Diplomacy during the Great Northern War from 1700-1721. Kevin L. Boyd Norwich University Abstract After studying the Peace Treaty of Westphalia and its impact upon how states conduct relations with each other I was interested in finding out how it impacted conflicts subsequent to the treaty. This paper will therefore analyze The Great Northern War and both the diplomatic impact upon the conflict as well as the conflict itself impact upon diplomacy.
The Great Northern War lasted from 1700 until 1721 and had the nation-states of Russia, Denmark, and others allied against the Swedish Empire, as well as dominated the European political scene alongside the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). That this major conflict occurred so soon after the Treaty of Westphalia, and had two of the major belligerents literally switch sides during the conflict then back again, begs for study. I initially chose this bit of history because having lived in Scandinavia and it occurring at such a pivotal time in history intrigued me, however finding out that one of the leading historians, Stewart P.
Oakley taught at Norwich was a bonus (Until I learned that it was the Norwich campus of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom). In this paper I will discuss the historical highlights that led up to war as well as the diplomatic history that influenced it, the war itself, the relations between the belligerents and why diplomacy failed during several critical points, and finally the historical legacy that remained afterwards. I found that diplomacy at this stage in history was still infantile and that the personalities of the leaders still had a much larger impact upon both diplomacy and the war than the treaties themselves.
Keywords: Great Northern War, Peace Treaty of Westphalia, diplomacy, conflict Diplomacy during the Great Northern War from 1700-1721. Introduction The Thirty Years War was a great windfall for the Swedish Kingdom as they emerged from it with nearly half of the provinces of the Holy Roman Empire (Conquered during the war, not all controlled after the war), as the leading nation-state in Western Europe’s Protestantism, and the much sought after ‘dominion maris baltici’ (Baltic Sea Dominium; or control of the Baltic Sea), in fact during the time of the Swedish Empire they called the Baltic Sea ‘Mare Nostrum Balticum’ (“Our Baltic Sea”).
The Swedish Empire began in 1560 when King Gustav Vasa seized modern day Finland. They were the dominant nation-state in Northern Europe; and after Westphalia were nearly as powerful politically in Europe as France who remained a close ally. Additionally after Westphalia they were the third largest nation in Europe geographically, after Russia and Spain. With the Swedish Empire continuing to gain territory after Westphalia through diplomacy and conquest, Russia under Peter the Great felt threatened by the expanding Swedish Empire, and additionally he possessed a strong desire for a port on the Baltic Sea.
Through diplomacy Peter managed to form an Alliance with Denmark and Saxony and in 1700 attacked the Swedish Empire and her allies. The war which came to be known as the Great Northern War ended in 1721 with Swedish defeat, and loss of her Baltic empire. The diplomacy that took place before, during, and after the conflict bears investigation as it impacted this major European conflict up until the present day. In the pages that follow I will investigate the history prior to, during, and after the conflict and how diplomacy or lack thereof played a role.
I will do so primarily from the perspective of the Swedish Empire as they were the primary empire and the ones who suffered defeat and the loss of their empire. Additionally, I will focus on the historical events as they relate to diplomacy and while it is necessary to include many of the battles of the war I will limit them so this is not an exhaustive paper about the history of the Great Northern War itself. I will present issues as they appear chronologically in order of the subject spoken about, and not present them in a strict chronological order as they actually occurred.
The Swedish Empire and the Peace of Westphalia The Swedish Empire rose in 1561 when the Swedes took possession of modern day Estonia from the Russians in the Livonian War, and lasted until 1721 when they were defeated by the Russians and her allies in the Great Northern War. During this time Sweden was considered one of the “great European powers (Frost, 2000, p. 230). ” It was primarily under the reign of King Gustavus Adolphus and Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna that Sweden rose to the height of her power during the Thirty Years War, and the subsequent peace treaty that concluded it.
Sweden was allied with France during the war, and as such they were the primary victors and both received war reparations as a result of the Treaty of Westphalia. (Gross, 1948) The Treaty of Westphalia was born out of a desperation that saw a great desire for peace within Europe, as both the Thirty Years War between the Catholic nation-states of the Holy Roman Empire and its allies, the Protestant nation-states, as well as the Islamic Ottomans were all yearning for a peace after such devastation. The Treaty of Westphalia also concluded the Eighty Years War (Dutch War of Independence) between Spain and the Dutch Republic.
