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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Cybvep

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May 25, 2009
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I deleted the redundant posts :D

@loki100 - I will keep that in mind. You will see how things will develop naval-wise in future updates. Quite a lot has been going on.

@Slan - yes, I noticed, but still, my spies are disrupting their unity. Even if they get the NU boost after rejection of armistice proposal, they will still surrender sooner or later and give up their colonial holdings, too.

Things will get VERY interesting soon. I'm rather excited, but I won't spoil the fun for you. Anyway, if you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to post them!
 

TheBromgrev

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Looking good. If you're not doing so already, you may want to attack the Maginot. You probably won't punch through, but you will pin the defenders down and keep them away from the northern front.

Also, I've never seen Italy perform so many landings before. Even though they lost Libya, taking over Egypt and the Suez is almost worth it. Any idea of how many brigades Italy lost?

Looking forward to how things go in France :)
 

Cybvep

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Looking good. If you're not doing so already, you may want to attack the Maginot. You probably won't punch through, but you will pin the defenders down and keep them away from the northern front.
That might work, although most of French units are coming from southern France, i.e. from borders with Italy and Spain. Some might have been shipped from Africa, although it's hard to say. French army is sizeable and they have the help of the British (and Belgians), too. That's why I create encirclements wherever I can. However, judging by combat performance, their army is less modern than mine and they don't have many armoured divisions - that's for sure. Most of their tanks are infantry support ones.

Also, I've never seen Italy perform so many landings before. Even though they lost Libya, taking over Egypt and the Suez is almost worth it. Any idea of how many brigades Italy lost?

Looking forward to how things go in France
Keep in mind that I gave the Italians allied objectives - that may have helped. Unfortunately, their endeavours in Africa cost them at least 200k men. They dropped from 500+ brigade count to 400+. I call it a draw.

About France - it's very hard to get through the Ardennes. Plains are much more comfy for armoured and motorised divisions than forests in HPP. The impact of terrain is clearly visible. And those rivers - ARGH... I think I will build more engineers in the future.
 

TheBromgrev

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Yeah, I've found that the Ardennes is a tough nut to crack. Crossing the Seine is a big obstacle as well. My last game as Germany forced me to use paratroopers to land behind the lines to force some French defenders to leave the front and chase them down. I'm interested to see what you do, as it'll be tougher to get France to surrender at this stage because it's too late for the Paris lost/surrounded events.
 

SSmith

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From what I can see your Belgian/French campaign has only been going just over 2 weeks - so quick progress and no real hold-ups so far.

I have to say I'm impressed with what I saw in Africa - allied objectives or not. I have yet to see the French defend their holdings, never mind launching a powerful offensive. Although I have seen Italy launch several amphibious operations in North Africa they have never been as impressive or as successful as yours. Interesting stuff!
 

Cybvep

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May 25, 2009
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Naval Matters

Jutland Clean-up

Despite losses, the French and the British continue to fight for naval supremacy near Jutland peninsula. They seem not to be aware of the fact that the German sailors will simply NOT relinquish control over Jutland unless every one of them is dead.


HoI3_128.jpg

HoI3_129.jpg



In late May a strong French SAG met with our CTF. Our ships and crews were clearly superior - we had the advantage of range, training and numbers. Nothing could go wrong and nothing did. La Royale suffered some damage and lost some destroyers.

Battle of Kattegat and its repercussions

HoI3_130.jpg

HoI3_131.jpg



Bigger problems came in early June. In the disastrous battle of Kattegat the Royal Navy surprised our SAG with superior forces. Three battlecruisers - HMS Hood, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse - and an light carrier HMS Argus were too much to handle for our fleet. As a result, the Kriegsmarine has suffered the greatest defeat in war so far, losing several screening ships. Moreover, three of our capital ships - two BBs and one BC - got badly damaged and were forced to return to port for long repairs.

The British cheered their first victory after several defeats, not knowing that the reaction of German seamen would be the opposite of what they had expected, for every German sailor burned with thirst for revenge.

The British fleet could not, under any circumstances, return to home base without suffering losses on their own. It was a matter of prestige and honour.


HoI3_133.jpg

HoI3_134.jpg



Admiral Reader and his CTF responded immediately. This time, despite general numerical superioty, the British had just one light carrier to our two ships of similar class - aircraft carrier KMS Graf Zeppelin and light carrier KMS Wesser. They lost a light cruiser and were forced to withdraw from the battle.


