WI: Napoleon didn't invade Russia

I know this was a favorite counter factual speculation since the 19th century, but I've never really seen it answered. It's assumed Napoleon would remain in power. But how does history continue from there?

Let me qualify that Napoleon doesn't invade Russia because Alexander's empire is wrought with more internal strife and weakness so the Czar is more differential to Napoleon.
 
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I somewhere heared that Napoleon sayd something like: "If the Czar wouldn't be a man he would marry him" So They both had really good relations, I don't know when they ended, but maybe a Alliance could be established, or (maybe ASB:D) they evan marry :eek:
 
I know this was a favorite counter factual speculation since the 19th century, but I've never really seen it answered. It's assumed Napoleon would remain in power. But how does history continue from there?

Let me qualify that Napoleon doesn't invade Russia because Alexander's empire is wrought with more internal strife and weakness so the Czar is more differential to Napoleon.
Problem: most of the internal strife in Russia before the Patriotic War was discontent at the French entente and all it entailed: the continental system and, so Russians thought, being held back from the Ottomans and threatened by an Insidious Polish Conspiracy. Tsars could easily be removed by a discontented aristocracy at this time: it happened to Alexander's father, in fact, leaving a very strong impression on the boy, which is one of the many reason's why he was so messed up in the attic. So if the scenario you're imagining is that Alex becomes a dedicated Francophile for some reason and this causes a noble conspiracy against him, they'll probably succeed, and then you have an anti-French government in place, which brings us back in circles.

See, for all that Napoleon and Alexander are everybody's favourite historical ship, Russian and French policy clashed fundamentally, principally over the issue of the Continetal System, which impoverished Russia (which is to say, the nobles and merchants, but they were, politically, all that mattered) for French benefit. The Franco-Russian Alliance of Doom for Britain (!!:eek:) had begun with Russia and France reaching a military stalemate. Russia couldn't reverse the defeats of its continental allies, Napoleon couldn't, at that point, realistically invade Russia. So he offered them what looked like a very generous settlement. The Polish question was put on the back burner and Russia given a free hand to continue its war with Turkey on the Danube.

As time wore on, though, the Russians began to become less grateful for the deal they had gotten: the Duchy of Warsaw could very easily become the Kingdom of Poland, and more importantly Russia was being economically crippled. The Austrian War broke Napoleon's myth of invincibility: Wagram, they say, was the last victory. And Britain was hardly being brought to its knees: Europe was getting the worst of the trade war, and we were bleeding Napoleon in Spain, which was what had allowed the Austrian War to happen.

So in 1810, with the weakening of France, the Russians basically stopped observing the system. They knowingly bought British goods and sold them at inflated prices in Germany. This not only wrecked Napoleon's blockade, it also ruined the important French merchants who he had granted licenses to trade with Britain to raise finance.

So now he basically had three options: make concessions to Russia to restore the system (ie sell Poland), which would only put him in the exact same situation a couple of years later, but with a worse military situation, ignore Russia and see his Continetal System crumble and Russia and Britain sign a new coalition, or try to force Russia back into line by a short, sharp, military shock. He chose the third (note that all he intended was to force Russia to rejoin his System in the vain hope that Britain would come to the table before the issue came up again: he actually didn't recreate the Kingdom of Poland, and probably should have).

As I said, the first wasn't really a clever idea. The second is interesting. Given how clear it was the Britain was winning the trade war anyway, the collapse of the System and Russian defiance will break any hope Napoleon has of ever winning in Spain, let alone signing an advantageous peace with Britain. But Russia is still in for some surprises if they try to open hostilities. I's imagine that Metternich will steeple his fingers and cackle madly in between writing noncommital letters to all involved. If Napoleon has a sudden attack of common sense, he could at last sign some sort of lasting peace: he could get the French colonies, or the rights to them, restored, and his Great France recognised, but withdraw from Spain and accept some major revision of the Polish and German situations.

Napoleon, of course, lacked common sense and had plenty of aggression, so really attack was the only option he could realistically take.