The major signatories to the Treaty of Westphalia were the Holy Roman Empire, House of Habsburg, Empires of Sweden, France, and Spain as well as the Dutch Republic, and the leaders of the free imperial cities which were located in the modern day nation of Germany. Sweden gained territory in modern day Germany, Poland, Latvia, Russia, Norway and Denmark as a result of the treaty, and as such was the largest nation-state in northern Europe in population, and second largest behind Russia in geography.
Sweden however was not a wealthy nation and this would lead to domestic and international turbulence in the years to come. After Westphalia Despite Westphalia concluding the peace for the Thirty Years War, Sweden remained at war with the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth since the Polish-Swedish War of 1626-1929, however they repeatedly renewed their truce until 1655. Sweden was a rising Empire that desired more territory as their army relied upon revenues strictly from occupied territories to finance itself.
Sweden was a nation-state that was for the most part impoverished, and the leadership and fiscal irresponaibility of Queen Christina left much to be desired. She gained the throne at the age of six when her father, King Gustav II Adolf, was killed at the Battle of Lutzen during the Thirty Years War. She spent extravagantly and nearly bankrupted the nation, and upon her conversion to Catholicism abdicated the throne. Charles X Gustav took the throne in 1654 and immediately began to reverse the extravagance hat Queen Christina had begun, however he redirected the monies to the army which did little to fill the Swedish coffers. His desire for military glory resulted in an immediate call to arms, for within three days of being crowned he threatened Poland with invasion. Charles X left Stockholm and began what is now known as the Second Northern War with the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth on July 10th 1655. He saw Russia taking land from the commonwealth and convinced that they were getting too close to the Swedish sphere of influence (Frost, 2000, p. 66), as well as desiring more territory, Sweden quickly invaded and gained control over greater Poland. The war quickly expanded into a greater European war that drew in Denmark, Russia, and other smaller nations into the fray against Sweden. The war ended in 1660 with Charles X’s death from pneumonia, and Sweden emerged as an even greater power than prior to the war, however they lost much political prestige as they had launched a pre-emptive war.
Sweden controlled the majority of the territory around the Baltic Sea, and all of the major Germanic rivers which provided them with major sources of revenue as they were able to tax the trade on the rivers. However, as a result of the war there was vast resentment of the Swedish rule in the new territories. Due to the Swedes quick succession of victories the Poles developed a new sense of nationalistic spirit, and while they were defeated in battle they despised the Swedes and Charles X as being a barbaric despot. Frost, 1993) Denmark lost significant territory to Sweden during the war as well, and held a strong desire to regain it. The nationalistic spirit of the Poles, as well as the strong desire of the Danes to exact retribution were both leading causes of their nations to join with Russia in an alliance against the Swedish Empire in the upcoming Great Northern War. Russia had entered the Second Northern War against Sweden, however not allied with the other combatants.
They fought from 1656-1658 with Tsar Alexis of Russia failing to regain territory on the Baltic coast that they had lost to Sweden previously during the Ingrian War in 1617. (Miller, 2010) When Sweden invaded Poland and quickly captured Warsaw, and with King Charles X announcing his claims on the Polish and Lithuanian territory Russia had already conquered, Tsar Alexis suspended his campaign against the commonwealth and declared war against Sweden. With the Swedish army being a better trained and equipped military that used modern tactics, the Russians were repeatedly defeated as the Danes were earlier.
The end result was Russian defeat, and Swedish gain of all territory that the Russians had held in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. (Wlodzimierz, 1985) As a result of the Second Northern War, and the smaller Scanian War with Denmark in 1674, the Swedish Empire lost much of its political clout while gaining territory. They were viewed as the aggressors against Poland, which was a popular nation in Europe with close familiar ties to Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Holy Roman Empire states within modern Germany.
Sweden had close ties with the French only, and even lost this during the Scanian War when Charles XI refused peace and the French King Louis XIV dictated terms after having negotiated the terms without Swedish consent. (Upton, 1998, p. 93) The stage was set for the Great Northern War with Sweden having turned the majority of European nations against a Swedish Empire And they further complicated matters for themselves by lacking a solid financial base to support an extended campaign by the Swedish army and their mercenaries.
Having looked at the overall history that led up to the Great Northern War I will now delve into the diplomatic history and the actors involved. The diplomats and their actions Axel Oxenstierna was the chief diplomat and statesman for both King Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christiana and is considered by many one of the most influential people in Swedish history. (Roberts, 1984, p. 303) When Sweden entered the Thirty Years War Oxenstierna was the Governor-General of Prussia, and it was the tolls that were collected from the river trade that provided for the main source of income for the Swedish Empire.
