The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

THE GRAND STRATEGY OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE,
1650–1831
John LeDonne

It is always useful to begin with definitions. Grand strategy encompasses a vision, political objectives, and strategic planning. A government, a ruling elite, must have a comprehensive vision of what is needed to achieve security and gain political objectives. That vision is not static; it evolves with circumstances, but it proceeds from some basic assumptions. Grand strategy also includes strategy in the narrower sense—which is the art of making war on the map and moving armies across the whole theater of operations—industrial policy, and an ideology of cultural symbols that embodies the vision, informs strategy, and rationalizes policy. Grand strategy, then, means the management of the totality of forces and resources in war and peace.1

I postulate the existence of three theaters. One was the western or Baltic theater, encompassing the basin of the Baltic Sea east of the Norwegian Alps and the Elbe River. The dominant powers in the seventeenth century were Sweden and Poland, both of which invaded Russia during the Time of Troubles (1598–1613), and the Polish king even reached the Kremlin. But the rollback of the Polish empire began soon afterwards, and the peace of Andrusovo (1667) gave Russia Kiev and Smolensk. Russia's strategy would be to destroy the political and military capability of both powers, and the radius of its operations, taking Moscow as the epicenter of Russian expansion, would be about 2,000 kilometers. The second was the southern or Black Sea theater, encompassing the basin of that sea, although its western part, the Dniepr-Dniestr corridor, also belonged to the western theater because it was part of the Polish empire. The offensive there began with the establishment of a protectorate over the LeftBank Ukraine in 1654. Russia subsequently aimed at the destruction of the Crimean Khanate and the establishment of a permanent

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1
Jomini's “Art of War, ” in Roots of Strategy: A Collection of Military Classics, vol. 2 (New York, 1987), 460; Raoul Castex, Strategic Theories, trans. and ed. Eugenia C. Kiesling (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 44.

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