From the outset, the eastern front was a very different theatre of war to the western front, vastly more extended, traversing plains and mountain ranges, much of it sparsely populated with poor communications and transport. The Germans, wedded to the Schlieffen Plan, hoped their strong eastern defences and Austrian allies would thwart Russia, while a lightning westward strike neutralized France. However, Russia, with the largest and in many ways best-equipped army of any of the combatants, was not willing to be contained and immediately attacked East Prussia. But the Russian strategy was undermined by poor logistics, rendering it incapable of fighting the fluid war of manoeuvre required in such a huge theatre of operations. Austria-Hungary’s army suffered from weak leadership and were poorly equipped. Moreover, the bulk of the army ranks were recruited from Slavic regions of the Empire and thus dubiously committed to war with Slav opponents.
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