Research Proposal: Strategic Analysis of Some Geographical Feature

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Strategic Analysis of Some Geographical Feature, Either Land, Water, Or Space That Has Had Strategic Consequences in International Relations

Strategic Analysis of Land Mass that has Historically Protected Russia from Invasion

Throughout history, countries have been attacked time and again by other countries and conquered in world-changing ways. Some countries, though, have enjoyed the advantage of certain geographical features that have protected them from invasion or at least minimized such dangers. In this regard, the research will show that the large land mass that occupies the territory between Russia and the rest of Europe has helped the Russians to avoid being conquered by a foreign nation. For example both Napoleon and Hitler both tried to conquer Russia but they both failed because Russia and the capitals of St. Petersburg and Moscow precluded the establishment and maintenance of supply lines. As a result, both attempts at conquering Russia failed because these armies were both unaccustomed to the harsh Russian winters and the Russian's used the distance factor to their advantage because they would retreat and then burn everything down which basically starved the enemy. To illustrate these points further, this paper provides an analysis of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning Napoleon and Hitler's ill-fated invasions of Russia across the vast land mass that protects the nation, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

Background and Overview.

By any measure, Russia is expansive and the country's rulers have used this large land mass to their advantage whenever possible. The former Soviet Union was the largest country in the world and even after its collapse and disintegration in the 1990s, Russia remains the largest country in the world today. As can be readily seen in Figure 1 below, Russia occupies an enormous area of land and is almost twice as large as the entire United States (Russia 2009:2).

Figure 1. Map of Russia Today.

Source: CIA World Factbook (2009).

Napoleon's Misadventures.

When military leaders become sufficiently enamored of their own prowess, they may disregard the harsh realities involved in a particular course of action, believing that their own force of will can accomplish something where others have failed. In this regard Carter (1999) advises that Napoleon, like Adolph Hitler who would follow him, allowed his ego to interfere with his better judgment and sought to conquer all of Russia despite the enormous distances involved and the problems inherent in maintaining a viable supply line from Western Europe to the Russian frontier. Although initially successful in the drive to the Russian capital, Napoleon's Russian campaign was doomed because of the vast distances involved in keeping his army supplied and the fierce resistance he encountered from the Russian military and citizenry alike (Markham 195). Not surprisingly, these reversals of fortune had a devastating impact on Napoleon who believed his plans were immaculate and his abilities as a military commander unequaled. According to Carter, "Once Napoleon had achieved his aim -- the conquest of Moscow -- he fell into a deep funk: His valet noted, 'From time to time he clasped his hands over his crossed knees, and I heard him each time repeat with a kind of convulsive movement, 'Moscow! Moscow!'" (quoted in Carter at 343).

Likewise, Markham (1963) reports that Napoleon was so convinced of the efficacy of his Russian campaign and his own abilities that he ignored all warnings concerning the onset of the Russian winter. As this author emphasizes, "Napoleon talked of marching on St. Petersburg, of wintering in the Kremlin, of returning to Smolensk by the undevastated southerly road through Kaluga. He appears to have made no effort to discover the facts about winter in Russia, or to prepare his troops for it" (Markham 195). Furthermore, as was the case with Hitler discussed further below, Napoleon grossly underestimated the resolve of the Russian military and citizenry to resist invasion by foreigners at all costs. According to Markham, "Regardless of class, the Russian people were united in hatred of the invader. Napoleon had actually drafted an Edict of Emancipation of the serfs, but it had scant chance of rallying support after the events of the last few months" (195).

In fact, most historians seem to agree that Napoleon could have salvaged what was left of his beleaguered army and marched them home in one piece following their defeat at the hands of the Russians and the weather, but in the final analysis, his army's fate was sealed by his failure to act when he had the opportunity. "In the end," Carter concludes, "Napoleon's delusions and shifting moods prevented him from making the decision that would have saved what was left of his forces. He could have left Moscow in early October and brought his men out of Russia before the rigors of winter caught them. Instead, he did nothing" (344). On October 19, 1812, Napoleon departed Moscow via the still intact Kaluga road, together with an army still numbered a hundred thousand; however, the army was burdened by its pillaged bounty, as well as sick and wounded troops and about six hundred guns (Markham 195). Napoleon also left orders to blow up the Kremlin, an act described by Markham as "a wanton and uncharacteristic act, which reflected Napoleon's desperate state of mind" (195). In truth, Napoleon had reason to be desperate at this point and the glory of his former army was in ruin, together with his own stature among the French people, all because of his underestimation of the distances involved, the problems in maintaining viable supply lines and the potential for climatic conditions that could kill his men and horses in major ways (Markham 195).

Hitler's Failed Attempt.

An old adage advises that, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it," but it is clear that Adolph Hitler failed to follow this guidance and the example set by Napoleon when he tried to invade the Soviet Union during the early days of World War II. It is little wonder that the Fuehrer had his sights set on Russia, though. The country was fully 20 times as large as all of Germany, even following its annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and large parts of Poland and contained vast amounts of natural resources the Germans desperately needed (Pauley 2002:208).

In reality, Hitler had some good reasons for believing that a German invasion of Russia would succeed. After all, Germany had defeated Russia during World War I while it was waging war on several fronts, Stalin had decimated his officer corps, and all signs indicated that in spite of the huge distances involved, the German army was up to the task. According to Pauley, "Russia's territory was vast, but it offered few natural barriers to an invader" (208). The land area between Europe and Russia also contained numerous farms and factories that the Germans counted on acquiring, both for their benefit as well as to the detriment of the Russian's ability to continue to wage war (Pauley 208).

By June 1941, more than 3,000,000 Axis troops were poised to begin the invasion but even here, Hitler grossly underestimated the Russians. In this regard Pauley advises, "The number was at best only equal to the size of the Soviet army and may have actually been smaller. Such a ratio contradicts military doctrine that assumes an attacking army must be something like three times as numerous as the defenders" (210). The numbers of troops involved almost staggers the mind, as Russian campaign involved more troops than in all of the other campaigns being waged in World War II at the time combined (Pauley 213).

Notwithstanding these misperceptions and overly optimistic estimations on the part of the Germans, they also failed to take into account the resolve of the Russian military and citizenry to prevent such an invasion and by using a scorched earth tactics, they destroyed virtually everything that might have been of value to the German military as they withdrew to their front lines (Pauley 208). Compounding the problems for the Germans, just as it did to the French, the Russian steppes produce some climatic conditions during the winter months with which the Germans were ill prepared to cope. Taken together, both sides put up a mighty battle but the cards were stacked against the Germans from the outset in this particular war. The German army quickly outran its supply lines and despite the incredible number of Soviet casualties it inflicted, the distances involved between Germany and Soviet Russia were just too much for the Germans to overcome (Pauley 214).

According to Beevor (2002), Stalin believed that following the German defeat at Moscow as a result of the fierce resistance by the Russian military and the harsh Russian winter, the Red Army was in a position to counterattack. In this regard, Beevor write, "In the early summer of 1942 Stalin had assumed that after his victory at Moscow, when the initial German onslaught had been stopped, the way was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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