The participation of Russia in the naval war must also be contemplated. That is the less dangerous, since the Russian Baltic fleet is at present still weak, and cannot combine so easily as the English with the French. We could operate against it on the inner line—i.e., we could use the opportunity of uniting rapidly our vessels in the Baltic by means of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal; we could attack the Russian ships in vastly superior force, and, having struck our blow, we could return to the North Sea. For these operations it is of the first importance that the Danish straits should not be occupied by the enemy. If they fell into the hands of the English, all free operations in the Baltic would be almost impossible, and our Baltic coast would then be abandoned to the passive protection of our coast batteries.
THE CRUCIAL QUESTION
I have examined the probable conditions of the next naval war in some detail, because I thought that our general political and military position can only be properly estimated by considering the various phases of the war by sea and by land, and by realizing the possibilities and dangers arising from the combined action of the hostile forces on our coasts and land frontiers. In this way only can the direction be decided in which our preparations for war ought to move.
The considerations, then, to which the discussion about the naval war with England and her probable allies gave rise have shown that we shall need to make very great exertions to protect ourselves successfully from a hostile attack by sea. They also proved that we cannot count on an ultimate victory at sea unless we are victorious on land. If an Anglo-French army invaded North Germany through Holland, and threatened our coast defences in the rear, it would soon paralyze our defence by sea. The same argument applies to the eastern theatre. If Russian armies advance victoriously along the Baltic and co-operate with a combined fleet of our opponents, any continuation of the naval war would be rendered futile by the operations of the enemy on land.
We know also that it is of primary importance to organize our forces on land so thoroughly that they guarantee the possibility, under all circumstances, of our victoriously maintaining our position on the Continent of Europe. This position must be made absolutely safe before we can successfully carry on a war by sea, and follow an imperial policy based on naval power. So long as Rome was threatened by Hannibal in Italy there could be no possible idea of empire. She did not begin her triumphal progress in history until she was thoroughly secure in her own country.
But our discussion shows also that success on land can be influenced by the naval war. If the enemy succeeds in destroying our fleet and landing with strong detachments on the North Sea coast, large forces of the land army would be required to repel them, a circumstance widely affecting the progress of the war on the land frontiers. It is therefore vitally necessary to prepare the defence of our own coasts so well that every attack, even by superior numbers, may be victoriously repelled.