To be fair, this is more a joke about an earlier school of Italian warcraft. Prior to the time of Pope Julius II and his ludicrously bloody battles to hold the papal lands together, there was a glorious though brief era of Italian military history filled with long, drawn-out battles in which the total number of casualties rarely crept into the double digits. The combatants spent most of their time picking out clothes and fancy swords before wandering out onto the battlefield, saying very brave things while brandishing said Very Fancy swords, and then retreating before anybody stood a chance of getting really hurt. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon really.
That was all well over by 1521, however. I should also add that Peter really would fight just about anything if he thought he could get a port out of it. When he came to the throne, Russia’s only useful port was Archangel, which was covered by ice for most of the year. In his ill-considered, often entirely unjustified wars against both Sweden and the Ottoman Empire, the control of some body of water was pretty much the central issue. Even when Charles XII stood within a hair’s breadth of destroying him, he wouldn’t surrender so long as it meant giving up his newly founded port of St. Petersburg.
The man liked boats, is what I’m saying.
– Count Dolby von Luckner