Douglas Smith at Literary Review:
By the end of 1916, all the participants in the First World War were desperate to find some way to end the bloody stalemate. Anything that might possibly bring some advantage, no matter how unlikely its chance of success, was not to be ignored. Under the direction of Count von Brockdorff-Rantzau, Germany’s ambassador in Copenhagen, peace initiatives had already been forwarded to the Russians. The German foreign ministry spent millions on peace propaganda directed at its enemies, all to no avail. Next, the Germans looked to Russia’s revolutionary parties to help bring tsarism to its knees. They began secretly funnelling funds to them through a network of agents and spies, including the notorious intriguer Alexander Helphand, also known as Parvus. It was Parvus, in January 1915, who was apparently the first to approach the German government offering advice on how their enemy’s enemy could be put to work by encouraging upheaval at home and so speed the end of the war.
Living in European exile, Lenin was stunned when he learned of the fall of the monarchy in March 1917. ‘Staggering!’ he cried to his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya. ‘Such a surprise! We must get home.’ Here, Lenin’s and the German High Command’s wishes aligned.