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"What if ... Napoleon had NOT invaded Russia?" Topic


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Personal logo DWilliams Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 7:07 a.m. PST

What would have happened if Napoleon had decided not to invade Russia in 1812?

(a) The 'European Union' would be called the "Empire of France" today.
(b) He still would have been defeated by coalition allies (Austria, Russia, Prussia, Britain, etc.).
(c) British control of the seas and blockade would have weakened his empire and crushed it eventually.
(d) ___________________ (something else)

StarCruiser03 Sep 2016 7:22 a.m. PST

He certainly wouldn't have lost so many men…

Napoleon was a believer in taking the battle to the enemy, rather than allowing the enemy the chance to pick the time and place. I don't think he could have avoided the invasion of Russia.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 7:23 a.m. PST

As Alexander had decided on war with France as early as 1810, war was probably inevitable.

If Napoleon had not invaded, the Russians would still have attempted to absorb the Duchy of Warsaw, which was what they were trying to do anyway.

daler240D03 Sep 2016 7:25 a.m. PST

actually a very good question. Would he have been able to NOT do some other self destructive thing that would have been his undoing? He seemed to have a good knack for organization ( leading to answer "a") but would that alone have been enough for him to do? I imagine he would have tried to conquer North Africa and make the Med a French Lake.

Winston Smith03 Sep 2016 7:42 a.m. PST

We would have no 1812 Overture.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 7:51 a.m. PST

Worse, no sleigh……where would I stick my diorama then? Any suggestions gratefully received

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 8:02 a.m. PST

WHAT IF… oh I love this game!!

TheGiantTribble03 Sep 2016 8:14 a.m. PST

I wonder if he wouldn't have headed in the other direction and put all his efforts into invading England, after all one of the reasons for invading Russia was because he didn't like our 'free captains' trading still with Russia.

Zippee03 Sep 2016 8:18 a.m. PST

Mostly it would depend on diplomacy – if he could convince Austria and Prussia that Russia was the threat then maybe a balance of power could have been established.

Austria and Russia so nearly came to blows in 1809 as it was and both were 'happy' to fight Russia in 1812.

The problem of course would be the Duchy of Warsaw and Silesia. A deal could possibly have been sorted sacrificing Warsaw for confirmation of the Rhinebund.

However the news from Spain would remain encouraging for a belligerent angry Prussia and a cash hungry Austria is always vulnerable to British overtures.

Without an Invasion would Wellington have had the political sanction to cross the Pyrenees, his mandate was really liberation?

In short peace would require a change of government in Great Britain.

It might significantly change the ability of the coalition to genuinely make progress, it took 1813 and 1814 to do it after the 1812 disaster, how much longer against a full strength rested Grande Armee fighting on interior lines?

Does the coalition really have the stomach for 5-6 years of that or do they divide Poland (again) and call it a day?

Who asked this joker03 Sep 2016 8:40 a.m. PST

So the key here is, as already mentioned, Napoleon would not have lost so many men in disastrous fashion. In fact, he could have absorbed the Duchy of Warsaw and proclaimed to Russia, "We will be taking this now. No complaints? Good."

There was not a lot Russia could have done about it.

As for long term? Dunno. Maybe the Empire of France lasts until Napoleon's death (1821) and then the in-fighting would have begun.

I will point out that the Spanish Ulcer likely would have been less severe as Napoleon would have had both the cycles and the men to deal with it properly. We also might see the showdown between the Duke of Wellington and the Emperor much sooner than Waterloo.

CATenWolde03 Sep 2016 9:45 a.m. PST

Although this is "wargames speculation" about what might provide interesting campaigns/games … while it seems unlikely, it would interesting to speculate on the Polish Question triggering a Russian invasion and a French defensive war in Poland, with Austria brought in on the French side by promises of Russian land. French and Austrian goals might then be more limited – grab border provinces to expand Poland and Austria. Would Prussia have risen with the Grande Armee campaigning in Poland and Austria on France's side? Would Britain have been able to bribe either with the Grand Armee still extant?

