Helmuth von Moltke, the West’s War on Russia and the ‘New Roman Empire’

This article was first published in The Present Age magazine Vol. 2 No.3, June 2016

In his Reflections and Memories, written in Homburg in November 1914, General Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff at the outbreak of war in 1914,  makes quite clear that “Our failure to overwhelm France in the first attack was due to England’s fast intervention”(1). The British had been planning since 1906 to send their forces to France to collaborate with the French army in a great attack against Germany in the European war that all the ruling elites of the Great Powers felt was approaching. By 1914, all British preparations had been made down to the last detail to land the six divisions of the British Expeditionary Force in France as  soon as war broke out. The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey kept British military plans and intentions to aid France in the event of war secret, even from his own fellow Cabinet members, until the secret came out in 1911. Later, in Berlin in the summer of 1915 Moltke describes that in the critical Battle of the Marne (Sept.1914) a French counter-attack from Paris against the right of von Kluck’s 1st Army, which was advancing to the east of Paris, opened up “a 25 km gap between the 1st and 2nd German Armies, into which three English divisions penetrated, whereupon the 2nd [German] Army withdrew its right wing.”(2) Further, Moltke writes that his decision to transfer two corps from the German right wing to help counter the Russian invasion of Germany in East Prussia “was a mistake and one that we would pay for at the Marne,”(3) and that “the most momentous decision that I faced as Chief of the General Staff was as to whether Germany should fight the anticipated war on two fronts, defensively, or at least on one front, offensively. After detailed investigation and studies, I decided in favour of the latter course, so that the offensive in the West could be carried out with the strongest possible forces, and a simultaneous war in the East could be fought with the minimum number of troops. There was some hope that a decisive action could be fought quickly in the West…but it could only be expected if the French army could be fought in open combat.”(4)

Moltke and the German General Staff thus hoped and expected to annihilate the French army in a major battle, as indeed had happened at Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Having knocked out the French, they then intended to send their troops East to deal with the Russians. This was in essence the so-called ‘Schlieffen Plan’ that had been proposed by Moltke’s predecessor as Chief of the General Staff,  Count Alfred von Schlieffen. The plan of a massive attack in the West to destroy the French armies required moving into French via Belgium and thus a deliberate infringement of Belgian neutrality. Those in Britain in the circle of King Edward VII (1901-1910) and others in the elite who were looking forward to a war against Germany counted on using such a German infringement of Belgian neutrality as a pretext to enable Britain to fight alongside France.

But Schlieffen and Moltke both underestimated any participation by the small British army and both evidently forgot that in 1870 France had not been supported by Britain. This is why, in 1914 the German military hoped for another quick victory over the French in 1914 by applying Schlieffen’s strategy. If it brought in the British on France’s side, no matter, France would be decisively defeated even with the British present. In November 1914 Moltke wrote: “The General Staff also repeatedly debated whether it might not be better to wage a defensive war. It was always rejected as it precluded the possibility of speedily engaging the enemy in his own territories. It was taken into account that Belgium would protest against our crossing but would not mount an armed resistance.”(5)   So the German High Command did not want to fight in Germany, although they ended up doing that anyway, as German territory was invaded in force by French and Russian armies before the main German thrust into France via Belgium. The German (notably Prussian) military caste wanted a glorious offensive knockout victory on foreign soil as they had achieved at Sedan in 1870. They did not want to fight a long defensive war on German territory; however,  to be fighting a defensive war on both fronts would have stood them in better stead in the eyes of the world. It is perhaps unsurprising that the Prussian military caste would not care too much for such political considerations. Moltke was aware enough of them, however, to amend Schlieffen’s planning so as to avoid having to invade Holland as well as Belgium, but although he was Chief of the General Staff  from 1906 to 1914, he was unable to come up with a fundamentally different strategy from that of Schlieffen. As a result, the Belgian factor in German military planning brought about Britain’s intervention in the war, and that not only upset the German strategy at the crucial Battle of the Marne in 1914 but guaranteed a long war, which in European history, had always tended to be the result of British action (e.g. Britain’s wars against against Louis XIV and Napoleon). Eventually, British participation proved to be a major factor in America’s entry into the war in 1917.
However, although many have argued that Moltke’s actions led to German failure at the Marne and even that after the Marne the war was essentially lost for Germany, it could also be argued that ‘the Belgian factor’ in Moltke’s planning, which brought in the British, also led ultimately to the end of the British Empire, because the effort needed to defeat Germany turned out to be such a pyrrhic victory for the British(6) that the Empire was by 1919 in fact mortally wounded and steadily died away over the subsequent half-century. Britain’s situation in 1919 was entirely different from what it had been in 1914. The country’s wartime and post-war debts to the USA ($4.27 billion; that was about £40 billion at 2006 rates, and if adjusted by the growth in the Gross Domestic Product, about £225 billion), which it was unable to repay (it ceased to service this debt in 1932), meant that Britain was now subject to the economic and political will of the United States, as evidenced at the Treaty of Washington (1921) when the USA forced Britain to downgrade its navy and abandon its alliance with Japan. A decision by the German General Staff under Moltke  to fight a defensive war on both fronts would have precluded any infringement of Belgian neutrality and any thus possibility of British involvement in support of France. Of course, the British elite might still have pressed for the government to join the war in support of France, as indeed a few leading members of the British Cabinet (Grey, Churchill, Asquith) did on 2 August 1914 along with the leaders of the Conservative Party, who sent a message to the Liberal Cabinet that day urging them to fight for France (no mention was made of Belgium!), but the British Liberal Party as a whole and the British people would not have supported a war for France; the Belgian pretext was therefore essential to gain their support, as the pro-intervention faction were only too aware, and Grey’s historic speech in Parliament on 3 August and subsequent British propaganda from the Government and the Press secured that support.

