable to the enemy. Numerical superiority, of course, always retains its value, but if it is not overwhelming, you need to take into consideration other conditions: the quality of personnel and equipment, the level of technical training, talent leaders. A large part of naval victories in world history was scored numerically weakest side. If the number of fleets exceeds a certain value, then use tactical supremacy on the sea surface is difficult, so in a naval battle the ships are fighting mostly one on one. Because the sea there is no terrain, and bypass the flanks, etc. plays a much smaller role than on land, and numerical superiority is not the same value, which have the "biggest battalions" on land. When possible now great distances with simultaneous shooting of several ships on one target brings a very doubtful benefit, as it makes it difficult for artillery observation, and in any event entails excessive expenditure of limited and irreplaceable during the battle of the supply of ammunition. Further, in all the naval battles of the last century has confirmed the experience nelsonovskogo era, saying that in the battle commonly a crisis: since then, as the ship felt the superiority of its fire fighting power of his opponent begins to decline rapidly and soon comes to naught, as the winner, if it was damaged only in a surface part can be again used with nearly the same effect. In the same way and in the few completed battles of our time, losers lost all, and the winner of the amazing few; so was the destruction of the Spanish fleet near Sant-Iago, in the Tsushima and coronelismo fights. Therefore, a smaller fleet, if the ships are of great intrinsic value, you should not avoid combat with the enemy, when the superiority of the latter does not exceed a certain limit. Who can say what would be the outcome of the battle of the Skagerrak, if it was not interrupted by nightfall. You should pay attention at least that a range of distances with which the British chose to fight, their guns could withstand only seventy-shots, and our - a much larger number, almost without losing its accuracy. From this battle the fleet made clear consciousness of his superiority.

2. The role of the Anglo-Saxons in the beginning of the First world war

Some believe that in our time, Germany had the opportunity to establish a really friendly relationship with England and that only the blunders of the German state of the art, especially the construction of the fleet, prevented the realization of this possibility. If this view takes root in the minds of Germans, it would represent another confirmation of the rule that the Victor writes history; losers have in this case to falsify it to its historical conscience could bow before the world domination of the Anglo-Saxons.[8]

The British deny that wanted war with us. So every German who perceive a cause of war in naval construction, cannot be held responsible for it at the enemy. Samoubiytsy are on the wrong track; rather historical truth lies in one of the last statements of Bismarck in 1898, when we had no Navy. It regrets that relations between England and Germany is not better than they are. Unfortunately, he did not know no remedy for this except to take our blinders in German industry, and this tool hardly applicable. We could not buy the friendship and patronage of England otherwise, as again turned in a poor agricultural country.

Until the early nineties accustomed to the welfare of England almost didn't notice the parasitic existence of Germanism in the world economy. However, already the change in our customs policy in 1879 gave a great impetus to the development of trade and industry, but only a decade of internal construction made him so sensitive to other countries, which in England began preparations to change the mood.[9]

In 1896/97 year I learned from travel in Asia and America the impression that England will try to block the path to our continued development. In the mid-nineties and set the tone clubs the main political parties of England, and the authorities in the field of foreign policy agreed on the fact that Germany was once the enemy. This is consistent with secular state principles of the British.[10]

As always happens, was a known interval of time between the change of front leaders and behind-the-scenes of its open manifestation. Then followed made in large scale processing of English public opinion, whose direction can be approximately indicated by the slogan Germaniam esse delendam, the battle cry "the top-priced Saturday review" in 1897, printed the following lines, which attracted great attention: "Bismarck has long recognized that, as it begins to understand and the English people, in Europe there are two great, irreconcilable, directed against each other forces, two great Nations, and make them into his possession the whole world and want to demand tribute from it shopping. England... and Germany... German and English salesman traveling salesman compete in every corner of the globe, a million minor collisions creates an occasion to the greatest war which ever saw the world. If tomorrow, Germany was wiped off the face of the earth, then the next day all the world would not find an Englishman who would not be poor. First peoples fought for years over a city or a legacy; could they now not need to fight for annual sales of five billion?"[11]

3. The role and places of Russia views the gross-Admiral

Development of the principles of Bismarck, on our relations with Russia, in relation to current conditions was, in my opinion, the main condition of a successful foreign policy. We had to set the points in which the unaltered interests of Russia are not faced with the same interests of Germany and Russia to go forward. I know whether he had made one vigorous attempt in this direction before the war. Usually our undertakings was limited to meetings of monarchs, which, however, had a known value to maintain the old dynastic traditions. However, other means, such as using the press, was not used. The desire of the Russian Empire to the land grab and even after the formation of the Entente inevitably faced with the ways of the development of British power. And here we are still the most miserable way penetrated our line Berlin-Constantinople-Baghdad. For cancellation of the agreement of reinsurance (1890) was followed by the conclusion of the Franco-Russian Alliance. Increased pan-Slavism, its edge is turned against Austria and us. Nonetheless, there is still a diverse and strong tradition of Russian-German friendship and common interests. Particularly significant support has been tsarism[12].

