What if Russia launches a surprise attack on Sweden in 1914?

IOTL There nearly was such an attack against Sweden. There was an old TL about this but it ended prematurely a few years ago. The attack itself was to take place in the beginning of August IIRC right after Britain declared war.

Sweden's Navy at the time consisted of alot of coastal defense battleships and destroyers. Certainly not comparable with the Russian Baltic Fleet at the time. If we want we can put the Swedish ships out on exercises at the time to give them a more fair fight but the result of a Russian victory is very likely. A Swedish DoW against Russia is guaranteed, and in my opinion one against the France and Britain is also likely though I wouldn't be surprised if it was signed after the Russian one by the time the war has significantly progressed.

How would this affect the War? American public opinion? Russia's and the Entente's relations with minor and neutral Nations?
 
There's not one, but two unfinished Essen timelines I know of. Anyways, Wilson would feel compelled to say something. British dupe as he could sometimes be, he really did care about his grand principles of internationalism and peace (between white people, anyways), so this would be an uncomfortable reminder that the Entente weren't exactly defenders of peace and democracy. The shock would probably fade over time, though, and certainly be outweighed by news from Belgium in American minds. And honestly, I don't think other neutrals mattered too much. The Italians and Romanians wouldn't care, and everyone else was too small to matter, pretty much.
 

BlondieBC

Banned
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/ww1-the-scandinavian-front.227154/

Above is an old discussion on a similar thread. It has been a few years, so my memory of the details of the eastern front has faded, but here is what I remember as the highlights. The Swedish navy will be an useful addition to the German Baltic fleet, and there are plenty of German merchant ships in port to sustain any needed trade or military operations in the Baltic. The Swedes probably don't switch to the offensive quickly due to structures of prewar plans, but they will tie down additional Russian corp in modern Finland. It is not the Russian will reinforce, but they will not remove the units as they did IOTL, and this will make things much harder in the east after the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies are mauled. The Aland Islands might be taken, but might not. They are vulnerable, but we have had good debates about how fast the Swedes move.

You then have to decide where the "missing" Russian corps are at in the east. It might save the Austrians at Lemberg or Pemberg which is huge. Or it might not. Depends on the decisions, luck and skills of the commanders involved. If one goes with the Russians still maul the Austrian ATL, then the Swedes will face the choice in 1915 of amphibious operations near Finland (less likely) or having there troops fight in Poland (more likely).

Overall, most ATL with this POD result in Central Powers wins.
 
https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/ww1-the-scandinavian-front.227154/

Above is an old discussion on a similar thread. It has been a few years, so my memory of the details of the eastern front has faded, but here is what I remember as the highlights. The Swedish navy will be an useful addition to the German Baltic fleet, and there are plenty of German merchant ships in port to sustain any needed trade or military operations in the Baltic. The Swedes probably don't switch to the offensive quickly due to structures of prewar plans, but they will tie down additional Russian corp in modern Finland. It is not the Russian will reinforce, but they will not remove the units as they did IOTL, and this will make things much harder in the east after the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies are mauled. The Aland Islands might be taken, but might not. They are vulnerable, but we have had good debates about how fast the Swedes move.

You then have to decide where the "missing" Russian corps are at in the east. It might save the Austrians at Lemberg or Pemberg which is huge. Or it might not. Depends on the decisions, luck and skills of the commanders involved. If one goes with the Russians still maul the Austrian ATL, then the Swedes will face the choice in 1915 of amphibious operations near Finland (less likely) or having there troops fight in Poland (more likely).

Overall, most ATL with this POD result in Central Powers wins.

Aland is almost certain to fall in my opinion. In 1915 Sweden need only hold off Russia in the North, if Russia experiences defeats in Galicia-Lodomeria and or a worse defeat at Tannenburg it could really worsen the Russian position. Without Russian reinforcements the Germans might keep more divisions on the Western Front, afterall with many Russian troops held up in Finland for the foreseeable future Russian reinforcements of their forces in East Prussia might not be as numerous. This could have big effects in the west.

I don't see Swedish troops fighting in Poland when Finland and Northern Sweden is still a front. After all, if Finland can be captured it provides an excellent avenue to St. Petersburg. A Central Powers capture of St. Petersburg ( a 30 years early siege of Leningrad) would be very interesting to see and almost certainly lead to the collapse of the Russian war effort, assuming they haven't already collapsed. The only problem with a Naval Invasion of Finland is logistics and transport. If enough troops can be gathered which in my opinion should not be too difficult, and enough transports gathered, spring of 1915 or 1916 might see a naval invasion of Finland. If some of the major areas are captured Russian troops in the far north will be cut off from most of their supplies in a very harsh environment.

