RUSSIA AND EUROPE THROUGH
BRITISH EYES, 1725-91
Russia's decisive victory over Sweden, her acquisition of the Baltic provinces, the growth of her navy, were signs which western Europe could scarcely ignore that a new power of unforeseeable potentialities was rising in the east. In the seventeenth century it had been possible to regard Baltic issues and the remote and complex struggles of Muscovites, Ottomans, and Poles as largely irrelevant to the general problems of the European balance. As has been seen, the achievements of Peter I made this attitude almost impossible to maintain. Those of his successors destroyed it for ever. To ask at which precise moment Russia became clearly and unmistakably one of the great powers of Europe is a sterile and perhaps not very intelligent question. Whether she had already achieved this status by the end of the great struggle with Sweden,1 or whether it was attained only in the period of the Seven Years War2 or even later will always be debatable. What is beyond doubt is the spectacular growth of her strength, the ominous increase in the pressure she could exert on her weaker neighbours, and the growing realisation by the older Kulturmächte of west and central Europe of some at least of the implications of her new position.
The change in her status in Europe can be seen clearly in the development of Anglo-Russian relations during the generation after Peter's death. When he died the two powers were in a____________________