When most people think of Sweden, they think of IKEA furniture, depressing murder mysteries and a foreign policy of strict neutrality.
Yet 400 years ago, Sweden was a major military power. Indeed, it was even an empire, a fact that must make today’s Swedish leftists cringe.
Under young King Gustavus Adolphus, a brilliant and innovative military commander, Sweden in the early 1600s became a sort of Nordic Israel (which must also make Swedish leftists cringe). Sweden was a poor, thinly populated nation that couldn’t match the resources of larger rivals such as France and Russia.
So, Gustavus Adolphus had to devise a more flexible, mobile form of warfare. In an age when armies consisted of poorly paid and underfed peasants and mercenaries more likely to loot their own fellow citizens than fight the enemy, Sweden maintained a professional and well-trained standing army. Swedish troops maneuvered tactically in smaller, flexible companies instead of the cumbersome formations of their enemies. While 17th Century armies were transitioning from swords and pikes to muskets and artillery, Gustavus Adolphus increased the number of gunpowder weapons. Most artillery of the era had little battlefield mobility, but the Swedish king equipped his infantry regiments with their own light, mobile field guns that could support the foot soldiers throughout the battle.
During the Thirty Years War of 1618-48, Swedish forces advanced so far south that they almost captured Prague and Vienna deep in Central Europe. Their crowning achievement was the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, when a Protestant army of 23,000 Swedes and 18,000 Saxons nearly wiped out a Catholic Holy Roman Empire force of 35,000 men, and lost just 5,500 men in the process.
Gustavus Adolphus fell at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632 (though his army still won). But in a succession of conflicts with IKEA-like names such as the Torstenson War, Swedish forces performed well against the Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Poles and Russians. Sweden seized large parts of today’s eastern Germany and Poland, and became a major Baltic power.
And then Sweden decided to invade Russia in 1708.
Can you guess how this going to end?
The Great Northern War of 1700-1721 pitted a Swedish-led coalition against a Russian-led alliance. The Swedes were commanded by young Charles XII, a clever, energetic ruler dubbed the “Lion of the North” and the “Swedish Meteor.” But Russia was led by the legendary Peter the Great, who eventually turned his large but poor nation into a major European power. At stake was Swedish control of swathes of Eastern and Central Europe, and more important, who would be the dominant power in the Baltic.
Charles XII marched into Russia with just 40,000 men, a small force compared to the 500,000 of Napoleon’s Grande Armee of 1812, or the 3 million men of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa. Yet the war began well for the Swedes. It knocked Denmark-Norway and the Polish-Lithuanian Empire out of the war. But as in later conflicts, there was still the Russian colossus to contend with.
Yet waging war with small, hard-hitting armies was a strategy that worked for Sweden before. So why shouldn’t it work again? At Narva in today’s Estonia in 1700, 12,000 Swedes outnumbered nearly 3 to 1 almost wiped out a 37,000-strong Russian force during a battle fought in a blizzard. In many ways, the struggle resembled World War II, where smaller but proficient German forces defeated larger but clumsier Soviet armies.
Unfortunately for the Swedish Meteor, the Russians also used a strategy that had always worked for them. Their armies withdrew deep into the vastness of Mother Russia, leaving “scorched earth” in their wake and precious little for the Swedish soldiers and horses to eat. Meanwhile, Russian columns ambushed and destroyed Swedish reinforcements that Charles desperately needed to replenish his battered army.
Then came the Great Frost of 1709, the coldest winter that Europe had experienced in the previous 500 years, which of course turned Russia into a vast freezer that could sustain human life under the right conditions. For a Swedish army deprived of shelter and food in a scorched landscape, the conditions were anything but right. More than 2,000 Swedes died from the cold in a single night.Those who have seen the photos of frozen German soldiers at Moscow and Stalingrad can imagine what the boys from Stockholm must have looked like.
