From 1792 and onwards, France had been at a near constant state of war with the major European powers, a consequence of the French Revolution. Napoleon, who seized power in 1799 and ruled France as an autocrat, conducted several military campaigns which resulted in the creation of the first French empire. Starting in 1803, the Napoleonic Wars had proven Napoleon's abilities. He emerged victorious in the War of the Third Coalition (1803–1806, which dissolved the thousand year old Holy Roman Empire), the War of the Fourth Coalition (1806–1807), and the War of the Fifth Coalition (1809).
In 1807, Napoleon and Alexander I of Russia had signed the Treaty of Tilsit on the Neman River after a French victory at Friedland. The treaties had gradually strengthened Russia's alliance with France and made Napoleon dominate all their neighbors. The agreement made Russia a French ally and they adopted the Continental System, which was a blockade on the United Kingdom. But the treaty was economically hard on Russia, and Tsar Alexander left the Continental blockade on 31 December 1810. Napoleon was now deprived of his chief foreign policy tool against the United Kingdom.
The Treaty of Schönbrunn, which ended the 1809 war between Austria and France had a clause removing Western Galicia from Austria and annexing it to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Russia viewed this against its interests as they considered the territory to be a potential launching point for a French invasion.