There's not one, but two unfinished Essen timelines I know of. Anyways, Wilson would feel compelled to say something. British dupe as he could sometimes be, he really did care about his grand principles of internationalism and peace (between white people, anyways), so this would be an uncomfortable reminder that the Entente weren't exactly defenders of peace and democracy. The shock would probably fade over time, though, and certainly be outweighed by news from Belgium in American minds. And honestly, I don't think other neutrals mattered too much. The Italians and Romanians wouldn't care, and everyone else was too small to matter, pretty much.

I find the idea of Wilson being anything but a vain idiot hard to believe. He might however make some noise about respecting neutrality, though considering his painful execution of the 14 points I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't continue to support the Entente.

The United States would however not be nearly so friendly to the Entente as OTL. Whereas of course it was divided between pro-Entente hawks and neutralists it might now also include pro-CP hawks, wishing to grab Canada from Britain. Now that would be interesting to see. However, I don't think the U.S would join either side unless something egregious occurs like the OTL Zimmerman telegram. Which hopefully would be butterflied away if the war is even ongoing at this point.



My big question still is on the logistics of a Germano-Swedish Naval invasion of Finland. I think they could get the transport ships together and probably sink the Russian Baltic Fleet while they're at it. The question is how/what would this CP army do in Finland? My guess is cut off Russian troops in the far north of the country. This way the CP could exert extreme military and morale damage against the faltering Russian bear.
 
I find the idea of Wilson being anything but a vain idiot hard to believe. He might however make some noise about respecting neutrality, though considering his painful execution of the 14 points I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't continue to support the Entente.

The United States would however not be nearly so friendly to the Entente as OTL. Whereas of course it was divided between pro-Entente hawks and neutralists it might now also include pro-CP hawks, wishing to grab Canada from Britain. Now that would be interesting to see. However, I don't think the U.S would join either side unless something egregious occurs like the OTL Zimmerman telegram. Which hopefully would be butterflied away if the war is even ongoing at this point.

Well, his academic background makes it hard to mark him out as an idiot in the traditional sense, and his pro-Entente stances had a lot to do with a combination of the people advising him and the Entente having much more pervasive propaganda in the States than the Central Powers. One potential butterfly would be if Wilson saw fit to retain William Jennings Bryan as Secretary of State rather than replacing him with Robert Lansing, the latter being the real British stooge. Another might be increased influence within the Democratic Party of Champ Clark, the Speaker of the House, and the only major American political figure of this time that might have actually favored the Central Powers rather than just neutrality. With increased opposition from within his Cabinet and his Party in Congress, Wilson might feel pressured to, well, respond to naval provocations more even-handedly, raise more stink about the British blockade, maybe.
 
Well, his academic background makes it hard to mark him out as an idiot in the traditional sense, and his pro-Entente stances had a lot to do with a combination of the people advising him and the Entente having much more pervasive propaganda in the States than the Central Powers. One potential butterfly would be if Wilson saw fit to retain William Jennings Bryan as Secretary of State rather than replacing him with Robert Lansing, the latter being the real British stooge. Another might be increased influence within the Democratic Party of Champ Clark, the Speaker of the House, and the only major American political figure of this time that might have actually favored the Central Powers rather than just neutrality. With increased opposition from within his Cabinet and his Party in Congress, Wilson might feel pressured to, well, respond to naval provocations more even-handedly, raise more stink about the British blockade, maybe.

I think that U.S entry into the war was more dependent on the Zimmerman telegram than anything else tbh.

IIRC Bryan resigned over war readiness programs Wilson proposed as he was a pacifist. However, after Sweden is attacked perhaps Bryan decides that being ready in case someone decides to try the same against the United States might actually be a good idea. Or at least he doesn't resign. This could certainly have interesting effects. America is out of the war, no Zimmerman telegram. Italy, might even stay neutral, or declare war on the Entente for Tunisia and Nice + northern Savoia that she lost in the 1860s.

A neutral United States of America basically means no victory for the Entente. A German Victory, even if Italy joins the war on the side of the Entente.
 
I think that U.S entry into the war was more dependent on the Zimmerman telegram than anything else tbh.

IIRC Bryan resigned over war readiness programs Wilson proposed as he was a pacifist. However, after Sweden is attacked perhaps Bryan decides that being ready in case someone decides to try the same against the United States might actually be a good idea. Or at least he doesn't resign. This could certainly have interesting effects. America is out of the war, no Zimmerman telegram. Italy, might even stay neutral, or declare war on the Entente for Tunisia and Nice + northern Savoia that she lost in the 1860s.