The tombstone of the Swedish Empire was carved at the Battle of Poltava in central Ukraine in June 1709. The summer after the Great Frost saw the Swedish army shrink to 20,000 soldiers and 34 cannon. Ever the aggressive monarch, Charles XII laid siege to Poltava. Peter intervened with a relief force of 80,000 men. The Russian troops first resisted a Swedish charge (wounds had forced Charles to relinquish command of his army). The Russians then counterattacked with their superior numbers, enveloping and routing the Swedish forces.
The Swedes suffered about 19,000 casualties, almost their entire force. The Russians also suffered. But as later invaders were to learn, the Russians could replace their losses while the invaders could not.
Charles left Russia with 543 survivors. Sweden lost its Baltic territories, and never regained its vast possessions or military glory. Soon the Swedish Empire was no more.
To be fair to the Lion of the North, Charles XII had no crystal ball to foresee what would happen to Napoleon and Hitler when they invaded Russia. The more interesting question is why Napoleon and Hitler didn’t learn from the fate of Charles XII. It is curious that over the course of 250 years, three European kings and dictators fought a campaign in Russia in the dead of winter. None succeeded.
Nonetheless, there is a story that soon after Napoleon invaded Russia in June 1812, the Tsar dispatched General Balashov with a letter urging peace. When Napoleon said he would defeat Russia, Balashov is said to have warned him:
“The Russians, like the French, say that all roads lead to Rome. The road to Moscow is a matter of choice. Charles XII went via Poltava.”
Originally published on 2016-10-08
Author: Michael Peck
Source: The National Interest
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
In your book, "Islam and Nazi Germany's War", you write about the policies of the Nazis towards Islamic political entities. What form did they take?David Motadel: At the height of the war in 1941-1942, when German troops entered Muslim-populated territories in the Balkans, North Africa, Crimea and the Caucasus and were approaching the Middle East and Central Asia, Berlin began to see Islam as politically significant. Nazi Germany made significant attempts to promote an alliance with the "Muslim world" against their alleged common enemies – the British Empire, the Soviet Union, America and Jews.In the war zones, Germany engaged with ...
A map of the wanted territories of the Balkan states in 1915There are many talks about nationalism among the peoples from the former Yugoslavia during the last three decades what is quite understandable taking into consideration the post-Cold War conflicts and atrocities, as a continuation of WWII crimes based on certain political ideologies,[i] committed on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia.Historia est magistra vitaeI want to argue that there is a direct link between contemporary nationalism(s) among the Yugoslavs and their national ideologies, which are developed in the previous decades and even centuries. What happened with the Yugoslavs from 1991 to 1999 ...
Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots.The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniversary of Petliura’s assassination in Paris. National television channels interrupted their programs and broadcast the image of a burning candle for 60 seconds, Ukraine’s Federal News Agency reported.A French court acquitted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the murder even though he admitted to it after the court ...
What was the impact of the 1945 Yalta Conference on Yugoslavia? The key result of the conference for Yugoslavia was that it endorsed and ratified the 1944 agreement between Josip Broz Tito and Ivan Subasic. The end result was that the American, British, and Soviet governments installed a dictatorship in Yugoslavia.
The Allied task was the illusory and chimerical objective of uniting the prewar, monarchist Yugoslav Government-in-Exile based in London headed by Peter II Karadjordjevich with Tito’s de facto anti-monarchist, Soviet-style, Communist government in Belgrade. This was the major issue that was discussed at plenary meetings and foreign ministers sessions at ...
A curious op-ed appeared in The National Interest, penned by Hans Binnendijk and David Gompert, adjunct senior fellows at the RAND Corporation. Titled, “NATO’s Role in post-Caliphate Stability Operations,” it attempts to make a case for NATO involvement everywhere from Libya to Syria and Iraq in fostering stability in the wake of a yet-to-be defeated Islamic State.
The authors propose that NATO step in to fill what it calls an impending “vacuum left as the caliphate collapses,” heading off alternatives including “chaos or Iran, backed by Russia, filling the void, with great harm to U.S. and allied interests in either case.” The op-ed never explains why ...
