In 1921, Soviet Russia was completely isolated. Germany had surrounded it with a system of allies and satellite states: from Finland and the Baltic nations via the Ukraine and Romania to Turkey and the Caucasian states. Nevertheless, the Communist leadership embarked on the dangerous road towards world revolution.
The first target was the Ukraine where Nationalists, Anarchists, Greens and Cossacks were locked in a bloody struggle. In the winter of 1920/1921 Communist agitation started in all major cities. It was believed that the Central Powers were too preoccupied with their internal problems to care if their instable puppet would fall. Exhausted by the Great War, they wouldn't risk another large scale conflict over the Ukraine, would they?
When the head of the Ukrainian puppet government, Hetman Skoropadsky begged his masters in Berlin and Wien* to intervene, the German response came as a shock to the Communist leaders: Germany wasn't prepared to abandon the Ukraine. On the contrary, it demanded the end of Communist subversion as well as the retreat of all Red units from Ukrainian soil until January 15th. Otherwise Communist Russia would face all-out war with Germany and its allies!
With Lenin's health declining,** the struggle over his succession had already started: In particular Trotzky realized that the German ultimatum was an opportunity to regain ground on Stalin who had planted his cronies in key positions of the Soviet state. While Stalin believed that the European monarchies would soon be swept away by social unrest, Trotzky argued in favour of war.
Soon four opinions emerged: the hotheads demanded that the ultimatum be rejected. The Red Army would reach Berlin before summer! More cynical politicians proposed that Soviet Russia should pretend to accept the ultimatum but continue to send troops into the Ukraine. Thus a few vital days could be gained that would assure an initial advantage.
Stalin was willing to bow to the ultimatum: it wouldn't matter in the long term - so Stalin - since the world revolution would soon overthrow the imperialist regimes. Trotzky condemned this position as abandoning the world revolution and the socialist brothers in Central Europe. He argued that another Great War was needed to trigger revolutions in Germany and Austria-Hungary. However he also believed that the Red Army wasn't yet ready to face the combined power of Germany and her allies. Thus it was unavoidable that the Soviet Russian Republic give into Germany's ultimatum in order to gain time to prepare for war.***
Since none of the factions inside Sovnarkom was strong enough to sway the discussion in its favour, it was decided to resort to a sacred government tradition: a commission was hastily established that should present warplans as well as estimates on the Soviet armed forces. Trotzky managed to secure the chairman position for himself but had to accept two of Stalin's closest allies as his seconds: Semyon Budyenny and Kliment Voroshilov.
When the commission compiled the numbers for the opposing forces, the room soon fell silent. The Red Army had a strength of 621.000 men. This force was supplemented by approximately 50.000 men garrisoning the major cities and another 63.000 men that could be transferred from Siberia and Central Asia.
- Northern Front: 123.000
- Western Front: 116.000
- Northern Ukraine Front: 74.000
- Ukraine Front: 184.000
- Don Front: 76.000
- Caucasus Front: 78.000
- Reserves: 44.000
- Possible reinforcements: 2 armies (61.000) + 1 tank division (2.000)
+ 63.000 reinforcements
Facing these forces were 660.000 German troops, supplemented by another 667.000 men in the armies of its allies. Moreover Germany and Austria-Hungary would be able to shift several armies from their Western borders towards the East, increasing their total strength to over 1,5 million men.
- Germany: 660.000
- Possible German reinforcements: 4 armies (145.000) + 3 tank divisions (19.000)
- Austria-Hungary: 294.000
- Possible Austrian reinforcements: 2 armies (68.000)
- Finland: 60.000
- Baltic states: 73.000 + 35.000 German reinforcements
- Caucasian states: 40.000
- Turkey: 83.000
- Romania: 42.000
- Ukraine: 42.000
- Don Cossacks: 33.000
+ 267.000 reinforcements
The Red Army was thus facing a foe that outnumbered it 2:1. Just as significantly, the Red generals were no match for their foes. Although some talented commanders had risen during the civil war, they were but a few in a sea of incompetent fools.**** It didn't help, either that the Red soldiers were inferior in training and equipment.***** Most importantly the Red Army had nothing that could compare to the German and Austrian Sturmtruppen, elite infantry trained in infiltration tactics that were able to overcome entrenchment. The Red army had a seizable number of tanks based on British and French models, though. But so did the Germans.
Nevertheless, not everything looked bleak: The bulk of the German and Austrian forces were far away from the boarders. Moreover these units weren't fully mobilized yet. It would thus take the Germans at least two weeks before they could start to move towards the front. The Austrian troops would probably drag their feet even longer.
In the North, Nadiozhny was commanding 123.000 men that were facing 133.000 Finnish and Baltic soldiers. Budyenny was adamant that if Finland were to be ignored enough units could be spared to overrun Estonia and Latvia before German troops could intervene.
But Trotzky was quick to point out that Nadiozhny would have to be weakened in order to reinforce Tukhachevsky's 116.000 men that defended the critical sector between Gomel, Minsk and Vitbesk. It was almost certain that the initial strike of the German Army would take place in this sector. Trotzky estimated that the German Heer could attack Minsk with more than 300.000 men within the first month of the war.
To the South of Tukhachevsky were the almost impassable Prypiat Marshes. South of them Antonov-Ovseenko's 74.000 soldiers were guarding the Eastern bank of the Dniepr. On the Western bank lay Kiev which was only defended by 22.000 Ukrainians. However a German observation corps was nearby. Antonov-Ovseenko' pleaded for the permission to attack the city in order to land a decisive blow before German or Austrian reinforcements could bolster the city's defenses. Unfortunately, the Red forces in the sector were spread out. Even the impetuous Budyenny admitted that the moment of surprise would be lost during the time it would take to concentrate Antonov-Ovseenko's three armies.