Moltke’s actions in 1914  – his success and his failure  – were therefore of world-historical significance in both the East and the West: his prompt actions in August 1914 prevented the Russians from overrunning eastern Germany, but also the apparent failure of his strategy in the West led ultimately to the downfall of both the German and the British Empires.

2017: War with Russia?

In his post-mortem communications that were recorded by Rudolf Steiner and passed on to Moltke’s wife Eliza from 1916 to 1924 (contained in  the book Light for the new Millennium [1997/2014], above), the individuality of Moltke clearly shows that he had understood his failures in 1914 and Germany’s failures in the previous decades. Furthermore, he had understood that the future of Europe depends on a healthy relationship being established between Central and Eastern Europe. It is striking then, that almost exactly one month before the 100th death day of General Helmuth von Moltke, who in the 20th century had such a colossal military destiny affecting eastern, central and western Europe, a General appears in the West, in England, as the author of a book that forecasts war between Russia and the West in 2017, one hundred years after the Russian Revolution. On 19 May the British General Sir Richard Shirreff (b.1955), who from March 2011 to March 2014 was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe, appeared on BBC radio to talk about the subject of his novel published that day: 2017: War with Russia – An urgent warning from senior military command.(7)

In a novel that he does not call ‘fiction’ but “fact-based prediction” Shirreff writes in the preface that the West’s war with Russia has already begun; it began in Ukraine in March 2014. He sees the beginning of the crisis in the West’s “naive promise of NATO membership” to Ukraine in 2008: “a promise of collective defence that could never have been implemented militarily.” One thinks of the Anglo-French promise to Poland in March 1939… These were promises that seemed almost designed to encourage the receivers of the promise to act rashly with regard to the powerful countries that the West was actually seeking to defeat. But “this is a war”, writes Shirreff, “that could yet be avoided, if we act right now.” General Shirreff concludes his preface by quoting Trotsky (!): “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”, which is perhaps another way of saying: “the people may not be interested in war but the generals want the people’s money”.

Shirreff’s book is the latest in a dishonourable tradition of warmongering and scaremongering British fiction that seeks to ‘nudge’ the public in a foreign policy direction which just happens to be desired by certain elite circles. This tradition arguably began with The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer, a novella published in 1871, just after Prussia’s defeat of France, by George Tomkyns Chesney, a captain in the Royal Engineers. It describes a successful invasion of Britain by a German-speaking country and the end of the British Empire. The Battle of Dorking was followed by William Le Queux’s The Great War in England in 1897 (1894), H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1898) and The War in the Air (1907), Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (1903), The Invasion of 1910 by Le Queux (1906), When William Came by ‘Saki’(real name Hector Hugh Munro) (1913) and John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, written in 1914 just before the war but published in 1915. These hugely popular books, some of which had introductions or recommendations by senior public figures such as Field Marshal Lord Roberts, all had a very significant effect in preparing the public mind for war.(8)

