Sweden was a Military Giant – Until it Invaded Russia

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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