[VK];2554550 said:
I somewhere heared that Napoleon sayd something like: "If the Czar wouldn't be a man he would marry him" So They both had really good relations, I don't know when they ended, but maybe a Alliance could be established, or (maybe ASB:D) they evan marry :eek:
Between Tilsit and the Patriotic War, France and Russia were formal allies. Even as the Franco-Russian relations disintegrated, Russian remained theoretically at war with Britain. There was also a Russian expeditionary force in Galicia during the Austrian War, who sustained a single casualty (and not from the Austrians, either) and got the city of Tarnopol for their trouble, which is rather emblematic of how the Russian's milked the whole deal.
 
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Agree with the basic summary. His best chance might have been to accept that another war with Russia and Prussia [which was growing closer to Russia] was coming and arrange things so their more favourable to him. If he had done a number of provocations, most noticeably possibly restoring the Grand Duchy as a kingdom and hinting it would get more territory back from Prussia and Russia. Getting Prussia and Russia to declare war on him, especially if done in angry haste he would have a decent chance of at least mauling Prussia before the Russians could support it and fight the latter in eastern Europe. That would put the Poles and other allies nearer and reduce a lot of the logistical problems. Defeat the Russians again and hopefully make a fairly quick and moderate peace. This might not have worked. The Prussian army and society had been regenerated and Russia had also gone some way to close the gap. Even a victory would have been very costly for the French. However it should have been possible.

Given Napoleon's lack of judgement on the matter I don't think a stable peace would have been practical. He always wanted too much power, leaving other vulnerable. Also to a degree the French system heavily depended on getting others to pay for their massive military machine. The Spanish ulcer would have continued as well. Hence I think sooner or later Imperial France would have been brought down by the rest of Europe. However it might have lasted, at least for a few more years and possibly ended up with far more generous borders. Even as late as early 1814 I think the allies were still offering France's 'natural borders' i.e. including Belgium, Germany west of the Rhine and much of the Netherlands.

Steve
 
I know this was a favorite counter factual speculation since the 19th century, but I've never really seen it answered. It's assumed Napoleon would remain in power. But how does history continue from there?

Let me qualify that Napoleon doesn't invade Russia because Alexander's empire is wrought with more internal strife and weakness so the Czar is more differential to Napoleon.
Hmmm, if Napoleon puts all his efforts and resources into Spain he might be able to win there i'd imagine once the Brits are forced out it becomes something like Iraq/Afghanistan today :eek:

Also could you clarify "internal trouble" because i'd imagine that the Eastern powers (ie Austria, prussia and Russia) would be eager to stir up trouble again with British support
 
Agree with the basic summary. His best chance might have been to accept that another war with Russia and Prussia [which was growing closer to Russia] was coming and arrange things so their more favourable to him. If he had done a number of provocations, most noticeably possibly restoring the Grand Duchy as a kingdom and hinting it would get more territory back from Prussia and Russia. Getting Prussia and Russia to declare war on him, especially if done in angry haste he would have a decent chance of at least mauling Prussia before the Russians could support it and fight the latter in eastern Europe. That would put the Poles and other allies nearer and reduce a lot of the logistical problems. Defeat the Russians again and hopefully make a fairly quick and moderate peace.
I agree with the thrust of yoru argument here, although witha substantial Polish army in the east and French garrisons everywhere Prussia was in no position to defy Napoleon without physical support from Russia. Indeed, there was actually a Prussian corps in the 1812 campaign: they deliberately did nothing in the Baltic area, and during the retreat "fell behind" and "were compelled to surrender". The next day, by a remarkable coincidence, a corps-sized Russo-German Legion was announced, and it was they, marching into East Prussia, who basically told Friedrich Wilhelm "Go to war or lose the throne", as part of the brief outburst of nationalism that swept Germany in 1813-15.

So in 1812, Napoleon can certainly keep a lid on Prussia and Germany. As you say, he should have planned his campaign better, been more conservative in his military goals, and restored Poland.

This might not have worked. The Prussian army and society had been regenerated and Russia had also gone some way to close the gap. Even a victory would have been very costly for the French. However it should have been possible.
The French army had actually declined pretty substantially from Austerlitz. A lot of the German and even Italian conscripts were very ill-motivated, to say nothing of the token Spanish Battalions. The Guard and the Poles were superb, of course, but the rest was all pretty mediocre. The Russians had problems of their own, but they did have a splendid artillery corps. Prussia, while its troops were not of outstanding quality, had a lot going for it: its disproportionate army size, general staff system, and good combined-arms tactics.

