This article is about the dynamics of a Russia/Austria alliance. We'll discuss the 'why' questions and leave you with a framework within which anyone can play a successful R/A alliance. One should remember that 'rules' are never unbendable, but the following will give you good understanding of the ins and outs. Use them as you like.
We'll be presenting the perspectives of both Russia and Austria. We've experienced it in a game and both of us have won a solo victory with Austria after succesfully stabbing our Russian ally in the well-respected Compuserve dip-community. The R/A alliance can work well for a long period of time and, as is the case with any alliance, a stab is not necessarily the best course of action. Game-events should always direct your course of action.
In any case, our main point is, with or without a Stab, R/A is a far more powerful beast than the universally dreaded R/T.
THE OUTSET - AUSTRIA-HUNGARY
The first goal for any Archduke must be to survive and just that. If Austria survives the first onslaught of the Russian/Turkish hordes, his chances will be good. The stats prove Austria to be a high win/elimination country, like Germany. Logically, this is due to their central place on the map. The essential attribute for the Austrian player is to be a good diplomat. Strategy and tactics, important as they are, are secondary to diplomacy in making it possible for Austria to survive the first couple of seasons.
From the outset of a diplomacy game, no Austrian position has any hope of short-to-medium term prosperity without at the very least a state of peace with Italy over the Venice-Trieste border. This is obvious. Without peace with Italy, there is no Austria. Fortunately, the same holds true for Italy, for Italy will pay dearly if the Austrian player is a bad loser and/or decides to go suicidal on Italy. Both Italy and Austria are well advised to pursue the 'Anschluss' - the three-way peace agreement (or DMZ) with Germany over Tyrolia, Bohemia and Silesia. At least in the beginning...
However, Austria's prospects for achieving a dominant position in the medium to long term are closely linked to the Austrian ability to forge an early alliance with Russia. The strongest argument in favour of this course of action is that it prevents the formation of a R/T alliance (which is Austria's worst nightmare).
Forming this alliance may be the most difficult task for any Archduke. However, it can be done. Be communicative, friendly and keep pointing out that Turkey is very difficult to handle once it reaches five or six centres. Raising the spectre of Turkish hordes in the Balkans and the Mediterranean should also help the Archduke gain a sympathetic ear from his Italian neighbour. Stay friendly to Russia in your messages but be fierce in defending your home soil. Let him know that he should expect you to take no prisoners.
Turkey will always be looking to damage the prospects of either Austria or Russia (or even both) at the start of the contest. If the Turk initially focusses on Russia, chances are good he will be successful in taking the Black Sea and Armenia. If the Turk aims his forces towards Austria, the Archduke must then use any means necessary to entice the Russian Czar to help in his defence. If necessary, bribe him - offer to support Russian gains in the Balkans (Bulgaria is an obvious carrot).
The Russian Czar will often prefer to try sniff out who is the best tactician or player between Austria and Turkey and decide based on this who to ally with in 1902. A solid Austrian defensive game in the east might just bring Russia to the Archduke's side if the Czar feels Austria will not crumble quickly. An Archduke has good chances of gaining this nerve-wracking goal if Rumania is held by a Russian fleet. This fleet is absolutely harmless and useless in a Russian ground attack on Austria. If you're looking at RF Rum in Fall 1901, you're almost there.
THE OUTSET - THE ICE QUEEN RUSSIA
Playing Russia is difficult to do well. As a Russian you're the only power with a possible two-front war in different triangles in 1901. With access to both the Northern Atlantic and the Black Sea (and the Med) Russia's corner and four starting units are justified. Russia is a potent country and has access to both the Northern supply centres of Scandinavia and the attractive Balkan knot. So out of the four neighbours Russia faces he needs at least one close friend _ and, just as essentially, no more than two determined enemies.
In the south Turkey is most attractive to combine with. The Russian armies and Turkish fleets can rule the Med and keep Russia's belly safe. The indestructable Sev Fleet does wonders, when talking to Turkey, in keeping an ally honest. The most outstanding advantage of the Russian power in the South is that both Austria and Turkey will want to ally with Russia. A Turkish/Austrian alliance, though not impossible, is usually highly unlikely (we've never seen one survive past the early years).
Russia's typical course of action is to maintain at least an initial surface friendliness with Turkey. It is, after all, necessary for Austria to prove a capable player. No Russia should ever ally with an Austria which does not appear able to conduct a strategically sound war. You are better off allying with Turkey and looking to sharing the easy spoils. In such an alliance, Turkey will tend naturally to bear the heavier cost of the fighting - but this is good! There is a good chance that as a result, the Sultan will open up somehow, perhaps by moving that TF Ank towards the Aegean to prevent Italians from raiding Eas. The quick stab that follows: 1) Moving your fleet into Bla 2) Building an army in Sev (-> Arm-> Ank) is almost sure to succeed. What remains of Austria will not be likely to form common cause with Turkey.
