Putin Should Ponder the Russo-Japanese War - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Putin Should Ponder the Russo-Japanese War

One hundred seventeen years ago, an indecisive regional war between Imperial Russia and Japan produced revolution within Russia. In January 1905, in the midst of the Russo-Japanese War (which began in February 1904), dozens of workers in St. Petersburg were killed during a political demonstration near the Winter Palace in an incident that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” and which ignited an uprising that nearly toppled the Romanov monarchy. Someone in the Kremlin should whisper in Vladimir Putin’s ear: “War breeds revolution.”

Russia’s invasion of and war against Ukraine is only two weeks old, but already it appears that Ukrainian armed forces and citizens are putting up a tougher fight than Putin expected. Ukrainian spokesmen claim that more than 11,000 Russian troops have been killed thus far, while Moscow puts the number at more than 500. The truth is probably somewhere between those numbers. Civilian casualties in Ukraine likely number in the hundreds. It appears that the pace of Russia’s forward movements in Ukraine has slowed considerably. A New York Times headline says that Russia’s military has stumbled in Ukraine. And Russia has publicly announced terms under which it will cease military operations, while China’s foreign minister has offered mediation to end the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that thousands of Russians have been arrested for protesting against the war, while Reuters puts the number of detained Russian protesters at more than 4,000. The protesters reportedly shouted “No to war” and “Shame on you,” and a mural depicting Putin in the city of Yekaterinburg was defaced. Other cities where protesters were detained include Moscow and St. Petersburg. In all, there were protests against the war in 56 different Russian cities, according to Reuters.

As Russia’s war against Japan dragged on in 1904-05, workers’ strikes spread throughout the country and many provinces experienced agrarian riots. The protests turned increasingly violent and political, with Russian citizens and nascent political groups demanding more political rights and freedoms, including the establishment of a parliament or duma. Meanwhile, the war went badly for Russia as Japanese forces won victories near the Yalu River in Korea and later at the Battle of Nanshan near Port Arthur. Still later, Port Arthur itself fell to Japanese forces and the two armies engaged in a titanic and costly battle at Mukden.

While Russia was engulfed by revolution at home brought about in part by defeats in the war, Japan was exhausted. Both sides submitted to mediation by the United States, and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt persuaded both nations’ leaders to sign the Treaty of Portsmouth. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but neither Russia nor Japan was fully satisfied by the outcome.

Czar Nicholas II, however, didn’t learn the lesson about wars breeding revolutions. Nine years after surviving the revolution of 1905, Russia went to war again — this time fighting in a global war against large European powers — and again suffered a revolution which this time toppled the dynasty. Putin should realize that even if he defeats Ukraine and his regime survives the current regional war, should he continue his aggression against NATO countries, he will be inviting a much wider war, and the chances of Russia’s defeat and the threat to the survival of his regime will increase exponentially.

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