The main task of the foreign policy of Russia in the beginning the XIX century was the containment of the French expansion in Europe. Paul's I attempt to achieve it by the rapprochement with France in a simultaneous break of relations with England was not crowned by success. Alexander's I first steps were directed to the normalization of Russian-English relations: an order was given to return back the Cossack regiments of ataman M.N.Platov, and the 5th of June 1801, Russia and England signed a convention of mutual friendship, directed against France.
Simultaneously Russia was negotiating with France, and signed the 26th of September 1801 a peace agreement. The final disintegration of the 2nd anti-French coalition in connection with the signing of a peace Anglo-French contract allowed Alexander I to take care of the internal problems.
However by 1804, the expansionist policy of France in the Near East and in Europe again deteriorated its relations with Russia. After the execution of a member of the French royal family called duke Engiensky by Napoleon (March 1804), Russia, in May 1804, broke off diplomatic relations with France.
Under the initiative of England and with the active participation of Russia, by July 1805, the 3rd anti-French coalition (England, Russia, Austria, Sweden) was created.
Russia interested Napoleon first of all as an ally against England. The 25th of June (the 7th of July) 1807, the Russian-French peace contract of friendship and union was signed in Tilzit. Russia recognized all the gains of Napoleon and his imperial title, did a union with France, and undertook to break diplomatic relations with England and to join the continental blockade. At the borders of Russia, in the territory of former Prussian possession, the duchy Warsaw was formed under the influence of France. The Belostok area passed to Russia.
France became the intermediary in the end of the Russian-Turkish conflict, but Russia was supposed to remove its armed forces from Moldova and Walachia. As a whole, despite of defeat in war, Russia did not lose and kept some independence in the European affairs. But Tilzit peace rendered a crushing blow on the economy of Russia and contradicted its interests in the eastern question.
By the moment of signing peace with Napoleon, Russia conducted wars with Iran and Turkey. The Russian-Iranian war, because of disputable territories, began in 1804. In 1804-1806 Russian armies occupied territories to the north from the river Araks (Baku, Cubin, Gandzha, Derbent princedoms etc.) The Gulistan peace treaty of the 12th of October 1813 confirmed these possessions to Russia.
In December 1806, the Turkish sultan supported by Napoleon, declared war to Russia in hope to return back Crimea and Georgia. In the summer of 1807, Russian armies repulsed the Turkish approach in the Danube princedoms and in Caucasus. The Black Sea fleet under the command of admiral Senyavin won in the Dardanelles and Aphonia sea battles. Russia gave a military help against the dominion of the Turks on the Serbians. On the Caucasus Russia occupied Abkhazia and Guria. The war with Turkey delayed, as the basic forces of the Russian army were on the western border. In 1811 M.I.Kutuzov became the commander of the Danube army. After the successful operation of the Russian armed forces at Rushuk (15 thousand Russian against 60 thousand Turks), Turkey was compelled to go on peace talks. By Bucharest peace treaty of the 1st of May 1812, Bessarabia, Abkhazia and a part of Georgia were supposed to join Russia. Turkey recognized the right of Serbia to internal self-management.
Using the situation that prevailed after Tilzit, Alexander I began war with Sweden. In the night from the 8th to the 9th February 1808, the Russian corps under the command of Buskgevden (24 thousand persons) crossed the border with Finland. After long military actions, Sweden under the Friedrichgam peace treaty (September, 5, 1809) conceded to Russia all Finland together with Aland islands.
The relations between Russia and France in 1807-1812 steadily worsened. Tilzit agreements put Russia into international isolation, not having stopped the French expansion. The joining of Russia to continental blockade had a negative effect on the Russian foreign trade and finance;
the economic relations between Russia and France advanced poorly and could not replace the Russian-English economic relations.
Alexander I considered the union with Napoleon as provisory and compelled measure; however Napoleon tried to strengthen his relations with Russia. At a meeting in Erfurt in September-October 1808 he could not incline Alexander I to a closer cooperation. Though formally Russia participated in the war of Napoleon with Austria in 1809, its armies did not participate in military actions.
Alexander's I refusal to agree with the marriage of Napoleon to his sister Ekaterina in 1808 and to Anna in 1810 did not promote the improvement of relations between allies. In December 1810, Napoleon, having broken the Tilzit agreement, attached to the empire a number of German princedoms and among them the duchy Oldenburg.
Yet not knowing about it, Alexander I entered custom taxes, extremely adverse for the French import, and also a new position about the neutral trade, which opened a way to an illicit trade with England. From that moment, both sides began to prepare actively for an armed conflict:
increased the military budget, increased armed forces, and ordered a diplomatic preparation for war.
By the end of 1811, Napoleon increased the number of his armies almost up to one million persons. He forced the crushed Austria and Prussia to enter with him in union against Russia (February - March 1811), and also expected a support of Sweden and Turkey, having territorial claims to Russia.
The number of the Russian army reached 975 thousand persons, in its military preparation experience were taken into account Napoleonic fights, traditions of great Russian commanders of the XVIII century Rumyantsev and Suvorov. The Russian artillery was the best in the world. The Russian diplomacy won, having concluded in the spring 1812 two important contracts: in the north with Sweden, and in the south with Turkey.