Hmm … if Prussia arose too late, and Austria again allied with France in return for land, we might end up with a vastly strengthened France and Austria as the major players in Europe, linked by marriage.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse03 Sep 2016 9:56 a.m. PST

He return to Spain and conquer it again with Portugal…

He could managed any Russian "invation"…

Amicalement
Amrand

Korvessa03 Sep 2016 9:56 a.m. PST

I think the answer to that question is always Russia would have invaded him – the Mongols made them pretty xenophobic as a culture.
What if Charles XII hadn't invaded Russia? Sooner or later Russia would have invaded him.
What if Hitler hadn't? Same answer.
What if Napoleon hadn't? Same answer.

Zippee03 Sep 2016 10:19 a.m. PST

What if Napoleon hadn't? Same answer.

It's not that simple, Russia honoured its alliance in 1809, and only careful command choices managed to avoid actual conflict with Austria – many Russians wanted it.

Alexander refused to continue the Continental System – that was Napoleon's Big Idea to oppose Britain and he invaded in 1812 to enforce it – stupid in all ways!

With a passive or potentially belligerent Austria and Prussia in a settled peace with France and a solid Warsaw and Rhinebund, Russia has to invade a lot of other people to get to grips with France and for what?

Prussia has the spectre of occupation and dishonour to throw off – Russia doesn't, it came off the best of all the allies post 1807, Tilsit was really quite favourable – except for the CS bit.

If diplomacy can deal with the Polish Question and Napoleon can relax (with his ego this is a major stumbling block) on his Big Idea – which to be honest he can if there is a general European Peace because how long can GB keep up active hostilities with no allies? And with no change in the overseas/colonial situation then, sooner or later the GB government changes and refuses to pay for a navy to blockade French ports and to continue to spend money to further a European cause.

I think that people forget that the real warmonger throughout the period is GB not France. If everyone stops declaring war on France then there is peace.

Retiarius903 Sep 2016 10:27 a.m. PST

If Murat didnt screw up Nappy might have won 'The Second Polish War' in Poland, without an invasion of Russia itself

Lou from BSM03 Sep 2016 10:42 a.m. PST

I don't know…

I think (and my thoughts are based entirely on what I have read about the character of the man} he would have found another distraction to pursue. With Prussia effectively neutered, and Austria at least somewhat friendly due to the familial bond, I think he has quite a bit of freedom to choose his next action. There was always the question of the Spanish Ulcer, mentioned above. I think this to be the most likely outcome, at least in the short term. Another option would be to enforce the Continental System at its source, and invade Britain directly.
The other option, which is least likely in my opinion, is to sit and do nothing and consolidate his gains. He could have divested himself of the Spanish issue and revisited it later on, and used the time to train, re-equip, and conscript new forces both from France and the satellite states. Fully establishing Poland in spite of the Russians would have been an act of thumbing his nose at them for their refusal to accept the Continental System. He could have also used it as a bargaining chip to enforce compliance. The Russians were equally eager to reduce Austrian and Prussian influence in the region and an independent Polish state would accomplish both goals.

He certainly had many options but I think he would have chosen something reckless and foolhardy simply because of who he was. If he hadn't invaded Russia, he would have most likely turned his full focus towards Spain and possibly Britain in turn.

Whirlwind03 Sep 2016 11:01 a.m. PST

Is there a specific document or plan in which Alexander decides in 1810 that he is going to attack Imperial France?

basileus6603 Sep 2016 11:41 a.m. PST

What would have happened if Napoleon had decided not to invade Russia in 1812?

That he would have done it in 1813, and Tchaikovsky would have composed the Oberture 1813.