The strongest Soviet troop concentration was along the Ukrainian north-eastern border. Trotzky and Egorov had 184.000 soldiers deployed around Kursk and Voronezh. Facing them were a few thousand Ukrainians defending Kharkov and Mamontov's 33.000 Don Cossacks.
Around Rostov, Voroshilov had another 76.000 men that could either pressure Mamontov from the South or descend upon Wrangel's White forces that were still defending the Kuban.
Finally Stalin's Georgian landsman Ordzhonikidze had 78.000 men tasked with guarding the Caucasus as well as containing the White forces in the Kuban.
While the situation on land was bad enough, it was even worse on the sea: The Kriegsmarine with its dreadnoughts could blow the destitute Soviet Navy out of the water without breaking a sweat. Apart from river fleets controlling Volga and Don, the Red Navy had only the Baltic fleet consisting of four battleships, six cruisers, eight destroyers and four torpedo boats and the Arctic fleet with one cruiser, four destroyers and four torpedo boats. In contrast, Germany had 2 aircraft carriers (with two more under construction), 20 dreadnoughts, 7 modern battlecruisers, 4 old battleships, 29 cruisers and 56 destroyers.
Soviet Russia had one important advantage, though: Germany and the Habsburg Empire were bled out. In order to win the Great War, they had sacrificed an entire generation of young men. After three years of peace their manpower reserves had only just begun to recover. The Central Powers wouldn't be able to sustain slaughter on such a scale again.****** Soviet Russia on the other hand could draw on almost inexhaustible reserves of men.
However, the Soviet economy was still in shambles. The Great War, had been followed by a Civil War that was still raging on in the South and Communist economic policies hadn't helped, either. While the Central Powers would be handicapped by lack of men, the Soviets would be limited by a shortage of funds which would only be worsened once the German Navy started to blockade Russia's harbours.*******
Inspite of this devastating analysis the commission believed that a war could be won. Two warplans were proposed: Budyenny drew up a daring offensive plan. Not only should the German ultimatum be rejected but it should be answered by declarations of war against the Baltic states. Budyenny proposed a pincer movement of gigantic measures: While Tukhachevsky and Antonov-Ovseenko should hold the center, Nadiozhny was to conquer Talinn and Riga before Germany could react . In the meatime Egorov should overrun Kharkov  and then join Voroshilov in a thrust westward towards Kiev . Once this was accomplished both wings would push towards Warsaw , hopefully encircling large portions of the German army in the process.
Trotzky denounced Budyenny's plan as utter foolishness. Instead he demanded that Soviet Russia should give into the German ultimatum ... for a time. An aggressive recruitment effort should double the strength of the Red Army until the summer of 1921. At which point war was to be declared on the imperialists. Moreover this would gain Soviet Russia the time to deal with Wrangel's Whites in the Kuban . Additionally, the Red Army would be able to prepare defensive positions. In the North, Red units would defend a line stretching from Lake Ladoga, via Petrograd to Lake Peipus. From there the front would continue to Polotsk, Minsk and the Prypiat Marhses . In the South the Dniepr formed a formidable defensive line. Unfortunately, the Red units would have to race hard to reach it before German reinforcements pourred into the Ukraine. Thus an immediate offensive would be necessary once war was declared . Its primary goal would be Kharkov; a careful push towards the Dniepr would have to follow if possible.
Next update: A lesson in treachery: Budyenny establishes a fait accompli before the Soviet response to the ultimatum reaches the Kaiser.
* Note on names: I am using the names cities and persons have in the game even though they are a mess; thus Vienna will become Wien (German version), while Munich keeps its English spelling.
** According to the background of the Drang scenario, Lenin is already sick and dying by January 1921. This is insofar true as Lenin never fully recoverd from the wounds Kaplan had inflicted in 1918. Yet in 1921 Lenin was still in full control of affairs (this was the year where he pushed through the NEP and crushed the great peasant uprisings as well as the Kronstadt sailor rebellion). Lenin's iron grip on power only ceased after a series of strokes in 1922.
*** The AI is programmed to either reject the ultimatum (85% chance) or only pretend to accept it. It won't choose the third option. However in a multiplayer game, it is the only sane option. The Red Army, as big as it is at the start of this scenario, is no match for the Central Powers. I would advice on a house rule forcing the Reds to declare war on the Ukraine at some point in order to avoid an endless waiting game (10-15 turns as a limit would seem fair to me).
**** The average Red general has 2-0-0 stats, while the average enemy commander has 4-1-1 stats. Hence they will usually be active while Red army commanders tend to be inactive. German commanders will slightly improve the combat values of their units, whereas most Red generals won't affect them.
***** Infantry combat values:
****** Germany can't use the conscription special operation, just requisition. Its conscript income is thus limited to ~80 conscripts per turn form its cities which can be increased by getting more allies into the war. Moreover Germany has a few mobilization options that bring in roughly 400 conscripts +20 replacements each.
- Red elite infantry: 12/13 offensive fire - 18/21 defensive fire
- Red regular infantry: 10/11 - 16/18
- Cheka combat units: 9 - 16
- Red conscripts: 8/9 - 13/15
- Red Guards: 6 - 11
- German Sturmtruppen and elite infantry: 15 - 22
- German regular infantry: 13/14 - 21/22
- German reserve infantry: 11 - 18
- German Landwehr (militia): 10 - 17
- Austrians have the same stats as Germans. Ukrainians and Baltic units tend to be on the same level as Soviet units.
******* Germany has an option to cut off Soviet maritime trade thus reducing money and war supply income in all major Communist harbours.