Given Napoleon's lack of judgement on the matter I don't think a stable peace would have been practical. He always wanted too much power, leaving other vulnerable. Also to a degree the French system heavily depended on getting others to pay for their massive military machine. The Spanish ulcer would have continued as well. Hence I think sooner or later Imperial France would have been brought down by the rest of Europe. However it might have lasted, at least for a few more years and possibly ended up with far more generous borders. Even as late as early 1814 I think the allies were still offering France's 'natural borders' i.e. including Belgium, Germany west of the Rhine and much of the Netherlands.

Steve
Yeah, Napoleon could and should have made peace in 1813, but he was too stubborn. Indeed, since he could never defeat Britain after Trafalgar, he should have signed a peace in 1808, when his power was at its height, but since it would have been equittable he would have to make extensive concessions in Europe which he was never going to do while Britain couldn't challenge him on the ground. But of course Russia was simply too distant from his powerbase for him to ever subdue, Prussia was out for revenge, and Austria was an unpredictable factor, and Spain was a constant drain. Add in one decisive military defeat and the house of cards began to crumble.
 
Hmmm, if Napoleon puts all his efforts and resources into Spain he might be able to win there i'd imagine once the Brits are forced out it becomes something like Iraq/Afghanistan today :eek:
Thing is, we had utter naval supremacy, so if a French army that was too big for us (and remember that we could send our entire army to Spain, and it had superb leadership) was approaching, we could just evacuate and then strike somewhere else in Spain, rinse and repreat while guerilla and the poor suply situation blled the French. So as you say, a quagmire, but he can't decisively defeat Britain even if he does send all his resources against us.

And what if he does? The man himself and substantial troops going to Spain emboldened the Austrians enough to start the Fifth Coalition, and a bloody war that was, too. It showed Napoleon's overstretch and that French troops could be equalled by a reformed army, which was what emboldened Russia enough to defy the blockade in 1810, and thus we're back where we started, since if he doesn't leave Spain with much of his army to invade Russia, the Russians can snaffle the DoW and enlist Prussia.

Also could you clarify "internal trouble" because i'd imagine that the Eastern powers (ie Austria, prussia and Russia) would be eager to stir up trouble again with British support
Well, although we were of course active allies of the Spanish guerilla fighters, in general the war was more about how mega-hyper-ultra France was a threat to everyone's interests and needed to be overthrown, whichever government was at the helm. Although Amiens was simply a breather, that didn't mean we weren't willing to recognise a new regime in France. Certainly Napoleon could have kept his throne at least until Leipzig if we was less ambitious and stubborn.
 
Thing is, we had utter naval supremacy, so if a French army that was too big for us (and remember that we could send our entire army to Spain, and it had superb leadership) was approaching, we could just evacuate and then strike somewhere else in Spain, rinse and repreat while guerilla and the poor suply situation blled the French. So as you say, a quagmire, but he can't decisively defeat Britain even if he does send all his resources against us.

And what if he does? The man himself and substantial troops going to Spain emboldened the Austrians enough to start the Fifth Coalition, and a bloody war that was, too. It showed Napoleon's overstretch and that French troops could be equalled by a reformed army, which was what emboldened Russia enough to defy the blockade in 1810, and thus we're back where we started, since if he doesn't leave Spain with much of his army to invade Russia, the Russians can snaffle the DoW and enlist Prussia.



Well, although we were of course active allies of the Spanish guerilla fighters, in general the war was more about how mega-hyper-ultra France was a threat to everyone's interests and needed to be overthrown, whichever government was at the helm. Although Amiens was simply a breather, that didn't mean we weren't willing to recognise a new regime in France. Certainly Napoleon could have kept his throne at least until Leipzig if we was less ambitious and stubborn.
I don't know how ASB this is but I rember watching an episode of Sharpe where Napoleon offered a status quo with Spain after his war with Russia.