He played a pivotal role in the war as he assumed the command of the Swedish army upon the death of King Gustavus in 1632, and while he let the generals run the tactical side of the war he melded both diplomacy and military command into effective leadership that guaranteed Sweden a significant area of modern day Germany. He became the Swedish chancellor for all of the landholdings not on the Scandinavian Peninsula, and many distinguished proletariats of his day spoke of him. Cardinal Richelieu of France proclaimed Oxenstierna “an inexhaustible source of fine advice. Hofberg, 1906, p. 253)” Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu’s protege, said of him “if all the ministers of Europe were on the same ship, the helm would be handed to Oxenstierna. (Hofberg, 1906, p. 253)” Pope Urban VIII claimed that he was one of the most excellent men that the world has ever seen, and the famed Dutch jurist and philosopher Hugo Grotius considered him to be “the greatest man of the century. (Hofberg, 1906, p. 253)” Of note, Axel Oxenstierna was seen by many in Europe as such a great leader that he is still referenced today.
While it is hardly a be quoted by Adolf Hitler he was quoted in ‘Mein Kampf’ (Hitler, 1939, p. 166) from a letter he sent to his son Johan Oxenstierna. Johan was delegate to the Peace Treaty of Westphalia at the time when his father intending to give him confidence while he dealt with more experienced diplomats and statesmen said to him “Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed? (Hofberg, 1906, p. 254)” Johan Oxenstierna was the son of Axel Oxenstierna and raising being taught an extensive knowledge of diplomatic issues and diplomacy.
However there is no record of him making decisions on his own, rather he followed his fathers’ direction uniformly without any form or semblance of deviation. (Hofberg, 1906, p. 254) He was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Sztumska Wies (Polish) or Stuhmsdorf (Swedish) that concluded the 1635 war with Poland, and alongside Salvius he represented Sweden at the Congress of Osnabruck during as a part of the Westphalia Peace Treaty. (Gross, 1948) and (Roberts, 2003) Johann Adler Salvius was one of the two primary Swedish negotiators at Westphalia along with Johan Oxenstierna.
He was instrumental in forging the long standing alliance with France starting in 1936. Initially he was a protege of Axel Oxenstierna, however he had his own opinions and while at Westphalia he brokered relations directly with Queen Christina winning him favor and being named the chief negotiator for Sweden at Westphalia. While Oxenstierna gained interests for Sweden and the Riksdag (Council of nobles at that time, Swedish Senate today), Salvius gained concessions for the Queen’s interests.
Despite his falling out with the powerful Oxenstierna family he was allowed to continue his diplomatic trade as he conducted negotiations with the Poles at Lubeck in 1651 after Westtphalia, and died of natural causes in 1652. While the above mentioned individuals were major brokers in Swedish diplomacy, especially during Westphalia, once Charles XII ascended to the throne in 1697 at age 14 he favored strictly military generals and while a few of them had experience in diplomacy (namely securing peace treaties) it was minor experience, and their names are now known for their military prowess or lack there-of.
What little diplomacy that the Swedes conducted during the Great Northern War was done so by Charles XII himself, particularily with the French and Ottomans later in the war and almost always for fairly minor tasks. It was the Russians under a Swedish adventurer that became the masters of diplomacy forging an alliance to defeat the Swedes. The Swedes were a much better trained and equipped military force, however it was through diplomacy that the Peter the Great finally secured a Swedish defeat and his long sought after year round port or “window to the sea (Raleigh, 1996, p. 4)” as all other Russian ports were closed to ice except during the summer months. Therefore the most influential diplomat outside of the actual state leaders themselves was Johann Patkul, who was born in a Swedish prison in Stockholm in 1660. While he was a Swedish nobleman, his family line was of German blood. He was born in a prison because his father was under suspicion of treason against the crown. Once he was of age he joined the Swedish army and attained the rank of Captain due to his abilities.
