Staunton, Sept. 23 – One might not know it from Vladimir Putin’s celebratory treatment of his country’s history, but Rosbalt columnist Vitaly Grankin says that “Russia has suffered military failures more often than most people think,” adding in words that many may find especially worrisome that “typically, the case was not weakness but incorrect priorities.”
He lists 12 in modern times, including the Persian campaign (1772-1723), the war with Turkey (1735-1739), the Seven Years’ War (1756-1762), the war with Sweden (1788-1790), participation in the Second Anti-French coalition, participation in the third and fourth anti-French coalition (1805-1807), the Crimean War (1853-1856), the Japanese war (1904-1905), World War I (11914-1918), the war with Poland (1919-1921), the Korean War (1950-1953), and the Afghan war (1979-1989) (rosbalt.ru/russia/2022/09/23/1975065.html).
In addition to these wars with foreign powers, many would add additional defeats at the hands of peoples within the borders of its imperial domain, most recently in the first post-Soviet Chechen war. In all the cases Grankin lists, Russia suffered either a clear defeat or a long dragged-out conflict which inflicted severe damage on Russia itself.
Two things about Grankin’s argument are especially important. On the one hand, he says that Russia has often lost to powers it was militarily stronger than because its goals were the wrong ones. And on the other, he notes that these losses have played as great a role as victories in how Russians view the world.
Indeed, it may be the fear of losing more than the expectation of victory that drives Russian thinking about conflicts, including the current Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Window on Eurasia — New Series