Napoleon will always have the problem of having made lots of enemies and havening to keep them in check though, maybe if their is a Russo-franco alliance they could keep the various powers in check for longer
 
Also could you clarify "internal trouble" because i'd imagine that the Eastern powers (ie Austria, prussia and Russia) would be eager to stir up trouble again with British support
What I mean is, what if Napoleon doesn't have to deal with a Russian challenge because greater internal instability saps the strength of the Czar. For example if the Czar is faced with a costly serf uprising at home, another round of war with the Ottomans, etc, in such way that he simply cannot afford to antagonize France.
 
What I mean is, what if Napoleon doesn't have to deal with a Russian challenge because greater internal instability saps the strength of the Czar. For example if the Czar is faced with a costly serf uprising at home, another round of war with the Ottomans, etc, in such way that he simply cannot afford to antagonize France.
Hmmm, well lets say if Alexander buys time to deal with the problem (whatever it may be)

Then Napoleon (as mentioned in previous posts in the thread) is still going to have problems on his hand (Spain, British naval power, Austria and Prussia etc etc)

So when Alexander's cleaned up his problem won't the Polish issue and British influence force him into a war anyway?

To conclued you probably delay the war
 
I don't know how ASB this is but I rember watching an episode of Sharpe where Napoleon offered a status quo with Spain after his war with Russia.
There were peace conferences in 1813, but Napoleon was too stubbron to save himself.

Napoleon will always have the problem of having made lots of enemies and havening to keep them in check though, maybe if their is a Russo-franco alliance they could keep the various powers in check for longer
As I said, really his problem was that he couldn't beat Britain, and Britain would never accept any one power ruling western Europe, so he had to make peace with Britain to prevent the formation of more coalitions, but he couldn't do that without surrendering his dominance of Europe and he couldn't do that because he was Napoleon Bonepart,

Thing is, Russia is the power that needs to be kept in check. Prussia, for all Scharnhorst did wonders, was after Tilsit a power in the same rank as Sweden, and Austria couldn't challenge France in Europe alone (see the Fifth Coalition).

Whereas Russia was so far from any French powerbase as to be impossible to keep a lid on. It's size and distance meant it would always be a power capable of independent action, and once it had gotten what it wanted (Finland, Besserabia, and breathing room) out of the French alliance, its interests (commercial ones, and Poland) contradicted those of France directly. No Franco-Russian alliance was stable while Britain and France remained at war.

What I mean is, what if Napoleon doesn't have to deal with a Russian challenge because greater internal instability saps the strength of the Czar. For example if the Czar is faced with a costly serf uprising at home, another round of war with the Ottomans, etc, in such way that he simply cannot afford to antagonize France.
The Ottoman's had nothing to gain from agression towards Russia. In fact the rather got the worst of the 1806-1812. And a serf uprising capable of seriously shaking the regime is as Bobbis notes pretty well impossible given Russian society at the time.
 
Groan. This is not about Russia, but what happens to France and Europe absent Russian challenge to France.

For the sake of those who can't let go. Tunguska events happen over St. Petersburg and Moscow. Then a plague of locusts turn Ukraine into a wasteland.
 
Groan. This is not about Russia, but what happens to France and Europe absent Russian challenge to France.

For the sake of those who can't let go. Tunguska events happen over St. Petersburg and Moscow. Then a plague of locusts turn Ukraine into a wasteland.

i think the point being made is that as long as France is at war with Britain, Russia WILL challenge the French dominance inthe east at least.

kill Napoleon during the Prussian campaign but the French still win overwhelmingly there... a second major engagement in E. Prussia ( Tannenburg for sake of simplicity) finishes the Russian/Prussian attempt to undo Napoleon's success.

Since this is something I have toyed with, I am curious to hear what might come of the Empire after Napoleon and the humbling of Prussia on Joseph's watch.

Joseph will become Emporer I think so how would he helm the empire...it gives you a departure to change the Russian Campaign, the peninsular War in Spain. He only has daughters so they are not eligible for the throne after him so it will fall to Louis or his sons. He could make some necessary political alliances though with those daughters ( Austria perhaps, maybe Spain if he gives the Bourbons back their throne.)
 
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Redbeard

Banned
Seen from pre-1812 Napoleon simply couldn't ignore Russia being more and more un-cooperative. And if you have a hammer, everything else appears like nails, and so Napoleon sent the Grande Armee ++ to repeat what had worked just fine on previous occasions: send the army, beat their army, and if that isn''t enough just take their capital and await their humble approaches for a peace agreement.

