Expectations had been low for Brusilov’s offensive against the Austro-Hungarians. Brusilov’s fellow Russian generals had assumed that it would be another bloody failure, one that would humble the over-confident commander. Given the lack of success enjoyed by previous Russian efforts, the most their Italian allies had hoped for was for some distraction of the Habsburgs from their Trentino offensive. But Brusilov’s careful planning and innovative tactics have paid off. His men are continuing to advance and the Austro-Hungarians in the east are in a state of near collapse.
The scale of the Austro-Hungarian disaster is revealed by the number of prisoners the Russians have captured. The Russians have taken nearly 200,000 prisoners since the start of the offensive, a third of the Austro-Hungarian army in the east. Combined with those killed and wounded the Austro-Hungarian losses come to around half of their total Eastern Front complement.
That so many men have surrendered has led to rumours in Vienna of treachery at the front. Czech and other Slavic units are suspected of having given up at the first sign of the enemy. There are also rumours of mass desertions by Jewish troops, acting under the influence of British Zionists; these reports are particularly nonsensical, given the harsh treatment meted out to Jews by the Russians during their last invasion of Galicia. In fact supposedly reliable German Austrian troops are as likely to have surrendered as the suspect nationalities. The real cause of the disaster is the failure of the Austro-Hungarian commanders in the face of Brusilov’s challenge.
In a desperate effort to stem the Russian tide, Conrad has halted his Trentino offensive and is sending men east. But he knows that the Russians will not be halted until German troops arrive in considerable numbers.
Austro-Hungarian prisoners (First World War.com)