More than 6,400 civilians have been killed and nearly 16,000 injured as result of criminal actions of Kiev regime during the conflict in Donbass, Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin said on Thursday. Also, more than 10,000 residential infrastructure facilities have been fully or partially destroyed and burnt. Since last April, more than 1 million Russian-speaking residents of Lugansk and Donetsk regions had to flee their homes, and more than 110,000 people having a refugee status have applied for the Russian citizenship. The war has been continuing.
Ukrainian capital being wrapped in smoke due to a spate of regional ...
Originally, there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict which are mainly responsible for the debacle in the Af-Pak region. Firstly, the former Soviet Union which invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Secondly, Pakistan’s security agencies which nurtured the Afghan so-called “mujahideen” (freedom fighters) on the behest of Washington.Thirdly, Saudi Arabia and the rest of oil-rich Gulf states which generously funded the jihadists to promote their Wahhabi-Salafi ideology. And last but not the least, the Western capitals which funded, provided weapons and internationally legitimized the erstwhile ‘freedom fighters’ to use them against a competing ideology, global communism, which posed a ...
Many conspiracy theories have been created about Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros since his rise to economic wealth. Many of them deal with the intersection between his political beliefs and his financial wealth. However, here we present a real truth on who was and is George Soros. What is missing from official George Soros' C.V. by © “Free Media Group” 2017. © “Free Media Group” 2017 Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, ...
Dear Readers, some of you are pushing me to continue with the Las Vegas shooting story while others are asking to know what to make of the release of files pertaining to President Kennedy’s assassination. I appreciate that you are interested and are unsatisfied with official explanations.My answer is that we already know, thanks to exhaustively researched books such as James W. Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable (Simon & Schuster, 2008), far more than is in the released files. My answer is also that it doesn’t matter what we know or what the facts are, the official story will never be changed. ...
Up to June 1967, a border separated Jews living in Israel and Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza. The Six Day War, which occurred exactly fifty years ago, erased that line. Israel has been occupying these territories ever since. This has been the source of an endless conflict between Jews and Arabs. Who started that war? Having won the war, Israel set out to give an answer to that question which would suit its needs.To cement its hold over the new territories Israel had sought to mold the story of the Six Day. The attempt to frame the ...
US foreign policy has nurtured Al Qaeda, a creation of the CIA for more than 35 years, with the support of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Saudi Arabia’s infamous General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). Lest we forget Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 by the CIA at the outset of the Soviet- Afghan war.A complex network of Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organizations overseen by US and allied intelligence agencies has unfolded, extending across the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Western China, South and South East Asia.Rand Corporation Report 2012While mainstream analysis regarding CIA covert support of “jihadist” terrorist entities is a ...
Churchill once said that in war the truth is so precious it has to be surrounded with a bodyguard of lies. In Germany over the last two months one clearly saw the fabrication of such a bodyguard.
Even as air attacks proceeded against civilian targets—destroying factories, electricity works, refineries, bridges, streets, railway lines and apartment blocks— German government representatives spoke of a ” humanitarian action ” . Despite the fact that the NATO attacks unleashed the massive wave of refugees and reduced towns and villages in Kosovo to ruins , it has been maintained to the very end that the aim ...
Author’s note:This article was first published more than eleven years ago in February 2006 under the title Is the Bush Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?The first part I of this text was published as a separate article entitled: The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War, New Pentagon Doctrine: Mini-Nukes are “Safe for the Surrounding Civilian Population”. The results of this research were then integrated in my book entitled Towards World War Three Scenario, The Dangers of Nuclear War, Global Research Publishers, 2011Nuclear war with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea is “on the table”. Non-nuclear states in the Middle East are ...
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday at a hospital in Virginia at the age of 89. Though the New York Times acknowledged that the former government advisor was a “hawkish strategic theorist,” misrepresenting his legacy as one of otherwise infinite positivity may not be as easy as the establishment might like to think.As the United Kingdom plays around with levels of the so-called “terror threat” following a devastating attack by an ISIS-inspired individual — and as the Philippines goes into an almost complete state of martial law following ISIS-inspired destruction — Brzezinski’s timely death ...