A neutral United States of America basically means no victory for the Entente. A German Victory, even if Italy joins the war on the side of the Entente.

I certainly agree that the Zimmerman Telegram was the key factor, but it's very likely to be butterflied, and it was at least partially a result of the tenor of US-German relations before then, which these immediate butterflies should alter. Going by the Wiki, Bryan resigned over being asked to take Germany to task for the Lusitania, while having to keep mum about the British blockade. And given his support for intervention in Mexico in 1914, I think his pacifism had limits, anyways, so military readiness should be fine for Bryan so long as he had assurances that Wilson would treat both sides of the conflict fairly.
 
1) The attack fails ,Tzarist Russian Army after all.
2) Sweden joins the Central powers
3) Russia has to divert forces to fight Sweden, leading to serious consequences on the Eastern and Western fronts.
4) The German Navy takes a more aggressive posture in the Baltic.
Basically Russia is screwed they collapse earlier St Petersburg might even fall.France would probably collapse before the Americans could get involved,it was a close thing in OTL.World War One was a stalemate until near the end one little push on either side would have altered the ballence, Sweden shifting Russian troops could do it.
 

BlondieBC

Banned
Aland is almost certain to fall in my opinion. In 1915 Sweden need only hold off Russia in the North, if Russia experiences defeats in Galicia-Lodomeria and or a worse defeat at Tannenburg it could really worsen the Russian position. Without Russian reinforcements the Germans might keep more divisions on the Western Front, afterall with many Russian troops held up in Finland for the foreseeable future Russian reinforcements of their forces in East Prussia might not be as numerous. This could have big effects in the west.

It is not the technical/logistical issues if Sweden moves fast, it is the political will. We had discussion a few year ago that went a large way to persuade me that the prewar plans were focused on the defensive, and it might well slow the attack until after the ice forms in the winter of 1914/15. Come Spring, the islands will be defended.

From memory, the Russian units were largely stripped out of Finland after Tannenberg, so I think we will likely see the 1st and 2nd Russian Army suffer roughly OTL fates.

The Swedes face interesting choices. The Northern Front will stalemate. They either go amphibious (your choice), they send large number of land units to Poland, or their army largely sits out the war. It is really a political call, and I have seen good arguments for all side. Your position below is one possible scenarios.



I don't see Swedish troops fighting in Poland when Finland and Northern Sweden is still a front. After all, if Finland can be captured it provides an excellent avenue to St. Petersburg. A Central Powers capture of St. Petersburg ( a 30 years early siege of Leningrad) would be very interesting to see and almost certainly lead to the collapse of the Russian war effort, assuming they haven't already collapsed. The only problem with a Naval Invasion of Finland is logistics and transport. If enough troops can be gathered which in my opinion should not be too difficult, and enough transports gathered, spring of 1915 or 1916 might see a naval invasion of Finland. If some of the major areas are captured Russian troops in the far north will be cut off from most of their supplies in a very harsh environment.
 
Even if the Russian defenders turned out to be really weak, could the Swedish army expect to advance through Finland all that quickly, or would terrain, weather, and infrastructure slow them down? If that's too big a problem, then defending on the Russian border and sending more troops to Poland sounds better, since those troops could make more of a difference immediately.
 

BlondieBC

Banned
1) The attack fails ,Tzarist Russian Army after all.
2) Sweden joins the Central powers
3) Russia has to divert forces to fight Sweden, leading to serious consequences on the Eastern and Western fronts.
4) The German Navy takes a more aggressive posture in the Baltic.
Basically Russia is screwed they collapse earlier St Petersburg might even fall.France would probably collapse before the Americans could get involved,it was a close thing in OTL.World War One was a stalemate until near the end one little push on either side would have altered the ballence, Sweden shifting Russian troops could do it.

I don't know the Russians collapse earlier. Falkenhayn was a France first kind of guy. If the front in the east goes enough better, Germany will not attack Russia in 1915, but instead will pound France, or maybe the BEF. France is much more likely than the BEF. And with the main focus of Germany in France in 1915, the rest of the war will look a lot different. The Zimmerman telegram will not happen as it did IOTL. And submarine warfare will look a lot different. So it may well be that Russia survives, especially if France folds by August or so of 1915. Germany will have multiple extra armies to use in the west in 1915, and 1916. We could get anything from trading casualties like Verdun to the Germans accomplish something important such as taking ports on the English channel. So lets look at the eastern front. Conceivably, Sweden entering the war can save the two Austrian armies lost, and this is probably more like saving 3+ armies since they experience cadre were lost in these battles. Sweden may well tie up 1 to 2 Russian armies. Germany might have as many as 4-5 extra armies available to use in the west by the Spring of 1915.