Once Russia decided to defy the Continental System war was inevitable. I don't think that Napoleon did look forward to it, though. He really wanted to woo Alexander and bring him back into the Imperial fold. Look at his actions: even after invading Russia Napoleon restrained himself from creating a Kingdom of Poland. Yes, it is possible that he had in mind Austrian interests too, but his letters show that his main concern was Russia. He knew that such step would made impossible any kind of future agreement with Russia. Remember that once in Moscow, Napoleon spent precious weeks trying to negotiate a peace treaty with Tsar Alexander.

It is not like Alexander was particularly fond of war, either. He couldn't confront his nobility for any time longer, though. He hadn't forgot how he had reached the throne: upon the corpse of his father, murdered by his own nobles. Alexander could be an autocrat, but he was a terrified one. At least, he was in 1812. Perhaps he wasn't enthusiastic about going to war with France, but he knew that his survival -and not in a metaphorical sense- depended on he looking tough on France and her Emperor. Moreover, he had a perfectly legitimate reason beyond simply being afraid of his aristocratic class: no sovereign can claim to be such if his decisions regarding with who his own country can or can not make bussiness is limited by fear to the military action of a foreign country.

So, we have a zero-sum game in our hands: neither Napoleon nor Alexander had enough room to maneuver and avoid war. For Alexander, his best option was stop enforcing the Continental System; for Napoleon that was completely unacceptable, and only could be answered properly through war.

We can imagine that Napoleon would have chosen a conservative strategy and didn't invade Russia. Create the Kingdom of Poland and call it quits, waiting for the Russian response. Besides of being totally out of character -a bad novelist plothole-, it wasn't such a brilliant move either. For starters, a Polish kingdom wouldn't have forced Russia back into the Continental System. Through Russia, British goods could have flooded Central Europe. That is strike one. Strike two is that Napoleon wasn't ignorant that such a move would have benefited both Britain and Russia, and you do not want to give your adversaries the means to become even stronger than they already are. Finally, even if he wouldn't have invaded he needed to sustain a substantial army on Poland. In the long run, the Polish could have shoulder part of the costs, but Poland was poor even in the best of the circumstances; you could strip her bare and still you would have need to bring supplies from Central Europe to feed your soldiers and their beasts (think about the price tag! It would have ruined the French Treasury). Strike three.

Finally, there is the small fact that Napoleon couldn't stay away from Paris for long, or else he risked a(nother) conspiracy against him. It could succeed. When you try to read Napoleon decissions while being away from Paris take that in mind. He never forgot how weak were the foundations of his throne. Once he was committed to a course of action he knew that it was to do or die. There was no middle ground. Either he won or he lost, and lost big. After he decided that to tame Russia was a priority, invasion became almost inevitable.

basileus6603 Sep 2016 11:43 a.m. PST

As Alexander had decided on war with France as early as 1810, war was probably inevitable.

Alexander hadn't decided such a thing. He had decided to stop abiding by the Continental System, and he knew that step meant war with France. See? Not the same.

GarrisonMiniatures03 Sep 2016 12:04 p.m. PST

I would have expected him to create a Kingdom of Poland, then turned back to Spain. Eventually, though, both Russia and Britain would have had to be dealt with directly – and he was not a great one for naval adventures.

Zippee03 Sep 2016 1:39 p.m. PST

That he would have done it in 1813, and Tchaikovsky would have composed the Oberture 1813.

Once Russia decided to defy the Continental System war was inevitable

I rather took the premise of not invading to mean 'what if Napoleon chose a different course of action'. That means he somehow swallows his ego and accepts that the CS isn't working or isn't enforceable. How that happens is hard to imagine – he would certainly need to convince himself it was his idea.

So assuming he decides to accept that Russia doesn't have to comply with the requirement to enforce the CS and therefore doesn't have to invade to force Alexander to comply. What then?

Without that declaration of war – how does GB (or the Prussian agitator party) compel Europe back to war. Who really wants it at this point? Can we believe that an older Napoleon could actually settle into his administration and concentrate on development?

Personally I think that is easier to believe than not, all the activity post 1807 are to create order (in the interest of France obviously) and stability. Even the Spanish gamble can be seen in that light.