He attested the land-recovery activities in his native Livonia (modern Latvia) of King Charles XI and in 1689 he protested directly to the King, which is something that would be unheard of in other nations at the time. King Charles XI was impressed by his eloquence, however dismissed the petition and continued with his land-recovery efforts. In 1692 when Johann Patkul again renewed his complaints he did so utilizing offensive language and when the King came after him for treason he fled to Switzerland. Johann Patkul “escaped into exile from Stockholm, where his protests resulted in a death sentence in bsentia for high treason. (Derry, 1979, p. 152)” In 1698 Patkul petitioned the new King Charles XII for a pardon in vain. When it was rejected he entered into service of the Saxons under Augustus the Strong who controlled Saxony and the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. His intentions were to wrest control of his native Livonia from Sweden and halt the land-recovery activities. In his pursuit he mastered the art of diplomacy as it was practiced in 1700 and gained an audience with Peter the Great and other world leaders to unite them in an alliance.
In 1699 he knit together the Alliance at a secret meeting in Preobrazhensky Russia that included Peter the Great of Russia, Frederik IV of Denmark, and August the Strong of Saxony-Poland-Lithuania. When the war began Patkul was the alliances chief diplomat and in 1702 he enlisted the famous Scottish General George Benedict Ogilvie into Peter the Greats Army. (Oakley, 1993, p. 106-107) While Patkul had created a grand alliance, he had yet to persuade the Prussians to join which was a primary concern of Peter the Great’s.
It was in this pursuit that Patkul was attempting when he went to Dresden to persuade the Saxons to release a Russian unit from their service so that it could be transferred to the Austrians who at that time were allied with the Prussians. The Saxon’s were unhappy with him as he had in their eyes defected to the Russians from their service the year before, and because they feared the Swedes, namely King Charles XII who was has just seized Leipzig the Saxon Elector seized and arrested Patkul. He promptly turned him over to Charles as a sign of cooperation hoping Leipzig would be spared from Charles wrath.
King Charles had Patkul tortured to death by “breaking him on the wheel. (Derry, 1979, p. 156)” Johann Patkul was a man of the ages that was able to rise from obscurity and being born in a prison; he became a man who brought the great powers of his day together to eventually defeat the greatest power in the region of Northern Europe, that being the Swedish Empire. While he was directly responsible for the creation of the alliance, it was still the actual leaders of the states that forced through their will to engage in the war and seize territory.
It is in this light that I will now look at each of the nation-states involved and their national leaders. Swedish King Charles XII The Swedish Empire was led by King Charles XII from his ascendance in 1697 to the Swedish throne at age 16 until his death in battle in 1718. He is well known as a skilled tactician and able politician at home in Sweden even while he was constantly campaigning, and he instituted both legal and tax reforms that benefitted Sweden. While he didn’t set out to wage war as his grandfather Charles X did, nonetheless before he turned nineteen he found himself embroiled in one of Europe’s’ major wars.
The great French philosopher and historian Voltaire quotes Charles XII as saying when the Great Northern War began, “I have resolved never to start an unjust war but never to end a legitimate one except by defeating my enemies (Voltaire, 1744, p. 224)” He was well known by his contemporaries and the famous English poet Samuel Johnson wrote of him in his most famous poem (Considered such by T. S. Elliot and others (Bate, 1955)), “The Vanity of Human Wishes (Johnson, 1749)” where he declares of him “He left the name, at which the world grew pale. The author of Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott, compares his hero to King Charles XII in the last line of his novel as “the name, at which the world grew pale. (Scott, 1893, p. 522)” King Charles XII was well known for his fearlessness in battle and “in fact was a man who, when the iron shot and bullets whizzed by, possessed a strange, almost eerie sense of detachment. (Cummins, 2008, p. 338)” Charles XII personally led his army on the field of battle and he “always insisted on being at the front lines, which is how he came to be wounded at Poltava and eventually killed in Norway. (Cummins, 2008, p. 338)”
Charles XII secured early victories over the entire alliance and in fact knocked everyone save Russia out of the war by 1706. In 1703 Frederick IV withdrew from the war after early Swedish naval victories and their invasion of Denmark. Sweden was preparing to seize the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Both the Netherlands and Britain, who had ships there to support Sweden under the Treaty of the Hague signed just prior to the war, did not participate in the actual fighting and once Frederick IV vowed to withdraw from the alliance against Sweden they adamantly refused to participate in further aggression.
Therefore Charles accepted Frederick’s withdrawal, and focused his forces elsewhere, and soon he defeated Augustus at the Battle of Narva in Travendal forcing Augustus to sue for peace. This left Peter the Great and the Russians as the sole nation-state fighting Sweden, and Charles wasted no time in securing several defeats against the Russian armies. It was here that Charles XII made his first mistake, having first planned to make a winter invasion and seize Moscow he eventually figured out the folly of such an action something that both Napoleon and Hitler failed to see.