The other possibility is allying with Austria. This can be very rewarding in the short and medium term (if only by default). For example, if Austria is looking strong defensively and the prospects for a successful ground attack look poor, the Russian Czar may be 'forced' to be friendly. No matter, a forced alliance is as good as any other. In our opinion, the early R/A alliance is as good as its players, but far more powerful than R/T in the mid-game and endgame situations.
The sheer numbers of a R/A alliance after Fall 1901 means that Turkey will inevitably crumble. The Black Sea offensive described above will make impossible any Turk dreams of expanding beyond Bul. The naval forces should be balanced (2 Turk fleets vs. 1 Russian + 1 Austrian fleet) but the R/A armies will both outnumber and outflank the 2 Turk armies many times.
OPENING GAME SUMMARY:
A "check-list" for a R/A Alliance:
1) Establish, if not friendly, at least mutually non-aggressive relations with England and/or Germany. And if possible, with both.
2) Encourage English/German conflict.
3) Do not allow a war to break out with Turkey in 1901.
4) Balance your builds between the North and the South (pref. A Sev and F StP(sc))
5) Seek friendship with Germany, your second build (from Swe) is VITAL.
1) Secure Anchluss _ a demilitarized zone with both Italy and Germany.
2) Encourage Italy to look to his west.
3) In Fall 1901, build armies _ Do Not Build Fleets!
Russia & Austria Together:
1) Do Not allow the other players to catch wind of the alliance. The "Galician Bounce" (RA War-Gal; AA Vie-Gal) is not a bad idea.
MID-GAME _ WHAT TO PREPARE FOR IN A R/A ALLIANCE.
From 1902-1905, the R/A game plan should be fairly straight-forward. The interests of both parties are common and if both sides are careful the foundations of a solid long-term alliance will be built.
The first main goal has to be the quick elimination of Turkey. After a quick stab Turkey won't be able to do much harm, but the R/A alliance will quickly become obvious to the other players. The idea is to destroy Turkey, secure that common border, and build the resulting armies (and fleets) before anybody has time to do anything about it. The chief dangers lie in Italy sensing danger and attacking Austria and in England/Germany spotting the Russian build-up and allying to stop Russia from securing the northern border.
Second main goal is crossing the Mun-Ber line. If Germany is let down by its Western brothers, this task should not meet with too many problems, especially as Russia will have the momentum of the Northern game, above all if England decides to swallow some German SC's before the German collapse. Crossing the Mun-Ber line is the more difficult of the two main tasks. But if the line can be crossed, either by Austrian occupation of Ruh/Bur or Russian occupation of Kie/Den, little can go wrong in terms of opposition from any other power - the chief dangers becomes disintegration of the R/A alliance itself. The goal of crossing the Mun-Ber line must be achieved as quickly as possible, again in order to make the other players recognise R/A's supremacy before a defensive alliance can be forged.
KEEPING THE PEACE
Russia must be aware that Austria will expect Russia to do the heavy battling against Turkey as Austria is in a poor position to access Con and the rest of the Turk homeland. The interests of both powers agree then with Russia reaping most of the early rewards. However, the easy mistake for the Czar to make is forgetting to leave some sort of defensive line across War-Ukr-Rum-Sev. Removal of too many forces in that area will prove too powerful a temptation for the Archduke to resist!
To maintain a solid long-term foundation for the R/A alliance, the war in the centre should be a mirror image of the Turkish campaign. Austria should be expected to bear the brunt of the fighting and receive the resulting gains) with Russian forces in support. This will create a window of vulnerability for Austria which matches that of Russia in the south: Neither the Archduke nor the Czar can then reasonably expect to undertake a stab without facing the immediate loss of Supply Centres himself.
Russia will by now be engaged in conflict in the north. The Czar will be under pressure from the English. The early gains from the south should have been converted en masse into a formidable fighting force in the North. Building a northern fleet F Stp(sc) in Fall 1901 is a favourite. It allows for a naval attack on Germany and the convoying options seem almost endless. Russia should try to get hold of the Baltic Sea, even if it means losing Sweden in the short term (1902-1903). The Baltic is Germany's weak spot, and a key to establishing eventual dominance in Scandinavia _ especially if Germany has not built a second fleet in Fall 1901. This might involve another stab (get your knives sharp dear Russian) and makes the involvement of Austria aid in a German war (by 1903 at the latest) all the more critical.