If he could swallow his pride and accept Russian non-compliance we could have had a lasting peace in central Europe. But he didn't, the campaign was a disaster and so significantly weakened his position that no-one could gain say the war hawks, who saw a chance to reset the clock.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 2:24 p.m. PST

…Russia honoured its alliance in 1809…

In actuality, no they didn't. They engaged in little, if any, combat in support of the Poles against the Austrians and actually interfered in Polish military operations.

Russia was an unfaithful ally and wanted the Duchy of Warsaw for herself. Alexander tried to convince the Poles to join with him and Russia, with Alexander as sovereign, and he was rejected by the Duchy.

Alexander's actions against the Duchy was one of the causes of war in 1812.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2016 2:27 p.m. PST

Alexander hadn't decided such a thing.

Yes, he had. He had proven himself a false ally, both at Erfurt in 1808 as well as against Austria in 1809.

If you want a quick overview of the strategic situation, Alexander's decisions, and Alexander's overt actions against the Duchy of Warsaw, Dominic Lieven gives an excellent summary of the issues, problems, and Alexander's actions, even though Lieven is certainly pro-Russian here.

The overall situation is not as simple as the issue of the Continental System. That is an excuse, not a reason for war in 1812.

Russian foreign policy, no matter who the head of state was – Tsar, Commissar, or Deleted by Moderator, expansion at the expense of her neighbors has always been Russian foreign policy.

basileus6603 Sep 2016 9:16 p.m. PST

That's not what Lieven argues (I've read his book… twice). It is how you have chosen to interpret Alexander's actions. Lieven proposes a nuanced analysis of Russia's process of decision. And no matter how you want to put it but the fact, the undeniable fact, is that it was Napoleon -again- who moved against another country and invaded her. It is a weak defence, and unnecessary too.

I don't care for the morality of neither Napoleon nor Alexander. I prefer to try to understand why they took the actions they did; why that path instead other potential choice.

attilathepun4703 Sep 2016 9:34 p.m. PST

My crystal ball is a bit cloudy today, so I will not attempt to say what would have happened. But I have a pretty good idea of what could and should have happened before any invasion of Russia. I would say that history gives some pretty strong hints that it is poor policy to start a new war without finishing an old one. Therefore, Napoleon should have concentrated his power on driving the British out of the Peninsula and crushing the regular forces of Spain and Portugal, as well as taking control of all the major population centers in both countries. It was probably not possible to eliminate the guerilla problem, but they would have become much less effective without any regular forces to distract French suppression efforts, and with the number of safe havens greatly reduced. Only then should Napoleon have even considered (and then reconsidered) the question of a possible invasion of Russia. A successful conclusion of his affairs in the Peninsula might have given Alexander (and others) occasion for an attitude adjustment.

Whirlwind03 Sep 2016 9:53 p.m. PST

If people now know that Alexander had decided in 1810 that he was going to initiate war against Napoleon then there will be documents, records of the discussions and plans of attack: can these be indicated please?

Zippee04 Sep 2016 1:02 a.m. PST

…Russia honoured its alliance in 1809…

In actuality, no they didn't. They engaged in little, if any, combat in support of the Poles against the Austrians and actually interfered in Polish military operations.

I'm not saying Russia was fully on board but she didn't baulk at the prospect much either. It took careful management to void outright conflict with Austria. If Alexander wanted a pretext for war against France, here it was on a plate with a formidable ally – what choice did he make?

Russia was also at war with GB remember right up until 1812, and happily carving up Sweden's possessions in the Baltic and engaging the Ottomans in the south. Plenty to do and gain without looking for a war in western Europe, just wants a slice of Poland/Silesia.

Whirlwind04 Sep 2016 1:05 a.m. PST

Without that declaration of war – how does GB (or the Prussian agitator party) compel Europe back to war. Who really wants it at this point?