He did however seek to seize Moscow with a two pronged summer attack. Charles XII was confident after several victories and having secured the victory at Narva/Travendal against a Russian army three times the size of the Swedes (Oakley, 1993, p. 107), he decided to press the attack against the Russians. The Russians began the first of their now three famous ‘scorch and burn’ retreats to deny the enemy the ability to live off the land. Charles XII was finally defeated and wounded at Poltava in the Ukraine where he was forced to go after having wintered in Minsk and in dire need of supplies due to the Russian ‘scorch and burn’ tactics.
It was at this time that Ivan Mazepa, a Cossack commander, joined forces with Charles against the Russians. After Charles was wounded poor communications among the Swedes contributed greatly to their defeat, and they began a retreat. The retreat was turned into a rout when the army was caught by Russian cavalry at Perevolochna and capitulated. Charles XII fled to the Ottoman empire which initially gave him refuge and he persuaded the Turks to join the war on the side of the Swedes.
It was during his exile in the Turkish city of Bender that Charles XII and his forces managed to inflame the Turkish citizens against him because they failed or refused to pay for anything, and hence owed considerable sums to the Turkish merchants. The citizenry rioted and Charles was imprisoned in Constantinople, which he managed to flee, famously riding across Europe in just 15 days on horseback. Charles rebuilt his army upon his return to Stockholm and decided to invade Norway. His first invasion was in 1716 with a small force of 9,000 men and he was defeated by the native Norwegians who were operating under Danish ule. He again invaded in 1718 with a much larger force of 40,000 men, and while conducting a siege of the Danish fortress of Fredriksten he was killed by a Norwegian bullet to the head. The crown was passed to his sister Ulrika Eleonora (Frost, 2000, p. 295-296) who refused to accept Russian terms of surrender. While Sweden possessed a great naval fleet, there was little desire to use it, and Russia conducted several raids on the Swedish mainland coast leading to the eventual capitulation of the Swedish Empire.
Russian Tsar Peter I the Great Peter the Great according to Voltaire “already made himself formidable by the battle he had gained over the Turks in 1697…which opened to him the dominion of the Black Sea. (Voltaire, 1744, p. 213)” And further Voltaire states of the Russian people “the Muscovites were less civilized than the Mexicans, when discovered by Cortez (Voltaire, 1744, p. 213)” and that they were the most ignorant people in existence until Peter the Great forced education upon them.
It was Peter who created a Russian Empire, as before his reign little was known and almost virtually no one cared about the Russians, however after his defeat of the Ottomans and Swedes both of the dominant empires of his day, he became famous throughout Europe. Voltaire said of both Peter the Great and Charles XII, “by common accord, the most remarkable men to have appeared in over two thousand years. (Voltaire, 1744, p. 360)” While Russia did have diplomatic relations with European nations prior to the reign of Peter the Great, they were not of the same caliber that the Europeans expected and utilized.
He instituted great changes to his nation and of these and how they effected Russian diplomatic practices Bohlen states: “The reign of Peter the Great has come, rightly or wrongly, to be identified above all with change, departure from tradition and, in the Russian context, Westernization. The reforms which he carried out affected many areas of Russian life and society, but there were few where the transformation was as unequivocal, or its progress as readily observable as in diplomacy.
It was evident not only in the changing nature of Russia’s relations with the countries of Europe, but also in the manner in which these relations were conducted. (Bohlen, 1966, p. 1)” Peter the Great literally forced his nation into a modern state, at least as much as he could, and frequently took trips outside the nation to learn how affairs of state are conducted by other nations, as well as how arts and technology have progressed. He even went so far as take an apprenticeship at a Dutch shipbuilding company in the small town of Zaan. (Synge, 2006, p. 18) Peter the Great sought to transform his nation into a modern nation, and as such patterned his diplomacy after the diplomacy of the modern European nations. While Russia took no part in Westphalia, Peter used the same diplomatic techniques that the Westphalia nations used. Peter found that “under the new conditions created by Russia’s entry into the war against Sweden – her search for allies and her increasingly important role in the European political system – the old forms and techniques [of diplomacy] proved inadequate. (Bohlen, 1966, p. )” And furthermore, “the break with tradition began almost at once with the rapid disappearance of many Muscovite practices and the introduction of certain Western-style innovations [of diplomacy] at the very beginning of Peter’s reign. (Bohlen, 1966, p. 1)” Peter the Great identified that Russia needed to modernize and his doing so enabled him to create an alliance that brought down the ruling European empire at the time, as well as defeat the Ottomans, and build a relationship with Great Britain which would eventually come into play during the Crimean War a century and a half later.