The EU as the New Roman Empire
For the classically-educated British elite at that time, civilisation was of course identified with the ancient world of Greece and Rome, whose successors they held themselves to be. For the members of Lord Alfred Milner’s Round Table movement (founded 1909), for example, Britain’s role was to assert “freedom and light” (the principles of what they held to be a federated Commonwealth) against “theocracy and darkness”, which were regarded as the autocratic principles of Asia and the Central Powers. The Round Table movement, in which Milner and his acolytes sought to carry on mining magnate Cecil Rhodes’ dream of a world under Anglo-American dominion, led by a secretive group that Rhodes had conceived as a kind of English-speaking Jesuit Order, was by 1914 diverging into two wings: one, focused on the British imperial State and upheld by Milner himself and the older members, still believed in a federated Empire of the English-speaking peoples. To these older men, the world was to be united around the British Empire as a nucleus.”(9). The younger leaders of the Round Table, such as Lionel Curtis and Philip Kerr, had more mystical notions: the Empire was to die and be reborn as a world community, or a “Commonwealth of Nations”; such men would later put their faith in the League of Nations and the UN. Both the older and the younger members, however, believed in a form of global federalism that they trusted would in effect be governed by the English-speaking peoples. Such ideas of Curtis and Kerr were continued in various Anglo-American institutions in the second half of the 20th century and until the present day. One is the Lothian Foundation, founded in 1988.


Kerr (see photo above, left) was the 11th Marquess of Lothian, in Scotland; the Kerrs are an old Scottish noble family). This foundation keeps itself remarkably well-hidden, even online. Its director since 1989 has been Andrea Bosco (photo above, right), an Italian professor who is Jean Monnet ad personam Chairholder and expert of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the University of Florence, Italy.(10) He organises lectures and conferences in cooperation with Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) and British universities to advocate for a pro-EU British foreign policy. From two volumes he has edited, titled The Federal idea Vols.1 and 2 (Lothian Foundation Press 1991), it is evident that Bosco is very well-connected to the transatlanticist and continental European academic elites. On 11-13 June 2014 at the University of Riga, in Latvia, at a Jean Monnet Conference with the theme of “EU Eastern Partnership” Bosco gave a lecture titled “EU-Russia Relations in a Prospect of Further Enlargement of the EU”. It is one of the rare lectures by Bosco available online.(11)  First, he argues that the EU would not be shrinking in the future and then asserts it will enlarge. Where next, he asks? It will be the western Balkan countries and then will come what he calls the “eastern enlargement”. By this he says he means “Turkey….Ukraine , but also the Middle East. The Middle East in the new time will be attracted within the European Union… not just trade but also stability…” The EU will be able to “provide a scenario” that will end all the conflicts and tensions in the Middle East. He goes on to say that the EU “might enlarge toward North Africa….candidates like Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt might get in. Let’s figure out a Union of 50 member states. Some young people in this room might see a Union of 50 member states”, (for example, by 2050), “as the US, they started with 14 [sic] colonies.” American federalism has always been the model for European federalists, including the Round Tablers.
    The Euro, says Bosco with hubris, has transformed the EU from being “an object of the Great Powers”, which it was from the 1950s, into a “global actor”. The attraction of the EU is not only trade and the Euro but also “political, more than economic”; it forms “a system that is so powerful… that no countries, no association of countries  in the world is able to challenge it”. He points out that no-one in the world can challenge NATO and that “NATO is the secret of the strength of the political attraction of the European Union”. In other words, he is saying that NATO – the military forces of which of course are always commanded by an American  -  is the de facto armed force of the EU!
    “Now the problem, “he says, is “Russia”. Today, “Russia is a neo-imperialist state”…what is Russia’s role in the world today?” Russia could have become a member of the EU between 1997 and 2000, he says, because the Italians Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi had promoted it. The Americans had wanted to work with the Russians. But “the Germans were against this idea”. We see that Bosco insinuates that Germany was opposed to bringing Russia into the EU. He may have regarded this as a German error, but if Germany did indeed keep Russia out of the EU at that time, Germany may have been doing Russia a favour in keeping it out of a construct that is actually harmful for Europe and for Russia. And anyway, he says, Russia too had its own interests which it wanted to defend. Then of course Putin came to power; Bosco glosses over this without mentioning it.  Like France, he says, Russia is a revolutionary state…: “The value of the Soviet and French revolutions is universal. In the Russian revolution we abolished the economic privilege of class; in the French we abolished the political privilege of class” [note the use of the word ‘we’ here]. These two revolutions Bosco relates  to the two pillars or “legs” on which, he says, Europe has to walk: ”individualism and community values”. “The great achievement of enlargement has been and will be to keep these two values together”. The EU, he says, is not a geographical, religious, racial organisation, he says. So what is it? “The EU is mainly an organisation that is able to resolve conflicts among states – that is it. That is its strength and why it can be exported. Before, we solved conflicts with wars and now we solve them constitutionally.” And now he comes to something he left out earlier: because of this conflict-resolution aspect, he says, the EU can enlarge to take in Israel, Palestine and Syria “which means to stabilise forever the most dynamic source of world conflicts since the collapse of the Roman Empire.”
    What has Bosco described? Pax Romana. The construction of a ‘state’, a ‘system’, as he calls it, that includes all the former lands of the Roman Empire as well as all those in northern Europe that were not in the Roman Empire. It is the Roman Empire reborn and enlarged, presented by an Italian under the banner of the transatlanticist  Frenchman Jean Monnet, and the British neo-imperial federalist Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian. We can here recall the words of Rudolf Steiner on 29 Nov. 1918 in Dornach (GA 186) : “If we investigate in the right way the question as to why the Western image of the human being is a spectre, we shall discover….that the spectre of the ancient Roman Empire lies at the bottom of the instincts that have led to the image of the human being in the Western parts of the world…This is nothing that really possesses life but is something that haunts the present like the ghost of the dead…The spectre of Romanism is haunting the West.”
    But Bosco tells us at the end of his presentation that, in trying to bring about this Pax Romana,  “we shall have a problem with Russia…a clash with Russia, because Russia will not be happy to see the enlargement of this Union”. Just as the Persian Empire, we can recall, was not exactly ‘happy’ to see the Roman Empire expanding ever more in Persia’s own part of the world. Then, significantly, Bosco reminds his audience that the EU became a community and then a Union because of the Cold War: “Without the existence of the Soviet Union”, he says, “we would never become as we did. We had enormous pressure from the US to get united”. In Washington in 1940-43 Jean Monnet, he says, “was persuaded by American intellectuals and civil servants to go back to Europe and work for European unity”. [N.b. that was before the Cold War!]. “The Americans had a fundamental influence on our business because we had a Cold War”. Finally, he now mentions Putin, who he enigmatically describes as “the most formidable factor for European political union” and finishes by saying Europe has to get a political union and a constitution, because only a federal government can provide the Euro, the Eurozone, with the instruments -  not just economic, but political and social instruments -  to survive.” Without spelling it out, Bosco is saying that tension, clash and conflict with Russia – a new Cold War with Russia -  will be necessary to enable the EU to become the kind of political Union and constitutional state system that he and his allies want to see, just as in the original Cold War, the Americans used that conflict with Russia to push the Europeans into creating first a community and then a Union. Rudolf Steiner pointed out on 15 January 1917 (GA 173c)  when explaining how the British devise their global policies that “in order to found a commercial and industrial world dominance, the first thing to do is to divide the main region into two parts…whatever takes place on the physical plane always requires a splitting into two parts.” In order to found their political neo-Roman Empire, the Eurocrats and their collaborators such as Bosco feel they need to make Russia into an enemy. Their centralised, federal United States of Europe can be constructed by means of the conflict between Russia and the West. General Sir Richard Shirreff and his novel 2017: War with Russia are part of the next phase in that process. But the attempt to revive the dead spectre of the Roman Empire will lead ultimately only to another, even greater East-West catastrophe than the two World Wars.