The war against Britain becomes unsustainable for the French – the pressure is the other way around. Britain at war with France but able to trade freely in Europe and control the seas at the same time is a nightmare for Napoleon. I guess the question in the OP might as well be framed as "what do you think the minimum terms that Britain would accept from Napoleon would be?"

Zippee04 Sep 2016 1:06 a.m. PST

the undeniable fact, is that it was Napoleon -again- who moved against another country and invaded her.

Sorry but 1812 is the only time France/Napoleon declares war (if you accept Spain as an internal coup). All the other iterations of the coalition and associated wars are declared against France – usually at GBs instigation.

There is no 'again' about it.

Zippee04 Sep 2016 1:14 a.m. PST

The war against Britain becomes unsustainable for the French – the pressure is the other way around. Britain at war with France but able to trade freely in Europe and control the seas at the same time is a nightmare for Napoleon. I guess the question in the OP might as well be framed as "what do you think the minimum terms that Britain would accept from Napoleon would be?"

For acceptable terms, go back to 1806 when GB and Russia sued for peace. Napoleon was on top of the world and wouldn't grant them the terms they wanted, that may have been hubris but given the military situation somewhat understandable.

Without an 1812 invasion to kick off a general European War again, I think it's a matter of time before the 'perpetual state of war between France and GB' winds down in intensity to the same level it was at throughout the bulk of the 18th C. GB accepts it's supreme colonial position and continues into splendid isolation and world domination just at it did in the 19th C anyway.

Whichever way you look at it invasion in 1812 was a really dumb move, and a colossal misreading of the times and situation.

And in the greater picture GB has won it's empire (shame about the Americas but hey ho!) the reason to continue funding a European War fades rapidly – just need an acceptable way out of the Spanish Question.

Whirlwind04 Sep 2016 1:49 a.m. PST

Sorry but 1812 is the only time France/Napoleon declares war (if you accept Spain as an internal coup). All the other iterations of the coalition and associated wars are declared against France – usually at GBs instigation.

No, France declared war in 1792 to begin the war of the First Coalition. And Napoleon's invasion of Egypt kicked off the war of the Second Coalition. Britain declared war on Napoleon to begin the war of the Third Coalition true, but after Napoleon had threatened to declare war on Britain. Apart from Napoleon's invasions of Portugal, Spain and Ruissian the remaining conflicts are the defeated European powers trying to regain the territories that Napoleon had taken from them. I guess a lot depends on whether you consider that a Napoleonic conquest is legitimate, in a "might equals right" sort of way.

Whirlwind04 Sep 2016 1:58 a.m. PST

For acceptable terms, go back to 1806 when GB and Russia sued for peace

Is there a good online summary of this?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2016 4:30 a.m. PST

No, France declared war in 1792 to begin the war of the First Coalition. And Napoleon's invasion of Egypt kicked off the war of the Second Coalition. Britain declared war on Napoleon to begin the war of the Third Coalition true, but after Napoleon had threatened to declare war on Britain. Apart from Napoleon's invasions of Portugal, Spain and Ruissian the remaining conflicts are the defeated European powers trying to regain the territories that Napoleon had taken from them. I guess a lot depends on whether you consider that a Napoleonic conquest is legitimate, in a "might equals right" sort of way.

A few errors here.

First, Britain was already at war with France in 1798, so a new war could not be started by anyone. And the Directory, the new government of France, agreed with Napoleon's proposal to invade Egypt, so the expedition did not begin a new war. The Second Coalition was formed by Great Britain in 1798, but a state of war between France and Great Britain already existed. And the expedition to Egypt was an indirect attack on Great Britain.

Second, the campaign of 1800 in northern Italy and Germany was a continuation of the War of the Second Coalition which was concluded successfully after Napoleon became head of state in November 1799.

Third, Great Britain broke the Treaty of Amiens without a declaration of war, beginning it by seizing French merchant shipping.

