The Russian army has a problem. In the 1914 and 1915 fighting it has done well against the Austro-Hungarians but been battered badly by the Germans. The recent failed Lake Naroch offensive appears to show that the Russians are still unable to take on the Germans. Yet at the Chantilly conference the Russians committed to launching a great summer offensive this year, as part of an Allied strategy of using near simultaneous offensives to overwhelm the enemy. With the French taking a battering at Verdun the Russians are facing increasing pressure to attack in strength to draw away German forces.
Today the Russian commanders on the Eastern Front meet with the Tsar at army headquarters to make plans for the summer. The commanders of the central and northern sectors both express no interest in launching any kind of offensive in their area. The favour a purely defensive posture.
Alexei Brusilov, the recently appointed commander of the southern sector, is more optimistic. He feels that with the right tactics it is possible for the Russian army to beat the enemy (particularly as in his case he is facing the Austro-Hungarians). Instead of an offensive aimed at breaking through at a single point, he proposes a surprise attack along a broad front. This would provide no key point of defence for German reinforcements to concentrate at.
The other generals are taken aback by Brusilov’s bold plan but Russia’s obligation to help France and Britain means that the Tsar agrees to back Brusilov’s offensive. It is also agreed that his assault will be followed shortly afterwards by Russian assaults elsewhere along the front, to prevent German reinforcements being sent to face Brusilov and hopefully overwhelm the enemy.
Brusilov image source (The Great War Blog)