Going back to Italian can opening, I like to buy a mech or two It1 and send a tank with them w/bmr to open up some doors for the Germans. The Italians can take territories and have the Germans move in with land and air to stand next to the Russian stack (no Russian hit and run). Having the Italians take out Russian pickets can possibly let German units get to the Ukraine IC or oil territories quicker. Another form of Italian can opening I do is taking out the Russian cruiser blocker in the Baltic w/It air so the Germans can include an amp on Leningrad the turn they attack Russia. Having a small Italian force at the front lines can also head off a splintered UK force trying to come up from the south. If the Japanese are at Russia’s back door, or have managed to push the UK from the Middle East (USA going heavy Europe), then the Italians may be able to break into the Oil territories for income, leaving the Germans intact to push into Moscow. It seems like a waste for the Japanese to get all the oil territories when the Ger/Ital get a bonus, but having the Japanese get Caucasus works for the Euro axis. Also having the Japanese invading the Far East Pac territories to drain Russian income is a must IMO. Invade no later the J2, and don’t fear the Mongolians just have some ground units in place to to chase most of them down w/air power.
On a side note I generally build some combo of ships/tpt/bmrs G1/G2, or save most income G1 to keep the UK honest. By the end of G2 I’ll have at least 3 tpts, 4 bmrs along with some support ships to again make the UK pay attention (even when my intention is to use navy to drop units in Russia). I just don’t like to give the UK the freedom to do what she wants. I have been using SBR more on London/Moscow to force the allies to pay extra for their units. In some games you can force the Russians to build every other turn, but the RAF can make that difficult in both capitals though. I also like to add art to the early German buys to give the front lines a little more bite. Most allied opponents will get some air to Moscow, so the German stack will most likely get stalled allowing art built G2 to catch up as you use the Russian ICs to add more units.