O, and if the Austrian can retreat in good order from Lemberg, then Italy will not enter the war. And Italy not entering the war is a whole thread of butterflies.

On the other hand, Sweden might be somewhat passive until Spring 1915. Austria might still lose the two armies, and Italy might still enter the war.
 

BlondieBC

Banned
Even if the Russian defenders turned out to be really weak, could the Swedish army expect to advance through Finland all that quickly, or would terrain, weather, and infrastructure slow them down? If that's too big a problem, then defending on the Russian border and sending more troops to Poland sounds better, since those troops could make more of a difference immediately.

Aland Island are undefended, so that is easy to take if you control the sea. From memory, there is roughly a Russian corp spread north of Helsinki, one in Helsinki, and another one NW of St. Petersburg. There are another 2-3 corp within easy rail distance of the capital. Once the Swedish army lands at Helsinki, the Russians will stalemate the front at some location, well short of the capital. And this is great for the central powers since you have to pull these 1-2 Russian armies from OTL Poland. (IOTL, as things got worse in Poland, the Russians stripped Finland of troops.) The Swedish losses will save Austria, and keep Italy out of the war. By June or so of 1915, the eastern front will be stable, and the Germans will never again need to worry about Russia. Well unless Conrad of Austria does something really, really stupid, like he is prone to do.
 
"Jutland," by Avalanche Press, has a scenario for the Russian attack on the Swedish navy at the start of the great War.
 
If Sweden goes CP, what is the reaction of Denmark and Norway?
Neutrals but a lot of volunteers end up fighting for the Swedes. Denmark also invested a lot of money in Russia under WWI in OTL, we won't see that ITTL. With much of the Swedish population conscripted we will likely see a lot of Norwegian and Danish guest/seasonal workers in Sweden, especially in agriculture but also in the mining industry. Especially Denmark are also likely to lent the Swedes a lot of money, which they will use to buy Danish goods. But Norway will likely also have it own lent and lease to the Swedes.
 
After all, if Finland can be captured it provides an excellent avenue to St. Petersburg. A Central Powers capture of St. Petersburg ( a 30 years early siege of Leningrad) would be very interesting to see and almost certainly lead to the collapse of the Russian war effort, assuming they haven't already collapsed. The only problem with a Naval Invasion of Finland is logistics and transport. If enough troops can be gathered which in my opinion should not be too difficult, and enough transports gathered, spring of 1915 or 1916 might see a naval invasion of Finland. If some of the major areas are captured Russian troops in the far north will be cut off from most of their supplies in a very harsh environment.

[snip] My big question still is on the logistics of a Germano-Swedish Naval invasion of Finland. I think they could get the transport ships together and probably sink the Russian Baltic Fleet while they're at it. The question is how/what would this CP army do in Finland? My guess is cut off Russian troops in the far north of the country. This way the CP could exert extreme military and morale damage against the faltering Russian bear.

That is a pretty big if, in my view. The very raison d'etre for the Russian defence of southern Finland was to stop an invasion towards the capital. The Russian military would not drag its feet in bolstering the defence in the Grand Duchy if an invasion appears to be underway. An amphibious invasion of Finland and supporting the invasion force by sea will not be an easy proposition in any time of the year - as long as the Russian military is able to mount a defence of the Finnish coast and mainland. The Russian Navy can make the landings difficult in the Archipelago Sea and along the southern coast, and troops can be brought easily and fast from St. Petersburg along a direct, short railway line. The invader will have to resort to shipping for its logistics, and this is only feasible for a part of the year. For supplies, etc, the environment and logistics in Finland would be much harsher for the attacker than the defender. Most of the Russian troops will be in southern Finland anyway, any Russian troops left in the north would not be a significant problem. The problem, though, is beating the main Russian defence in the south.

The OTL German landings in Finland in early 1918 should not be seen as an example, because they were made into what was essentially a military vacuum. An invasion of the Finnish mainland against a functional Russian military in 1915 or 1916 would be a bloody and risky proposition.


It is not the technical/logistical issues if Sweden moves fast, it is the political will. We had discussion a few year ago that went a large way to persuade me that the prewar plans were focused on the defensive, and it might well slow the attack until after the ice forms in the winter of 1914/15. Come Spring, the islands will be defended.