Fourth, The Austrians, at Britains' urging, invaded France's ally Bavaria in 1805 to begin renewed war against France, and was thus the aggressor. Russia joined the Third Coalition also at Britains ‘urging.' Prussia was the aggressor in 1806, again joined by Russia, and the 1807 war was a continuation against Prussia's ally Russia. The campaign of 1809 against Austria was an immediate response to Austria's invasion of Bavaria, done without a declaration of war in order to take advantage of Napoleon's supposed preoccupation of the invasion of Spain.

Further, Spain and France both planned to invade Portugal, which was a traditional ally of Great Britain for various reasons, one of which was Portugal keeping her ports open to British trade.

Napoleon turned on his ally, Spain, because of documents found in Berlin when Napoleon entered in November 1806 that demonstrated that Spain was prepared to turn on Napoleon if Prussia won. That problem could not be dealt with directly at the time, so Napoleon demanded and got a Spanish corps of 15,000 under Romana to station on the Baltic. Napoleon was also disgusted with the degenerate Spanish Bourbons as a ruling family, as well as Godoy.

The invasion of Russia was a preemptive strike as Napoleon had found out that Alexander was prepared to turn on him and had begun preparing for war against France as early as 1810 and was also threatening the Duchy of Warsaw.
Napoleon's three great errors were the Berlin Decrees/Contintental System, the invasion of Spain, and the invasion of Russia. The invasion and failure to bring Spain under French control established a continuous second front and ‘absorbed' roughly 300,000 French troops. This was the fatal error on Napoleon's part and it hurt him more than the defeat in Russia.

To summarize, Napoleon as head of state can only be faulted as an aggressor in Portugal and Spain, and somewhat in Russia. All of the other wars from 1800-1815 were defensive in nature with the coalitions, financed by Great Britain, being aggressive wars against France.

Whirlwind04 Sep 2016 5:04 a.m. PST

No errors in mine but a few in the posting above.

First, Britain was already at war with France in 1798, so a new war could not be started by anyone. And the Directory, the new government of France, agreed with Napoleon's proposal to invade Egypt, so the expedition did not begin a new war. The Second Coalition was formed by Great Britain in 1798, but a state of war between France and Great Britain already existed. And the expedition to Egypt was an indirect attack on Great Britain.

Anyone with that view then cannot simultaneously hold the view that anyone attacked Napoleon in 1805, 1806 or 1809 as exactly the the same situation obtained in those years.

Third, Great Britain broke the Treaty of Amiens without a declaration of war, beginning it by seizing French merchant shipping.

I already mentioned this.

Further, Spain and France both planned to invade Portugal, which was a traditional ally of Great Britain for various reasons, one of which was Portugal keeping her ports open to British trade.

So yes, Napoleon invaded it.

Napoleon turned on his ally, Spain, because of documents found in Berlin when Napoleon entered in November 1806 that demonstrated that Spain was prepared to turn on Napoleon if Prussia won. That problem could not be dealt with directly at the time, so Napoleon demanded and got a Spanish corps of 15,000 under Romana to station on the Baltic. Napoleon was also disgusted with the degenerate Spanish Bourbons as a ruling family, as well as Godoy.

Basileus has already dealt with this one at length in previous postings in this forum. Whatever, Napoleon still betrayed and invaded his ally (after his ally did send the requested corps).

The invasion of Russia was a preemptive strike as Napoleon had found out that Alexander was prepared to turn on him and had begun preparing for war against France as early as 1810 and was also threatening the Duchy of Warsaw.

I have asked twice for references to the documentary evidence that Alexander was planning in 1810 to launch an invasion of the French Empire, but none has been forthcoming.

Ben Avery04 Sep 2016 5:08 a.m. PST

I would concur with Kevin that the Continental System (an aggressive act of economic warfare) is right up there, along with Spain and then Russia in order of mistakes. These are also notable instances when, as Kevin points out, Bonaparte was the aggressor and failed on each occasion, as much the architect of his downfall as Britain. Political aggression should be considered too though and playing chicken with Britain wasn't sensible.