Shares of R/A centres, if shared equally :
Russia: Mos Stp War Sev Ank Con Rum Swe Ber (8)
Austria: Bud Tri Vie Ser Gre Bul Smy Mun (7)
For starters. Russia should be garrisoning the south with at least 2 units, leaving 6 units to push through the North and Central of Europe. The North should hold at least two fleets, with at least one army. For a northern offensive another unit (F or A) is desperately needed. England will be throwing most of what he's got against you (at least 4 units, mostly fleets). Russia is gaining the greater part of the Turkish spoils, which might give Russia one more SC (Smy). However to keep the balance, we'd prefer to give Austria Smy not only so that it can build additional (badly needed) naval power, but also making sure that Austria has a stake in the south and therefore something to lose from a mid-game stab.
Gains in the centre will be slow and hotly contested. Austria's second (after the Balkan) theatre for lucrative expansion will be Italy. So while the Czar is concentrating on establishing primacy in the north, the Archduke should in mid-game be looking to insinuate his own naval power around the Ionian in preparation for an Italian campaign.
THE STAB - WATCH OUT FOR (VERY) SHARP KNIVES.
The opening game positions of France, Turkey, England & Russia are enhanced by their positions on the corners of the map. The long-term potential for Austria, Germany & Italy is made more powerful by the fact that the home Supply Centres is relatively closer to the areas that will be centres of conflict.
Considering this, it is easy to see why there is a greater likelihood that a R/A alliance will be broken by an Austrian stab as opposed to being broken by a Russian stab. Newly-built Austrian forces are more likely to be in a good position to turn on Russia than is the case for newly-built Russian forces.
Avoiding the stab is the work of both partners in a R/A alliance. One cannot begin an alliance planning on executing a stab later. Stubborn insistence on such a strategy is as likely as not to end in one's own defeat. There are a few things partners in the R/A alliance can do to make the alliance last successfully.
On the part of Austria:
1) Do not allow Italy to become involved in the eastern war against Turkey. Doing so invites a combined Russian/Italian attack on Austria.
2) Avoid conflict with Italy until Turkey has been completely defeated. Such a conflict minimalizes Austria's value to Russia - who IS doing the bulk of the work in the war against Turkey and could potentially see little point in propping up a lame-duck Archduke.
3) Do not become overly embroiled in a German war, and definitely not too early. Russia will be gaining the lion's share of the gains from Turkey. By expanding too aggressively to the north, Austria faces the potential worst of both possible worlds: Inadequate forces remaining to defend the Balkan gains and any new gains (Munich, Berlin) being extremely vulnerable to assault by not only Russia, but almost every other surviving power.
On the part of Russia:
1) Do not give Austria the opening. At the very least, a garrison in Rumania is a must. And if this garrison is an army it will go a long way towards keeping Austria honest, especially since Bulgaria is most likely to be the Austrian's first share of the Turkish war.
2) Avoid building southern fleets. And the one Russian southern fleet should not wander east of Turkey even if Austria invites it to. One fleet and one army should be enough to keep Turkey securely within the bosum of Mother Russia for a real long time. Three units is not a stiff price for guarding such a large southern border.
3) Do not wander too far into Germany on your own. Until Scandinavia has been entirely secured, ownership of German home points is likely to be more costly to the Czar than it is worth _ unless the allied Archduke is advancing west at the same time. Besides, Russians in Turkey, Scandinavia AND Germany are likely give birth to an immediate Western Triple _ not to mention leaving Austria wondering exactly which way a (relatively) poor Archduke is to turn.
THE ENDGAME - STALEMATE IN SIGHT
Here is a real difficult goal for the Alliance: preventing the stalemate lines from forming. The down side of the alliance is that it's sure to be short of concentrated Naval power. On the land, R/A is unbeatable; at sea, however, it can be a whole different ballgame. Austrian and Russian fleets are in different areas and cannot help each other's break out into the North Sea/Norwegian Sea and the Western Med/Atlantic.
The likely result of the R/A alliance is the destruction of Germany and the growth of a healthy England and a strong France. This means the North Sea/Norwegian Sea and the Western Med/Atlantic are likely to be well defended - unfortunately, because they are very strategic areas and at least one of the two must be captured to secure a 17/17 draw. If Russia can break England in the North or Austria can effectively capture Italy (while building Fleets) things are looking good. Good luck!
While much is traditionally made of the power of the Russia/Turkey alliance when it emerges, a Russian/Austrian that quickly conquers Turkey and survives into the mid-game has far more potency than the feared R/T. The R/A has the same advantage of a secure corner of the map that the R/T enjoys, but is not slowed by the disadvantage of the distance of Turkey's home supply (building) centres.from the centre of the mid-game action. In our experience this advantage might cause R/A alliances to be somewhat instable and subject to naval harassment by the other powers. On the other hand, the alliance is unbeatable on the land, with its vast numbers of armies. If any of you readers encounters us as Russia or Austria we'd encourage you to join us and watch this fast moving steamroller sweep the board!!