British King George I Great Britain was the only hegemony and super power in the world in 1700, and was ruled by George I who sought for trade and not conquest when it came to Sweden and Russia. Initially they were allied with Sweden through the Treaty of the Hague (Actually signed in London, so sometimes referred to the Treaty of London (1700)) signed in 1700, just prior to the outbreak of hostilities. This treaty was signed primarily because of British interests in Bavaria and Hanover (home of King George I), namely trade.
Since the Swedes controlled the three principle rivers of Germany at the time of the Great Northern War, and Britain depended heavily on products that came from the nations down these rivers and through the Baltic. “The commodities produced in the Baltic states were important to the other states of Europe. The trade routes from the north and east of Europe to the west pass through the Baltic. (Treasure, 1985, p. 417)” Britain being the dominant naval power f the century was heavily dependent on the timber that came from Sweden and the other Baltic states, as well as the grain from the great plains of Poland, Prussia, and Ukraine that had to transgress the Swedish Empire to get to Britain. Britain was therefore initially supportive of the Swedes, however as I pointed out earlier they supported by sending fleets to protect the Swedish ships while the attacked, not participating in any of the battle and demanding a peace once peace was sought by Denmark.
George I quickly withdrew from the conflict as it appeared Swedish victory was eminent and they would not need British assistance when British the British forces were needed in the other large war, the War of Spanish Succession. Both wars involved the extensive diplomacy of Great Britain, which was able to persuade Prussia to opt of the Great Northern War and into the War of Spanish Succession on the side of the British who were fighting the French in Northern Italy at the time.
The British being focused on defeating France viewed the Great Northern War as a “Monstrous irrelevancy. (Frey, 1976, p. 283)” and they engaged Prussia to drop out of their alliance with Russia, stop fighting Sweden, and join them in their fight against France. They initially succeeded, however Frederick of Prussia “who had trusted the Swedes, found [himself] duped. (Frey, 1976, p. 286)” as he had already signed a cease fire with the Swedes and dropped out of the conflict in July of 1703, and then Sweden seized Prussian territory.
In 1704 British diplomacy failed, and Prussia at the insistency of “Patkul, determined to unite the armies of Prussia and Russia, urged Frederick to raise 10,000 men on the pretext of deploying them in the war against France. (Frey, 1976, p 288)” Reality was that Frederick desired war against Sweden as they were threatened by Sweden and not France, therefore they continued negotiations with Russia without Britain’s knowledge, and re-entered the Great Northern War against Sweden in 1709 much to the dismay of the British who were dependent on trade from Prussia.
Frederick declared that he would fight all of the maritime powers if need be, clearly referring to Sweden, Britain, and the Netherlands as he viewed them as the greatest threat to his throne since they were the ‘enemies at his gates’ and not the French. While the British were initially allied with Sweden, they dropped out of the war until 1717 when they again allied with the Swedes. Again however, they did not partake in any combat operations, and King George I having seen the now eminent Swedish defeat switched sides to the Russians in 1719.
While the British again did not take part in combat operations, their fleet limited the Russians from raiding the Swedish coasts and kept the “barbary of the Russians to an acceptable level. (Oakley, 1993, p. 164)” “Reviewing the policy of George I in the north, we see in the years 1709 to 1721 three successive phases of it: indecision, war with Sweden, and approximation to war with Russia. In the second phase George was successful, gaining for Hanover the valuable acquisition of Bremen and Verden, though the gain was discounted by the concomitant aggrandizement of Prussia and the transference of the ducal Sleswick to Denmark.
In the third he suffered dire defeat. How far his policy, as elector, was damaging to British interests is a question which has been referred to; it has been debated for nearly two centuries and will probably never be agreed upon. The chief consideration is, how far it caused the hostility with Russia. If George had sided with Charles XII instead of with his enemies, Charles might, perhaps, have recovered his dominions in the east, and then there would have been no Russian mastery of the Baltic to fear. But to do so, as we have seen, was not possible, principally in consequence of the perversity of Charles himself…
Jealousy of the rise of Russia was natural on the part of Great Britain and inevitable. (Chance, 1909, p. 855-856)” Therefore despite great diplomatic efforts by Britain, their efforts are viewed in a modern sense as a failure by many. The fact that Russia now had a year round port on the Baltic outside of Saint Petersburg, was a threat to the British in later years, although no war or battle was fought outside the Cold War in the twentieth century, throughout the nineteenth century Britain held that the Russian fleet was a threat.