It is often said that it was the absense of a decisive(anihilating) military victory over the Russian Army that was the factor making the diffrence, that even formed the basis for Clausewitz' theories, but decisive military victories were not part of all his previous successes. In the 1809 campaign the Austrian army was as intact after Wagram as the Russian after Borodino, and Vienna was taken. But in 1809 the Grande Armee remained intact, numbers, prestige etc.

Had the Grande Armee been able to stay intact in Russia, the strategic problem would be solved as long as the Army stayed in Russia, but such an operation would have Spain, and all the other places needing a garrison, appear diminiutive. But it still would be less costly than loosing in the region of 500.000 men in the winter of 1812/13. Had it withdrawn intact, he at least wouldn't have lost as much prestige, and he could have another go next year.

Probably the campaign rested too much on Napoleon quickly gaining a decisive military victory a la Ulm, Austerlitz or Jena, and once that did not materialise there wasn't a good plan B for a slower advance supported by a bulid-up of depots and focus on strict logistic management. 18th century complicated cordon-based operational principles probably would have worked better than Napoleonic swift moving!

Had he not invaded, he would have had to permanently post a huge army (200.000?) on the border to Russia, plus reinforcements to Denmark-Norway, to close the Baltic for the British (landing Russian armies), which probably would also mean invading and subduing Sweden (such plans were made, but not executed). Next Austria would sooner or later be tempted to throw in their lot with Russia.

The question still is however, if even this would be less costly than loosing the Grande armee as in OTL. The biggest loss probably would be in loss of prestige, as the world wonders why the earlier so potent Napoleon suddenly lets himself be mocked at. Expecting the Russians to themselves sending an army into Europe to be anihilatied "old style" would be outright naive.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
 
Seen from pre-1812 Napoleon simply couldn't ignore Russia being more and more un-cooperative. And if you have a hammer, everything else appears like nails, and so Napoleon sent the Grande Armee ++ to repeat what had worked just fine on previous occasions: send the army, beat their army, and if that isn''t enough just take their capital and await their humble approaches for a peace agreement.

It is often said that it was the absense of a decisive(anihilating) military victory over the Russian Army that was the factor making the diffrence, that even formed the basis for Clausewitz' theories, but decisive military victories were not part of all his previous successes. In the 1809 campaign the Austrian army was as intact after Wagram as the Russian after Borodino, and Vienna was taken. But in 1809 the Grande Armee remained intact, numbers, prestige etc.

Had the Grande Armee been able to stay intact in Russia, the strategic problem would be solved as long as the Army stayed in Russia, but such an operation would have Spain, and all the other places needing a garrison, appear diminiutive. But it still would be less costly than loosing in the region of 500.000 men in the winter of 1812/13. Had it withdrawn intact, he at least wouldn't have lost as much prestige, and he could have another go next year.

Probably the campaign rested too much on Napoleon quickly gaining a decisive military victory a la Ulm, Austerlitz or Jena, and once that did not materialise there wasn't a good plan B for a slower advance supported by a bulid-up of depots and focus on strict logistic management. 18th century complicated cordon-based operational principles probably would have worked better than Napoleonic swift moving!

Had he not invaded, he would have had to permanently post a huge army (200.000?) on the border to Russia, plus reinforcements to Denmark-Norway, to close the Baltic for the British (landing Russian armies), which probably would also mean invading and subduing Sweden (such plans were made, but not executed). Next Austria would sooner or later be tempted to throw in their lot with Russia.

The question still is however, if even this would be less costly than loosing the Grande armee as in OTL. The biggest loss probably would be in loss of prestige, as the world wonders why the earlier so potent Napoleon suddenly lets himself be mocked at. Expecting the Russians to themselves sending an army into Europe to be anihilatied "old style" would be outright naive.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
Yes the Polish issue and the Continental sytem issue made war with Russia fairly inevitable. I did see a TL where Napoleon used the Prussian navy to supply his advance along the baltic, and taking St.Petersburg. But even then you have the problem of still being at war with Britain and not having decisivly defeated Russia.



Groan. This is not about Russia, but what happens to France and Europe absent Russian challenge to France.

