23/4/1917 Scenting victory, German leaders prepare ambitious plans for post-war Europe

German leaders remain confident that the U-boat war will force Britain to its knees in a matter of months. With Russia looking increasingly chaotic that would leave France and Italy with no option but to make peace. This raises the question of what kind of peace this will be. German leaders meet at Kreuznach to discuss the future peace settlement. Chancerllor Bethmann Hollweg and Zimmermann, the foreign minister, are present, as are Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

The expectation of victory has inflamed German appetites. The meeting reaches some far reaching decisions on the reordering of Europe. Belgium is to remain under German occupation, with its intended future being that of a client state, though Liège and the coast will be permanently attached to Germany. Luxembourg will be absorbed into Germany, as will French mining regions. Germany will also gain territories in the east, with a Polish client state established beyond Germany’s expanded frontiers. Austria-Hungary will gain at the expense of Serbia, Albania and Romania.

Bethmann Hollweg would prefer a more flexible approach, so that the Russians could be lured into a separate peace by offering more generous terms. Although he states that he will not be bound by this agreement in the event of peace negotiations, the decisions at Kreuznach effectively preclude his pursuit of any kind of compromise peace.

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