Conclusion Had diplomacy been utilized as a primary tool by the Swedish King Charles XII he may have averted a war than led to his death, the empires downfall, and Swedish loss of ‘dominion maris baltici. ’ His personality precluded him from using outside of in a military realm to gain cease-fires or territory through military action and their subsequent peace treaties. He and his predecessors of the Swedish Empire created animosity of their neighbors through their lack of tact and diplomatic efforts.
Despite having gained much through the efforts of Axel Oxenstierna and his proteges from Westphalia, Sweden quickly lost it when they failed to continue with the successful diplomacy used just fifty some odd years previously at Westphalia. Russia on the other-hand through the efforts of Peter the Great enhanced their diplomacy and utilizing the skills of Johann Patkul assembled an alliance that while it had major fractures and problems managed in the end to defeat the Swedish Empire.
He utilized diplomacy to bring the Prussians and Poles back into the conflict despite heavy losses at the hands of the Swedes early in the conflict. Despite the use of diplomacy and diplomats, who were a fairly new profession at this time, it was still the personalities of the strong leaders that dominated the continent. Both Charles XII and Peter the Great were the great personalities of the day and wielded great power and audacity. Peter founded Saint Petersburg in Swedish territory prior to defeating Charles XII in any battle which was a strong example of his audacity and character.
Charles XII virtually forsake diplomacy altogether and instead chose to win on the battlefield as his foreign policy. King George I, while not as strong of a leader during this timeframe was the leader of the strongest nation on earth, and as such he tried in vain to use diplomacy to gain leverage in Europe during the timeframe discussed in this paper. Chance characterizes King George’s diplomacy as “selfish and tortuous…but if not straightforward he strong, and he restored to Great Britain the foremost place in Europe. (Ford, 1910, p. 56)” Note, it was his personal diplomacy that he himself conducted While diplomacy was a fledgling field, it was used for trade and peace treaties almost exclusively in the century following Westphalia, and it was the personalities of the dominant leaders that forged their nations’ foreign policies. During the period after Westphalia and prior to WWI Treasure states that “European rulers still tended to regard states as personal property. Typical pretexts for going to war, not usually challenged in ethical terms, and normally accepted as being within the sovereign’s rights and competence. Treasure, 2003, p. 169)” “‘Now,’ wrote Charles d’Avenant in 1695, ‘the whole art of war is in a manner reduced to money; and nowadays that prince who can best find money to feed, clothe and pay his army, not he that hath the most valiant troops, is surest of success and conquest. ’ (Treasure, 2003, p. 170-171)” I take particular note that this was written in 1695, approximately 50 years after Westphalia established a diplomatic profession, and a mere 5 years prior to the Great Northern War, and that he refers to the ‘princes’ that operate to conduct operations and not the diplomats.
Therefore it supports my theory that the state and hence their foreign policy is still almost exclusively the domain of the national leader. While throughout history most of the European nations have moved away from the strongman as their leader, Russia has not. This has a lasting impact upon us today in that Russia is again ruled by a very strong personality in Vladimir Putin. Throughout history Russian foreign policy has been decided by their leaders, even during the communist years as Stalin ruled with an iron fist.
Vladimir Putin, despite now being the Prime Minister and hence only responsible for internal policy, still retains a hold upon the power and commonly dictates the policy to President Dmitri Medvedev. While it appears that Russia has modernized their foreign policy practices to allow for diplomats and plenipotentiary’s to have the power to make decisions, they possess only the power to turn to the leader in this case Vladimir Putin.
There are other state leaders today that operate much the same as did the leaders during the Great Northern War, such as Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran and Kuwait simply to gain territory or control despite world opinion or potential repercussion. And while Hugo Chavez of Venezuela hasn’t gone to war with anyone yet, he has no diplomacy save his own and utilizes his foreign affairs department solely for his own personal gain and not to further national interests. References Bate, W. T. (1955). The achievement of Samuel Johnson. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Bromley, J.
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