Archive for November, 2015


November 17, 2015

Stockholm has a long tradition of relations with the Ottoman empire/Turkey. This was the case especially during the Great Northern War (1700 to 1721) but also during the rest of the 18th century.

When the Turkish Grand Vizier Mehemed Baltadshi marched out of Constantinople on 6 March 1711, leading an army of perhaps 80,000 soldiers, Swedish King Charles XII, in exile in Bendery (in the present Republic of Moldova then part of the Ottoman empire), was greatly relieved. His representatives at the court of Sultan Ahmed III had been working hard for a follow up of the Ottoman declaration of war in November 1710 against Russia. It had been the main reason for his stay in the northern outskirts of the Ottoman empire.

The policy of Charles XII, Ivan Mazepa (from the spring of 1710 his successor Hetman Pylyp Orlyk) and Hordienko during the forced exile in Bendery was to find Turkish aid against Russia. The Swedish mission in Constantinople worked hard to persuade Sultan Ahmed to take military action against Czar Peter. The goal was a formal Swedish-Ukrainian-Turkish-Crimean Tartar alliance.

The Sultan promised Charles an escort of 50,000 soldiers for the safe return home of the Swedes via Poland. The strategy would be to have a Turkish army invade Poland. At the same time a Swedish army would attack Poland from the west, from Swedish Pomerania, a Swedish territory in northern Germany. A Turkish attack in Ukraine would draw Russian troops from Poland leaving it less defended and Peter’s ally, King Augustus II, unsupported. Allied troops would then drive Augustus from Poland and replace him with the alliance supporter and Swedish ally, King Stanislaus I, and add Poland to the coalition aiming at containing Russia. Among the European powers, England, the Netherlands and the German emperor were at best neutral. The only supporter of the alliance was France.

Constantinople was now the center of intensive intrigue. On one side Swedish, French and Ukrainian diplomats attempting to persuade Turkey to join the alliance. On the other, hand Polish (loyal to King Augustus) and Russian representantives tried to prevent it. Targets of influence were the grand vizier and other high Turkish officials.

When the Turks in the spring of 1711 marched toward Ukraine from the southwest, Charles sent a Swedish military adviser to the Ottoman military forces in the east, Major General Karl-Gustaf Hard, an experienced cavalry fighter. Ismail Pasha had been detailed by the grand vizier to attack the Russian strongholds of Taganrog and Azov on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. 5,000 Ukrainians under Pylyp Orlyk, 4,000 Poles commanded by General Joseph Potocki (7) and 1,000 Swedes joined the Turkish forces.

Meanwhile in late spring 1711, 40,000 Crimean Tartars led by the son of the Crimean Khan with Swedish military adviser Major Sven Lagerberg moved northward into Ukraine to join the Turkish forces advancing from the southwest. Czar Peter’s 38,000 Russian troops now faced 170,000 alliance troops. On 11 July, 1711, Czar Peter found himself trapped on the banks of the river Pruth. The Russian army was low on provisions. The horses were unfed. Czar Peter, often prone to rages, according to a pro-Russian Danish source, was running around the camp tearing his hair.

Tsar Peter managed to get out of the trap at Prut and the grand alliance to contain Russia sought by Charles had collapsed. In the autumn of 1714 he rode north through Europe toward Sweden returning to fight new battles until he was killed by a bullet in the trenches outside the Norwegian fortress of Fredrikshald in 1718.

The good relations of Sweden with Turkey have continued in modern times. When Turkey sought membership in the European union in 1987 it was supported by Sweden. This support has continued consistently but the central powers of the European Union have been reluctant to seriously consider Turkey as member of the Union. For almost 30 years Ankara has been frustrated by Brussels dragging its feet in the matter membership for the Turks. One wonders if this might change after the refugee crisis in the fall of 2015?


November 12, 2015

Der Spiegel, Germany, on August 23, 2012, published an interview with French philosopher André Glucksmann. He then found the situation in Europe “extremely unsettling.” In November 2015 Glucksmann passed away 78 years old. In the midst of the ongoing refugee crisis his vision from 2015 must be remembered. In the Spiegel interview he discussed the failure of the European intellectual elite.

André Glucksmann was one of the so-called New Philosophers, who turned away from their Marxist beginnings after 1968 and wrote off Soviet-style totalitarianism. He was well known for his two books “The Cook and the Cannibal” and “The Master Thinkers.” His parents were Eastern European Jews and lived in Palestine and Germany before fleeing in 1937 to France, where Glucksmann was born in the same year. Glucksmann persistently criticized Europe for its tendency to close its eyes to the persistent presence of evil in the world.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Glucksmann, in light of the intellectual and existential experiences you had in the 20th century as an anti-totalitarian thinker, are you worried about Europe’s future?

Glucksmann: I’ve never believed that all the dangers were averted after the end of fascism and communism. History doesn’t come to a standstill. Europe didn’t step out of (history) when the Iron Curtain disappeared, even if it has occasionally seemed to want to. Democracies tend to ignore or forget the tragic dimensions of history. In this sense, I would say: Yes, current developments are extremely unsettling.

SPIEGEL: Since its beginnings 60 years ago, the European community has almost always stumbled from one crisis to the next. Setbacks are part of its normal mode of operation.

Glucksmann: A sense of crisis characterizes the modern European era. From it, one can draw the general conclusion that Europe actually isn’t a state or a community in the national sense, which grows together organically. It also can’t be compared with the ancient Greek city-states, which, despite their differences and rivalries, formed a single cultural unit.

Glucksmann: Since the Greeks — from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle — Western philosophy has inherited two fundamental principles: Man is not the measure of all things, and he isn’t immune to failure and evil. Nevertheless, he is responsible for himself, and for everything he does or refrains from doing.

Glucksmann: The Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia and the murderous incendiary actions of the Russians in the Caucasus didn’t happen that long ago. The European Union came together to oppose three evils: the memory of Hitler, the Holocaust, racism and extreme nationalism; Soviet communism in the Cold War; and, finally, colonialism…These three evils gave rise to a common understanding of democracy, a civilizing central theme of Europe.

Germany decided to embark on its transition to renewable energy on its own, ignoring the European dimension. Everyone is negotiating individually with Russia for oil and gas, Germany signed an agreement to build the Baltic Sea pipeline despite the resistance of Poland and Ukraine, and Italy is involved in the South Stream pipeline through the Black Sea.

…it makes things easy for Russia under (President Vladimir) Putin. Despite all the weakness of that giant of natural resources, its capacity to cause damage remains considerable and is something its president likes to use. Recklessness and forgetfulness create the conditions for new catastrophes in both the economy and politics.