HoI3_135.jpg

HoI3_136.jpg

HoI3_137.jpg

HoI3_138.jpg



But it was not enough. Admiral Reader cornered the enemy in The Balts and a fierce battle followed, which resulted in British defeat. Admiral Cunningham lost several destroyers and his fleet got badly mauled.


HoI3_139.jpg



Cunningham retreated to Kattegat, but his forces were pursued relentlessly and the two fleets battled again. This time both sides suffered some damage, but it was Cunningham who were forced to retreat. Again. This will be the lesson that the Royal Navy will remember for a long time.


HoI3_164.jpg

HoI3_165.jpg



In late July the Royal Navy returned and our reinforced SAG met the enemy's SAG in Skagerrack. A vicious WWI-like battle followed and while Kriegsmarine suffered some losses on its own, the British fleet lost most of its screening ships. Their four battleships were left without support.


HoI3_168.jpg

HoI3_170.jpg



This was an opportunity we could not miss. The combined force of our SAG and CTF battled with the enemy in Kattegat, destroying his last screens.


HoI3_171.jpg

HoI3_172.jpg



Our seamen pursued the enemy and exchanged fire with his BBs again. This time we lost a light cruiser, which would serve as a reminder of immense firepower the battleship posses.


HoI3_173.jpg

HoI3_175.jpg



However, the fight was not over. Our navy continued to pursue the British battleships and kindly escorted them out of Jutland coastal waters.


HoI3_176.jpg

HoI3_177.jpg



Pathetic British attempt of an escape was met with disgust in the eyes of our sailors. By the end of battle of Little Fisher Bank the British had just two out of four battleships sent to Skagerrack. And the pursue was not over.


HoI3_179.jpg

HoI3_181.jpg



Our combined naval and air power finally finished the job on 4th of August 1941. Sailors of the Royal Navy will curse this day forever.

---------

The Helgoland Bight


HoI3_184.jpg



Just three days have passed since disastrous British defeat when they attempted to assault Wilhelmshaven with a grand landing party. It was a potentially dangerous move for the Germans, as we did not have any significant reserves in the region. Therefore, a decision was made to attempt to intercept the huge British forces present in Helgoland Bight.


HoI3_185.jpg

HoI3_186.jpg

HoI3_187.jpg



Our first attempt was a failure and we were forced to retreat to our ports. However, we managed to sink some British transports and we reinforced Wilhelmshaven with additional divisions.


HoI3_190.jpg

HoI3_191.jpg



In late August we tried again. The fighting was intensive and both sides suffered great losses. Our badly damaged fleets returned to their ports, but the operation was a success nonetheless, as the British lost many transports and their assault on Wilhelshaven was unsuccessful. It was a strategic victory for the Axis, although a pyrrhic one.

----------

Submarine campaign


HoI3_199.jpg



Our submarine campaign is extremely successful. We are mauling enemy's merchant fleet and tons of cargo have been lost as a result. Since the British have to supply their forces in Africa through Gibraltar, our submariners know where to search for prey. Our u-boot losses have so far been insignificant when compared with the results that they achieved.

It seems that the expansion of the Kriegsmarine was not a bad move at all....
 

PaxImperator

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This whole "ships" thing you've got going is looking interesting. I should try it once. :) Usually I build only land units because of ships' long building times and my poor longterm planning skills. Good job on showing the Royal Navy what for. I'm looking forward to more updates.
 

TheBromgrev

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I'll admit, I had the exact same situation happen in Wilhemshaven and I cringed when I saw your screenshot of the battle. Lucky for you your naval buildup let you win at the loss of some screens, as it would've been bad if the AI had taken the port. I take it you're up to date with the naval doctrines?
 

Juan_de_Marco

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Ouch. it still hurts to lose some CA's while they only lose some DD's. :( But good naval battle management. And regarding the landwar, remember: "when you march into France, let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve".
 

Cybvep

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From what I can see your Belgian/French campaign has only been going just over 2 weeks - so quick progress and no real hold-ups so far.

My advance is quick, but MANY French divisions are coming. Unlike in RL, they have the strategic reserve. I think that it's still not clear for readers how big French/Allied army really is. I will make sure to get you some screenshots later.