In the ninth century the Moltke individuality, as Pope Nicholas I, had to separate Central from Eastern Europe. In 1914 Moltke found himself bound by that same karma but was already beginning to free himself from it, aided by his wife Eliza, who had been his comrade in the ninth century. After death, he realised his future task was to turn towards the East and help to bring Central and Eastern Europe together for the good of Europe and the world as a whole. People in Central Europe today would do well to heed the words of the Moltke individuality in his message of 23 March 1918: “We must not approach the east with purely economic thinking: we have to think in such a way that the East can reach a spiritual understanding with Middle Europe…in the East, many people are waiting who must be ‘found’, for they would be able to ‘understand’ if one spoke to them in the right way. Any attempt to reach an understanding with those ‘people of the East’ who have become ‘western’ is futile. ‘The West’ corrupts these people since they eradicate their own being when they take into themselves ‘the West’.”
    Those in the West need to wake up to how their elites, driven by their Roman spectre,  have for over a hundred years been stirring up trouble between Central and Eastern Europe.

1.Light for the new Millennium: Rudolf Steiner, Helmuth von Moltke, Eliza von Moltke – Letters, Documents and After-Death Communications. Ed. T.H.Meyer, 1997 (rep. 2014) p. 107.
2. Ibid., p.90.
3. Ibid.,p. 89.
4. Ibid., p.85.
5. Ibid., p.106.
6. Ibid., p.235.
8. See A.J.A. Morris, The Scaremongers – The Advocacy of War and Rearmament 1896-1914 (London, 1984)
9 Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, (New York, 1981) p.126.
10. The author is grateful to Dr. Markus Osterrieder for drawing his attention to the existence of the Lothian Foundation and of Andrea Bosco.
11.Bosco’s lecture can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U-BOPN7FRI