There are more questions than answers to the Crimean ‘question’.After more than two decades belonging to an independent Ukraine, the Crimean peninsula has become part of Russia, which has thereby gained an extra 27,000 km2 of territory and over two million new citizens. Ukraine and the West see this unprecedented event as annexation and a sign of the Kremlin’s neo-imperial ambitions. To countries not directly involved in the Ukrainian crisis, it is a dangerous violation of the Eurasian status quo that could cause widespread destabilisation in the area, while in Moscow’s eyes it is ‘the return of Crimea and Sevastopol ...
Zagreb, 1941Become familiar with the basic info about one of the most beautiful countries in the world - Croatia. Photos, data & recommendations where to stay in order to enjoy this Adriatic pearl. If you are not the Serb.Split, Dalmatia, Croatia, 2019: "Kill the Serb" on the car with the plates from SerbiaOrigins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to ...
How many times have we seen this before?The President of the United States is on TV telling us horror stories. Some innocent people in some corner of the world are being crushed, he tells us. They face some monstrously evil oppressor, he says. While the United States doesn’t like war, what choice is there? Sacrifices must be made, cruise missiles must be unleashed, to protect the poor and innocent. The world is the set of an action movie, and the US is the tragic hero, forced to rescue the innocent.This is the script we heard in former Yugoslavia. Bill Clinton ...
Not satisfied with having sponsored the artificial creation of Kosovo, the United States has now decided to ram the mafia state through NATO and the European Union. A new member with such characteristics is the last thing that Europe needs right now. However, it should work wonders for the consolidation of U.S. political and military agenda in the region, not to speak of the flourishing heroin trade from Afghanistan…both of which, as Engdahl points out in this sharp analysis, pose a threat to Russia and may backfire in the end.In one of the more bizarre foreign policy announcements of a ...
“I can still see it very clearly, I have not forgotten,” says Títos Patríkios. “The Athens police firing on the crowd from the roof of the parliament in Syntagma Square. The young men and women lying in pools of blood, everyone rushing down the stairs in total shock, total panic.”And then came the defining moment: the recklessness of youth, the passion of belief in a justice burning bright: “I jumped up on the fountain in the middle of the square, the one that is still there, and I began to shout: “Comrades, don’t disperse! Victory will be ours! Don’t leave. ...
The recent Kerch Strait incident marks a new low amid the US-led expansion of NATO eastward.The intentional provocation executed by Kiev saw three Ukrainian naval vessels seized by Russia. The vessels were intentionally violating the protocol for passing through the Strait – previously agreed upon by Kiev and previously observed by Ukrainian naval vessels.The extent to which Ukraine was aware of these protocols and the 2003 agreement that put them in place includes entire events organized in Ukraine by NATO-sponsored “think tanks” discussing the necessity to “rip them up” and attempt to assert greater control over the current joint-use of the ...
Interview with Historian David Motadel: Islam and Nazi Germany’s War
Nationalism, Ideology, and the Formation of the Nation-States Among the Yugoslavs
Ukraine Honors Nationalists Whose Troops Butchered Jews
Yalta, 1945: The Impact on Yugoslavia
If NATO Wants Peace and Stability it Should Stay Home
The Criminal Actions of the Kiev Regime in East Ukraine
CIA Was Aiding “Jihadists” before Soviets Invaded Afghanistan
A Contribution to Biography (C.V.) of Philanthropist George Soros
The Kennedy Assassination
Was Israel Under Existential Threat in June 1967?
When Terrorism Becomes Counter-Terrorism
German Interests in the War Against Yugoslavia
The Real Story of Zbigniew Brzezinski that the Media isn’t Telling
This is Croatia: A Book of Basic Info about the Country (PDF)
Phantom Tanks and the Desperation of Kiev
Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could Destroy NATO
Athens Massacre of 1944: Britain’s Dirty Secret of Winston Churchill
NATO Aggression Reaches for Russian Waters