I have to say I'm impressed with what I saw in Africa - allied objectives or not. I have yet to see the French defend their holdings, never mind launching a powerful offensive. Although I have seen Italy launch several amphibious operations in North Africa they have never been as impressive or as successful as yours. Interesting stuff!

Yes, this is not a standard development. Also, AI nations, including my allies, are generally more aggressive and powerful than usual because of the bonuses that they get.

This whole "ships" thing you've got going is looking interesting. I should try it once. Usually I build only land units because of ships' long building times and my poor longterm planning skills. Good job on showing the Royal Navy what for. I'm looking forward to more updates.

I must confess that I enjoy writing about naval campaigns in this AAR. Somehow it makes all that time spent on building those ships more rewarding.

I'll admit, I had the exact same situation happen in Wilhemshaven and I cringed when I saw your screenshot of the battle. Lucky for you your naval buildup let you win at the loss of some screens, as it would've been bad if the AI had taken the port. I take it you're up to date with the naval doctrines?

I try to be up-to-date, although naturally not 100% of my forces are fully upgraded. I also use air support to great extent.

Ouch. it still hurts to lose some CA's while they only lose some DD's. But good naval battle management. And regarding the landwar, remember: "when you march into France, let the last man on the right brush the Channel with his sleeve".
Yeah, that hurts, although if you look at the following screenshots you will clearly see who is winning the battle for naval supremacy. Naturally, the Royal Navy and La Royale have a great advantage in numbers from the start, so I simply have to be more effective than them.

[Keep in mind that ships sunk by aircraft are not shown.]

HoI3_195.jpg

HoI3_194.jpg

HoI3_193.jpg

HoI3_192.jpg



Thanks for the replies, guys!
 

Ruunu3004

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Finally, someone who wants builds grand Kriegsmarine like me, not some petty subs. Very interesting battle, very very interesting. Naval battles are always way too cool, but where are your battleships?
 

Cybvep

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Finally, someone who wants builds grand Kriegsmarine like me, not some petty subs. Very interesting battle, very very interesting. Naval battles are always way too cool, but where are your battleships?
You can't have it all. I ignored BBs and went for BCs.
 

Cybvep

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Invasion of France

Allied numbers

[I didn't know what the real size of Allied armies was in September 1941, but I am already a little bit further in the game, so I think showing the following information to the readers is justified.]


HoI3_304.jpg



All things considered (the distribution of forces, redeployed troops etc.), by October 1941 the Allies outnumbered me almost 2-1 in France. They definitely had a proper strategic reserve...

September-October


HoI3_221.jpg



Fighting for air superiority was intense. The Allies had the numbers and the Germans had the quality. Unfortunately, we had too few fighters to win that battle and from October to late November 1941 the Allies clearly ruled the skies, while most of German planes were being reinforced.


HoI3_222.jpg



Brussels finally fell on 13th of October 1941 and our troops could be redeployed to other fronts which were in desperate need of more manpower. The Allies managed to bring enough forces in order to slow down our advance considerably. The terrain was very favourable to the defenders, with forests and rivers obstructing the possible ways of getting to inner France.

Also, I made a strategic mistake and let the AI control my forces for almost a month. I thought that the war was won by then, but I was clearly wrong and was forced to take direct control of the army eventually.

November-December


HoI3_224.jpg



In November the situation was good, but there was a risk of stalemate. We clearly controlled most of northern France, but Paris was not under siege and even one province in Belgium (Bastogne) was still in Allied hands.

We couldn't risk war of attrition, as the time favoured the Allies. The combined industrial power of the Allies was greater than that of Germany's (it was especially true when we take AI bonuses into account) and there was also the risk of Polish or Soviet attack in the East.


HoI3_225.jpg



We managed to isolate a small part of the French army in the northern-western region of France and we used our submarines to destroy convoys supplying the enemy forces there. It's hard to objectively judge the efficiency of that operation, but our submariners definitely sunk many French convoys and French divisions defending the region lacked supplies, so the operation was declared a success.


The encirclements


HoI3_226.jpg

HoI3_227.jpg



In order to keep the initiative in our hands we concentrated our mobile forces near Reims and attempted to encircle Allied defenders in the Ardennes. The plan was tricky, as we needed to drive as far as Metz. However, an encirclement was still our best chance of overcoming the serious obstacle the Ardennes region was.