For the sake of those who can't let go. Tunguska events happen over St. Petersburg and Moscow. Then a plague of locusts turn Ukraine into a wasteland.
Most events in Russia is only going to dely Russian involvment, if it is some kind of event that only affects Russia and competely devistates her is ASB.
 

Susano

Banned
IMO, Napoleon strategically could have ignored Russia. As long as not provoked I do not think Russia would actively work against Napoleonic France. It already more or less got a bloody nose when it tried that against Revolutionary France. And the trade wars lost anyways, as IBC observed - the continental blockade only meant smugglers became really, really prosperous.

The problem is if Nappy can psychologically ignore Russia. It seems to me the guy got bored whenever there was no war to pursue. So, hm. Is it feasible he personally leads the Iberian campaign as a sort of compensation?
 
IMO, Napoleon strategically could have ignored Russia. As long as not provoked I do not think Russia would actively work against Napoleonic France. It already more or less got a bloody nose when it tried that against Revolutionary France. And the trade wars lost anyways, as IBC observed - the continental blockade only meant smugglers became really, really prosperous.

The problem is if Nappy can psychologically ignore Russia. It seems to me the guy got bored whenever there was no war to pursue. So, hm. Is it feasible he personally leads the Iberian campaign as a sort of compensation?
Russia did actively work against Napoleon, in 1810, by compromising the bloackade. After that, as I said, it was conciliate and let the same happen again in a while, invade, or stand on the defensive and look for peace with Briatin. The may have been the best idea, but that's where Napoleon's psychology comes in.

Actually, though, Napoleon wanted peace in 1812. He felt he was getting too old to campaign, and of course he and Alexander admired and respected each other to the end.
 

Susano

Banned
But it didnt really take Russia to make the Continental Blockade fail. Napoleon could have ignored that. And would Russia really take military matters against Napoleons Europe? After all, they didnt go around places other than the Ottoman Empire for 99 years after the Congress of Vienna, either...
 
But it didnt really take Russia to make the Continental Blockade fail. Napoleon could have ignored that. And would Russia really take military matters against Napoleons Europe? After all, they didnt go around places other than the Ottoman Empire for 99 years after the Congress of Vienna, either...
Well, they did go into Hungary against the revolution... in any case that was because of the Balance of Power, which Napoleon had upended.

And Napoleon couldn't ignore Russia's breaches because that would damage his prestige: one act of definace being excused would encourage Russia to make more, and the end of taht road was the sixth Coalition. If he had simply ignored Russia's defiance, the Russians would have made peace with us and started openly trading with Europe (which, regardless of his inability to bring britain to her knees, was bad as it made Germany enomically aligned towards Russia), and then started schememing with Prussia and Austria.
 
As I said, really his problem was that he couldn't beat Britain, and Britain would never accept any one power ruling western Europe, so he had to make peace with Britain to prevent the formation of more coalitions, but he couldn't do that without surrendering his dominance of Europe and he couldn't do that because he was Napoleon Bonepart,
He could not invade Britain but it does not mean that Britain was unbeatable. Britain, could not defeat France either without coalitions. Furthermore, the economic embargo against Britain was strangling it; there were riots in Britain calling for peace with France so that Britain could continue to trade with the Continent. Britain survived the Continental embargo because of its expaanding markets into North America and by Russian reluctance to enforce the embargo, but the Continent was still the most important market for Britain. With the economic embargo in place, Britain could not continue the war with France for long without caolitions. Towards the end of the Napoleonic War, Britain was going broke and could not any more finance more coalitions against France and therfore would have had to sue for peace.

All Napoleon had to do was to maintain peace for a year or two, in order to force Britain to the peace table. He could also have postponed his invasion of Russia for a year and instead concentrated on Spain, one major victory against the British army in the Pennisular War would have been enough to convince Britain to withdraw its army because Britain was leery of sending an army into the Continent because it did'nt have faith that its army could measure up to Continental armies.

Alternatively, Napoloen could have been more ruthless and called for a total ban in trading with Britain which meant Britain could no longer import foddstuff from the Continent. If that had happened, Britain would have folded even sooner, because the British Iles did not have to resources to feed itself and so had to import food from the bountiful Continent.
 
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