I'll leave it to basileus to have to argue the toss once again over using something written by one minister in 1806, in an era of shifting alliances, could be used as sufficient justification for actions taking place nearly two years later, especially when a treaty of alliance had been signed with Spain in the meantime. The invasion of Spain was particularly ill-judged, opportunistic aggression. Did other countries indulge in this? Of course, but please stop with the hypocrisy.

As for the OP, if he hadn't invaded Russia and headed back to Spain again to try and rescue the situation, then I'm sure an alliance could/would have been formed in the east. Having rejected a possibly longer lasting peace with Britain in 1806 and persisted with the Continental System, the wars would only end with the downfall of Bonaparte or Britain.

cosmicbank04 Sep 2016 6:12 a.m. PST

He never would have been mayer of New Orleans LA

Dogged04 Sep 2016 1:49 p.m. PST

It brings more interesting What Ifs. Here I give you mine:

- Napoleon interevens personally in the Peninsula after Burgos. Wellington escapes to Lisbon, being defeated along the way. The British keep supplying money and arms to guerrillas and regulars in Spain, but their own forces are cornered in Lisbon. Spanish armies are defeated both in the east and north of the Tagus, but escape in the south, Navarre and the Cantabrian coast. The French end the year in good positions and with their enemies beaten or in retreat, but alive.

- Joint Prussian-Russian attack on Duchy of Warsaw with Austria considering participation in either way. France reacts declaring war on Prussia and Russia. The Rhinebund joins and the French and allies defeat the Prussians while the Russians can't crush the Poles, with the Swedes joining the French side and taking the chance to attack in Finland. Austria, in a show of wits, attacks Prussia. In the resulting aftermath, Austria, Saxony and Warsaw get chunks of a reduced, crushed Prussia. Russia is in retreat, its armies defeated by the allied forces, and has to cede former Polish and northern territories to the Duchy of Warsaw and Sweden. Both the Ottomans and Austrians are more than willing to consider their options referring Russia…

- Seeing as a status quo seems to have been definitively imposed in the mainland, the British, who have the Americans in a war footing against them, are looking to a bleak perspective, pouring money in a Peninsular campaign that seems to go nowhere and with Europe enjoying a new Pax Napoleonnica. An agreement with France now looks like the most intelligent thing to do: France is the guiding force in Europe while Britain keeps building an economic empire around the world.

In the end the British parliamentarian system will have its parallel in France and other European countries. Liberal revolutions will shake Austria and the remnants of Prussia, and while such a situation in Russia is more difficult, it may be possible…

4th Cuirassier04 Sep 2016 3:52 p.m. PST

basileus wrote:

So, we have a zero-sum game in our hands: neither Napoleon nor Alexander had enough room to maneuver and avoid war. For Alexander, his best option was stop enforcing the Continental System; for Napoleon that was completely unacceptable, and only could be answered properly through war.

Yep, this.

The only way Napoleon was not going to assault Russia was if Russia enforced the Continental System. France simply lacked the clout to force it on both ends of Europe at the same time.

There would be no point leaving Russia alone and reinforcing Spain because there would still have been a gaping hole in the System.

Napoleon the politician wrote a cheque that Napoleon the general couldn't cash.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2016 3:38 a.m. PST

France under Napoleon was somewhat like a drunk who just has to have another drink. All the great works in France and it's prosperity depended upon conquest of new countries and taxing and taking their wealth for use by France. This kept French taxes low and prevented the subjugated from gaining enough power to oppose him. The continental system was just another method of this wealth transfer- weaken Britain and have the continent buy French goods or British goods that were smuggled through French hands. Napoleon would have closed the Baltic, reduced Spain and aided proxy wars against Russia as the alternative. The Russians may have thought about invading across the poor logistic lands of Beolruss and Poland but that did not have much chance of success. The Prussians and Austrians would have gladly resisted and pushed their empires eastwards at Russia's expense. It is likely that the Russiophile fractions (as opposed to the western looking fractions0 would have concentrated on conquest to the east against Persia, Turkey and Siberia.

civildisobedience05 Sep 2016 6:46 a.m. PST

If the Russians invaded Europe instead of Napoleon invading Russia, it seems fairly likely that the French could have won. Assuming nothing more foolish, perhaps a mellowing with age for Napoleon, it certainly seems likely the empire would have survived until his death. Whether he would have died in 1821 (environmental factors play some role) or not, it seems unlikely he was going to make it to 70 or 80.