HoI3_229.jpg



In western France we decided to achieve a breakthrough and attempt an encirclement of Allied forces defending the coastal areas. Even if the operation failed, it would still draw the attention of Allied troops and keep them busy.


HoI3_230.jpg



Finally, it was decided that the French capital had to be encircled, too. A powerful armoured thrust was made in order to isolate the French defenders of Paris.


HoI3_231.jpg



The plan was going well and it was clear that the forces defending Paris would be surrounded by the end of November. The importance of that achievement was hard to overestimate.


HoI3_234.jpg



Our mobile troops reached Metz on 21th of November and the Allied forces in Ardennes were finally encircled. In order to widen our operational possibilities an assault on northern part of the Maginot line was performed, which eventually allowed us to link our troops on the Siegfried line with the invading army.


HoI3_235.jpg



It was clear that the siege of Paris would last for a long while. The defenders were well-supplied and Allies had air superiority, which meant that the French capital could be properly defended. Still, this siege had to end sooner or later in Axis favour, right?

-------------

Plan A


HoI3_236.jpg



An ambitious plan was made by German leadership with the intention to end the war quickly by a massive encirclement in central part of the front. Should the operation succeed, a bulk of Allied forces would be encircled and Axis victory would be secured. Unfortunately, it had little chance of realisation as the Allies were very strong there and the operation had to be cancelled.

Plan B


HoI3_237.jpg



Therefore, we had to settle with less ambitious but still beneficial option - a smaller encirclement in the eastern part of France with the intention to strengthen German dominance in the region.


HoI3_238.jpg



The operation was declared a success by early December. The prospects for an encirclement of the Maginot Line also looked good. Moreover, the province of Bastogne have finally been taken. Therefore, Belgium was fully conquered.


-------

HoI3_239.jpg



In the western France the Allies were very strong, but German forces still managed to create another encirclement near the coast. Another brick in the Allied defence line was broken.


HoI3_243.jpg

HoI3_247.jpg



In the eastern France the Germans were by now clearly dominant and the Maginot Line was encircled on 12th of December. It would still take a while before the pocket could be cleared of Allied defenders, but it was evident that the Allies were on the losing side.


Fall of Paris


HoI3_248.jpg

HoI3_252.jpg



On 15th of December the French leadership decided to surrender Paris to the German hands. However, the local commander refused to comply and the battle lasted for three more days. On 18th of December Paris fell and the lengthy siege was finally over.

Therefore, it is now only a matter of time before the Allied forces in France are beaten...
 

Cybvep

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The Hellish 1942

Conquest of France


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This was the crucial point of the campaign. Should we accept the French proposal, the invasion would be over in January 1942, but we would not have direct control of southern French regions, which would be contradictory to our plans. Firstly, we would not have access to the Mediterranean. Secondly, our potential front with Spain would be restricted to a very small region and it could potentially mean severe supply problems in Iberia (we had sporadic problems with supplies even in France, where infrastructure is very good).

Therefore, we refused to sign the armistice and went for full conquest of France.


HoI3_274.jpg



This is how the frontline looked like on 17th of January 1942. The Allies were broken, had big supply problems and were being pushed back everywhere, but because of the sheer size of their army it took a long time to defeat them completely. I did not feel motivated to do it and let the AI do the mopping.

-------------------

The other fronts

Naval blockade of the Great Britain


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In December 1941, where things were already looking good in France, I began a second phase of my plan: the naval blockade of UK. It was mostly to be done with the usage of submarines, but I had plans for gaining full naval superiority as well.


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The Royal Navy did not want to give up easily and they met our forces in the Mouth of Thames. The battle ended in German favour and the British lost some cruisers.


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In December we managed to regain air superiority and we started bombings of British ports.


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However, the Allied airforce was far from being broken and frequent battles between both sides were conducted in the skies.


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Blockade of the vital sea zone such as the Mouth of Thames meant that the British could not freely move their ships without risking interception. In one of several incidents two of their battleships were heavily damaged.


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The forces Royal Navy had at its disposal were getting smaller and smaller. They were getting desperate and started to throw everything they had at us. The loss of HMS Argus was surely a blow.


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Frequent bombing campaigns and port strikes inflicted heavy damage on many British ships. Moreover, since Mouth of Thames was blocked, RN's options were rather limited. We were clearly winning the naval campaign.


