Russia has been involved in several armed conflicts and wars from antiquity to the present day with most of these wars being fought by the Russian military and the Russian people. The 13th Century witnessed the Mongol invasion and decimation of “Rus” principalities. At the time, the Mongol Empire invaded Europe, and Kievan Rus’ was also targeted during the invasion leading to the destruction of cities such as Ryazan, Moscow, Kolomna, Vladimir, as well as Kiev. The Battle of the Kalka Rive in 1223 that resulted in the victory of the Mongol Empire over several Rus’ principalities set the stage for the war. Between 1237 and 1240, there was a full-scale invasion of Rus’ by Batu Khan that saw all the principalities submit to Mongol rule. The period between late 1400 and early 1700s marking early modern Russia witnessed Russian wars with countries such as Sweden, Poland, and the Ottoman Empire. The war between Poland and Russia occurred between 1605 and 1618 and was known as the Dimitriadis. It was as a result of the military conflicts and invasions carried out towards the east by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The war between Russia and Sweden, commonly referred to as the Russo-Swedish War took place between 1590 and 1595. The war was triggered by Boris Godunov’s efforts to gain the territory of the Duchy of Estonia that belonged to Sweden. Russia’s war with the Ottoman Empire is referred to as the Russo-Turkish War, and it took place between 1828 and 1829. The war was triggered by the Sultan’s move to close the Dardanelles to Russian ships as well as the revocation of the Akkerman Convention to retaliate Russia’s involvement in the Battle of Navarino.
In 1812, there was the French invasion of Russia by Napoleon with the Russians referring to the war as the Patriotic War of 1812 whereas the French referred to it as the Russian Campaign. The onset of the war was when Napoleon’s army crossed the Neman River aiming to fight and defeat the Russian army. The economic issue of contention was Russia’s trade with the British merchants whereas the political issue was the need to liberate Poland from Russia’s threat and control. Between 1914 and 1920, Russia was involved in World War I and witnessed the Russian Civil War. Russia joined World War I as an Allied power alongside the French Third Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, the Russian government’s collapse in March 1917 followed by a military defeat saw the Russians come to terms with the Central Powers such as Germany. The Russian Civil War came immediately after World War I with several factions aiming at determining Russia’s political future at the time. The Civil War was between the Red Army and the White Army with the former being led by Vladimir Lenin and was interested in socialism while the latter was interested in capitalism and monarchism. Russia, then known as the Soviet Union, was drawn into World War II in June 1941 when the European Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The invasion of the Soviet Union paved the way for the largest land theatre of war in the world’s history.
Russia’s involvement in wars was because of the need to protect its national interests. To a large extent, this has influenced current Russian foreign policy toward the West. The evolution of Russia’ foreign policy began when Primakov took over the foreign office in 1996, a time when Russia was in a deep and protracted crisis. At the time, Russia’s role or impact on international developments were limited with key decisions on the enlargement of the EU and NATO being made without Russia’s involvement. The fear of losing its place in global matters alongside being isolated have thus influenced Russian foreign policy. The primary objective of the policy is to restore Russia’s position as one of the world’s great powers. Since Putin’s rise to power, he has broadly continued to undertake Russia’s operations within the same foreign policy scheme. With his priority on building a foreign policy based on national interest, Putin has acted more assertively to the attacks by the West and the U.S. on countries such as Ukraine and Syria. Putin’s argument is that the West and the U.S. are destabilizing forces that must be resisted in every means possible. The crisis of 2011 Russian elections further shaped Putin’s conduct of foreign policy toward the West and the blowback of Russia. During the 2011 Russian elections, Putin accused the U.S. of supporting street protests against the election. Putin’s stand was that Russia ought to safeguard itself from interference from external powers in its internal affairs. Putin has since taken a strong stand against the West and the United States in a bid to have Russia assert itself as a global power.
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