Nicholas II was set up in favor of Germany. The public made a false representation about the king, as with many political factors and personalities. It was honest, personally fearless man with muscles of steel, in which the consciousness of his dignity autocrat was connected with the correct habit to immediately transfer to the appropriate official all of the political issues. Nicholas II was particularly anxious to go into the silence of private life. That's why he was so fond of Wolfsgarten in Hesse, where nothing felt glad, as the lack of visitors; for the same reason he so willingly visited by the ships of the German Navy, where, free from the shackles of his identity, he felt like a man among men, and bore himself with us openly and kindly.[13]

The king, in which a weak character when the initiative was founded purely Russian force of passive resistance, felt sidelined. Political and secular initiative invariably comes from us. I have always tried to maintain a very energetic kind of attempt by Kaiser to establish good relations with Russia and enjoyed the special favor of the king, although his character was notable for its restraint.

In 1903, the Kaiser sent me to the Czar in Petersburg with a delicate assignment which I handed, as anglijski configured Empress would not leave me alone with your spouse (future showed that I did the right thing). I can't tell, was this beautiful woman and distinguished in a spiritual sense; anyway, according to my observations, she was very worried about his German homeland. I have used his visit to warn the king against Asian risk, which I considered very serious, given I know the decorative nature of the Russian East-Asian fleet. Nicholas II, who detested the Japanese, said that he believes the danger is exaggerated, because he is so strong that the Japanese can't do. In our own interests, I regret that the Russo-Japanese war was not prevented, and on October 2, 1904, when the public yet was expected to win the Russian soldier, I pointed out to the Chancellor of the danger that will arise for us if in case of defeat of Russian our position in Qingdao will be avamposto. We could not emulate the arrogance with which the British supported the Japanese during the war, but even within the framework of neutrality was provided to us in word and deed more services to the Russian fleet than the French. However, when Admiral Rozhestvensky prior to his departure from the Russian Baltic fleet had requested that he was accompanied by the then German naval attache background Myself, the Kaiser rejected this request as inconsistent with the neutrality.

In misery [not the ability to conclude a separate peace with Russia] is guilty also by a tendency of our intellectuals to Western culture. By itself, this culture is one-sided, for we have long since learned scholarship of the West, and his current monotonous utilitarian-capitalist mass culture, perhaps, less able to fertilize the German spirit than stubborn idealism of the Russians and the East. Also here it was not about culture but about politics; so that we could strengthen and develop German culture, we first needed political independence from the Western powers. No politician aspiring to the formation of marginal States could not at least approximately to ensure this independence is as strong as the full maintenance agreement with Germany non-Anglo-Saxon great powers of the East[14].

In the future I saw for us is no threat and even in that case, if the Russian Empire again reached its former power. The danger would arise only if we are cut off from our overseas trade, which were feeding almost a third of Germans, and the inability to regain our position in the world economy would have doomed us to a terrible impoverishment. Even if the assumptions were justified, and us would have been able military expansion to the East, nothing could reward us for the expulsion of Germany from the seas, which England's aim. What you want Russian people, and even with Kerensky I'd try at the price of considerable concessions to enter into any agreement that really would play into our hands against the other side. I don't know whether there will be in world history more dazzling than mutual extermination of Russians and Germans, much to the glorification of the Anglo-Saxons. In any case, you shouldn't have to take the side of the poles without the need for response services. Why not just have to do the other Nations of the world because the Anglo-Saxons take the trouble to rule over them; we didn't even require poles for their release. Until 1887 the German and Russian fleets felt almost brothers-in-arms. When the cooling of political relations made it impossible to continue the exchange of valuable information, I still, contrary to the prevailing idea of a war on two fronts continued to maintain good relations with the Russian fleet, providing services that could not damage ourselves.



[1] A. von Tirpitz "Vospominania", - M: Voenizdat, 1957, p. 655.

[2] Page. 182

[3] Page. 166

[4] Page. 162

[5] Page. 163

[6] Page. 340

[7] Page. 340

[8] Page. 218

[9] Page. 219

[10] P. 220

[11] Page. 220

[12] Page. 193

[13] Page. 197

[14] Page. 200


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