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In January 1942 the Kriegsmarine started regular patrols of southern-eastern part of British coast. The British were losing tons of cargo because of our blockade and should we eliminate the threat their navy still posed, we would be completely dominant in the region and we could think about the expansion in other areas.


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A strong British CTF met our SAG in the battle of the Eastern English Channel. While the enemy did not sink any of our ships, our submarines suffered heavy damage. By now it was clear to everyone that a SAG could not win any battle with a CTF without aircraft support.


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Therefore, we ordered our CTF to engage the enemy in Mouth of Thames and a vicious, but inconclusive battle followed.


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The hunt for British carriers began. In a coordinated naval-air operation the RN carrier HMS Courageous lost its screens and suffered heavy damage.


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Enemy SAGs could not match ours. The losses of the Royal Navy were getting more and more severe and with every battle they were getting weaker. Moreover, the British could not feel safe in their harbours anymore, as our bombers were extremely successful at performing port strikes.

The future for the Kriegsmarine looked bright, indeed.

--------

Northern Africa and the Middle East 1941-1942


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The Italians may have been defeated in Libya, but they ruled Egypt with an iron hand. Clashes with the Allied forces were frequent, but neither side could dominate the other. It was a stalemate.


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However, our Italian friends made great gains in the Middle East, conquering several British puppets and annexing Iraq in December 1941. Iraqi oil fields will surely be beneficial for the Axis war effort...

---------

The Last Days of Happiness


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On 9th of April 1942 the last Allied forces were driven out of France. It was a major Axis victory. The German people cheered vigorously, while the German leadership was already making basic preparations for operations in Iberia.


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France and the Benelux countries were divided into five occupation zones (each was to be controlled by the AI) in order to ensure effective administration on the regional level. It was clear that we needed more garrison troops for occupation duties and new personnel was already being trained for that purpose. Despite some small problems and shortages, optimism and happiness were ever-present...

-------

The Hellish Spring of 1942


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... until 11th of April came. The worst fears of German leadership became true - The Soviet Union declared war on Poland and therefore violated German sphere of influence. The diplomatic mess followed. International community was outraged.


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It quickly became clear that the Soviets violated not only the Axis sphere of influence, but also the Allied one.

The Allied countries kept their formal promises given to the Poles and a state of war now existed between the Comintern countries and both the Allies and the Axis.

---------

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you have any relevant suggestions, NOW is the time to make them.

Hell is just about to break loose!

Personal author's note: Oh f***!
 
Last edited:

TheBromgrev

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Awesome :D I totally forgot that the Soviets are supposed to attack Poland if Germany doesn't, due to Poland having cores of the Belarus and Ukraine Soviets. I've never seen a 3-way war, so I'm really interested to see what, if anything, the Allies will do. Most likely the UK will focus on taking back France, leaving you with a 2-front war.

IMO, your best option would be to ignore Spain and move everything except a token garrison plus a few mobile reserves in France in case the UK tries to invade again (assuming the Kriegsmarine lets them slip by). Otherwise, it seems like you'll be starting Barbarossa with Poland.

EDIT: I just remembered. If Spain is in your diplomatic corner, they will join you if you take Gibraltar. I'm also surprised Poland isn't in a faction (didn't see that before). I would abandon E. Prussia and either attack Poland as well, or use them as a buffer to slow down the Soviets until you're ready.
 
Last edited:

unmerged(157847)

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Wow, a three-way world war! Can't wait to see how THAT turns out!

Germany is in a strong position, with the UK reeling from multiple setbacks. Iberia wouldn't seem to be worth risking a large army at this point; perhaps an amphibious strike made simply to take out Gibraltar would suffice (then allocate just enough troops to hold off the Spanish). Perhaps the Italians can be tasked with handling Spain/Gibraltar, after they're done in the Middle East? It may take a while for Italy to get it done, and they may need your help anyway, but you clearly have other priorities now in the east.
 

CptEasy

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Wow, what a slugfeast it will be. Allies seems to be very weak. With USSR declaring war on you, US wont show up in a long time I guess. With Italy beeing so strong I suggest you leave Spain and any thoughs about the Med and concentrate on peparing for a major clash with USSR. They are bound to be powerful now, and hard to beat.
 

Slan

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Why exactly would Poland be in a faction? They were only guaranteed. Spain may join you if you hold Gibraltar, but I wouldn't bet on it. Look out for Operation Countenance. The Allies may be at war with the Commintern, but that decision will still be fired IIRC. Persia may end up in your group because of that, and open another front between your enemies.