Hard to say what would have happened then, but an interesting alternate history scenario (and wargaming premise) is a replay of the wars of the Diaidochi as the marshals contest each other for power (possibly each seeking alliance with a European power, thus shattering any anti-French alliance).

Fiction, but an interesting premise.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse05 Sep 2016 9:27 a.m. PST

If the Russians invaded and were defetead… at what stage Napoleon stop his counterofensive?… the Polish borders… or beyond?… Smolensk?… (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2016 11:21 a.m. PST

It was never Napoleon's intention of 'conquering' Russia and then occupying it. The intention was to defeat/destroy the Russian army and then dictate peace terms to the Tsar.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse06 Sep 2016 9:40 a.m. PST

Thanks Kevin…

Amicalement
Armand

Ottoathome06 Sep 2016 9:22 p.m. PST

1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, it would have mattered little the year.

The question was if Napoleon was ever going to tolerate someone saying "no" to him.

Perhaps the question to put to the "not really so great man" would be "Tell me Nappy, how would YOU feel if someone invaded your country, slaughtered your armies, and looted your land ten times before Sunday. Would you remain quiescent and satisfied?"

And that's the problem isn't it.

Its always "the fringes" from which the threat comes. It's always the land just beyond the borders that forms the new foci of opposition, simply because it's not been cowed and humiliated.

Dictate peace terms to the Tzar? Whatever good would that do unless you have French troops garrisoning the defeated to enforce them. How long will the Tzar remain "dictated to?" And if he did, then the Emperor of China would have been the next enemy.

attilathepun4706 Sep 2016 9:33 p.m. PST

@Ottoathome,

I think you grasp the over-arching theme extremely well. Just like Alexander the Great, Napoleon will never stop until one of the following happens: 1. His troops refuse to follow him any longer. 2. He is completely defeated. 3. He dies. The reasons are his supreme egotism and opportunism.

42flanker06 Sep 2016 10:44 p.m. PST

C'mon, gentlemen. You know the Emperor just wanted to stay home and make babies

Ottoathome07 Sep 2016 5:49 a.m. PST

Dear Attilathepun47

Thank you. The best biographical sketch of Napoleon I ever read was in Hendrik Van Loons "Lives". There, he spoils the dinner party given by Van Loon which includes Beethoven and Van Loons own Great Grandfather (who was one of Napoleons soldiers). He dominates the conversation and talks incessantly, (only about himself) and the only time he addresses anyone else it is Van Loon's grandfather who he pats on the head like a good dog but doesn't really care about him one bit, save that he is one more life for him to use, even in the afterlife.

He disturbs everyones dinner by taking all the silverware, plates, and utensils to lay out his battles and explain his own genius and why he should have won at Waterloo, and in the end is like a 12 year old looking up at the adults and trying to explain the wreck of the china closet that was the families pride and joy.

He had to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

By John 5407 Sep 2016 3:18 p.m. PST

Oops, I can hear Gazzola, and Brechs teeth grinding from here! Dear god man, don't anger it!

Oh, LOL.

John

von Winterfeldt07 Sep 2016 10:36 p.m. PST

"He had to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral."

Very well phrased

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP08 Sep 2016 11:53 a.m. PST

He still would have been beaten just would have taken longer.

He had the Prussians, British, Austrians, Russians and his ally smaller countries were turning against him.

It would still have came down to numbers and he was outnumbered and fighting on many fronts.

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