Against the Soviets, I'm afraid you are practically screwed. They are much more powerful than the Allies by now, and may be even more powerful than you are. They have immense manpower reserves, and already got through the officer purge, so no serious penalties for them anymore. And they are even closer to Berlin than you are to Moscow...
You know what? You are lucky they waited this long, and didn't stab you in the back when you still had your hands full in France! :D
 

Cybvep

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Brief Strategic Analysis of the German situation on 11th of April 1942


Status of Poland

Poland was neutral prior to the Soviet invasion and even diplomatically hostile against Germany because of the embargo they put on us. Therefore, there are questions concerning the status of Poland after Soviet invasion.

It seems that even though the Polish government refused to join the Axis and refused to give us formal military access, an informal and shaky alliance has existed between the Germans and the Poles since the sneaky Bolshevik attack on Poland on 11th of April.

Neither the population nor the Polish government opposed when first German troops entered Polish territory. Polish units are being redeployed to the Eastern Front and the Polish government is in no position to oppose the Germans.

The prospect of German-Polish alliance was disturbing to the majority of German leadership, but the situation was considered to be critical and a temporary and informal alliance is without any doubt in the best interests of the German people.

It is therefore concluded that Polish and German armies will not be hostile to each other and a limited cooperation is in order.

This fact, however, in no way makes pre-war German plans for Poland obsolete.

--------------

Operation Copernicus


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Phase 1

In order to secure the German Reich from the immediate threat the Soviet Army poses, a defence line in Eastern Prussia and on the Vistula River will be formed. It is expected that the withdrawing Polish army will aid German troops in their efforts.

Our main forces from the Western Front will be redeployed to the Eastern Front and used in the defence of Eastern Prussia and western parts of Poland.

Phase 2a

Should the situation become critical and Soviet advance quick, German troops will be stationed in every major Polish city and will proceed to encircle and destroy Polish troops present in the region. A new defence line closer to the borders of the German Reich will be formed.

Phase 2b

If the frontline holds and the situation in Poland is not described as critical, our troops in Eastern Prussia will perform a tactical withdrawal to the Danzig region and form a new defence line on the Vistula river, while an amphibious assault will be performed near Koningsberg. A coordinated attack will follow with the intention of encircling the forces of the Red Army in Eastern Prussia.

Phase 3

The third phase of the operation will consist of a general counter-attack of the German forces with the intention of cutting the Soviet forces in half and forming two major encirclements in eastern Poland. A detailed analysis of this phase will be conducted when it becomes necessary.

-----------------

The Romanian Question


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Romania is neutral, but its government is pro-Soviet. Our agents will continue to support the local Nazi resistance and it remains to be seen how the future of Romania unfolds.

However, in case of stalemate on the Eastern Front our troops assisted by our Hungarian and Bulgarian allies will be ordered to invade the Romanian territory and later proceed to attack the Soviet territory directly.

-----------

The African Question


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Fighting in Northern Africa is still inconclusive. Our Italian allies could assist us on the Eastern Front but they are bogged down in the African deserts. We will continue to destroy the Allied merchant marine, but should the situation become critical and other circumstances permit us to do so we will perform an invasion of French West Africa with the intention of depriving the Allied forces still fighting there of supplies. An invasion along the northern African coast will follow.

---------

Other matters

All operational plans concerning the Iberian campaign are cancelled. Friendly relations with the Spanish government will be maintained.

We will try to keep the USA out of this war for as long as possible. This is a matter of utmost importance, as we cannot fight effectively on two fronts.

We will monitor the situation in the Far East closely. It should be noted that the Chinese are willing to join the Axis, but our stance on the issue is not fully formed yet.

-------------------------------------

Comments are welcome...
 

CptEasy

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Where is Yugoslavia on the diplomcy map? Get them onboard the Axis warship and the three minors can cut down Romania without you lifting a finger.

I'm slighly sceptical about the African mission. It will both drain your forces, spread your borders (where Allies can attack) and pull at your attention. Set some Italian objectives for that. Better they do that and you do Russia than both of you doing both ;) I think you need to focus everything on USSR. Design a decisive strike-operation and try to capture them in pockets. Its the only way.

How's Finland? If you can get them to join you and divert Soviet forces it would be good - but they would need back up if they join Axis.