From what I remember, I was one of those arguing that the Swedes would not move very fast. Assuming no prewar PODs, it is reasonable to expect that the political will and military ability for quick action in the fall of 1914 would not be there. I am sceptical even about the POD: I would rather see the Swedish as surprised and enraged at the Russian attack, but not immediately ready to go as far as to declare war if the Russians, on their side, take a step back and are willing to apologise for one admiral's de facto rogue actions. Like with the Dogger Bank incident, I see the Russians ready to agree to arbitration to avoid Sweden joining the war on the German side.

If both Stockholm and St. Petersburg allow things to deteriorate to the point of actual war, though, I'd say the Russians would start reinforcing the Ålands immediately. They would at least send some token troops to occupy Mariehamn and a number of minelayers to start securing the sea lanes. Unlike IOTL, the islands would now be at the front line, so I can't see the Russian military disregarding them in the same was as IOTL when they were a backwater situated on a sea route towards a neutral power. The most likely chain of events, IMHO, is a slow Russian buildup on the islands, supported by the Russian fleet acting aggressively in the Sea of Åland. I can see the Swedish Navy making reconnaissance sorties in the fall of 1914, but no actual invasion of the islands after they see that there is Russian presence and that it is growing.

By the spring of 1915, like you said, the Russian presence on the islands would be considerable. There would be ships, troops and artillery. They would be busily building new mine barrages and coastal artillery positions to cover them as well.


Neutrals but a lot of volunteers end up fighting for the Swedes. Denmark also invested a lot of money in Russia under WWI in OTL, we won't see that ITTL. With much of the Swedish population conscripted we will likely see a lot of Norwegian and Danish guest/seasonal workers in Sweden, especially in agriculture but also in the mining industry. Especially Denmark are also likely to lent the Swedes a lot of money, which they will use to buy Danish goods. But Norway will likely also have it own lent and lease to the Swedes.

The British would be pretty critical of the Scandinavians, especially Norway de facto helping the Central Powers, though. Given that the success of the Norwegian merchant fleet was for a big part at the mercy of the British, I doubt that Oslo would take the chance of making the Entente think that they are supporting the CP in any way. If anything, if Sweden is CP, I can see the British try to make Norway join the war on their side, unofficially or officially.
 
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The British would be pretty critical of the Scandinavians, especially Norway de facto helping the Central Powers, though. Given that the success of the Norwegian merchant fleet was for a big part at the mercy of the British, I doubt that Oslo would take the chance of making the Entente think that they are supporting the CP in any way. If anything, if Sweden is CP, I can see the British try to make Norway join the war on their side, unofficially or officially.

I think you have a very good point, but I don't think a Norwegian government can get away with anything less than pro-Swedish neutrality. So the question are whether UK will be willing to deal with the PR disaster of invading a neutral Norway after Russia have already invaded a neutral Sweden. But I' m sure UK can reach a agrement with Norway and Denmark, where neither export goods to Sweden or Germany they have imported. Denmark made such a agrement under OTL WWI with UK. While Denmark are unlikely to get the same agrement in TTL, Norway could theorectical cut off Russia's northern ports.
 
I think you have a very good point, but I don't think a Norwegian government can get away with anything less than pro-Swedish neutrality. So the question are whether UK will be willing to deal with the PR disaster of invading a neutral Norway after Russia have already invaded a neutral Sweden. But I' m sure UK can reach a agrement with Norway and Denmark, where neither export goods to Sweden or Germany they have imported. Denmark made such a agrement under OTL WWI with UK. While Denmark are unlikely to get the same agrement in TTL, Norway could theorectical cut off Russia's northern ports.

The thing is, I believe that while the Norwegians would feel sympathy for the Swedish, in trade and trade policy, the British would have much bigger leverage over Norway (due to the Norwegian merchant fleet and fishing trade) than the CP together would. So I don't believe Norway could pull off anti-Entente policies as the war advanced, lest its vital economic interests be hurt too much due to this. The British can hurt the Norwegians dearly even without any direct military measures against Norway.

See this article for reference (especially page 51 ->).
 
The thing is, I believe that while the Norwegians would feel sympathy for the Swedish, in trade and trade policy, the British would have much bigger leverage over Norway (due to the Norwegian merchant fleet and fishing trade) than the CP together would. So I don't believe Norway could pull off anti-Entente policies as the war advanced, lest its vital economic interests be hurt too much due to this. The British can hurt the Norwegians dearly even without any direct military measures against Norway.

See this article for reference (especially page 51 ->).

And I'm sure the Norwegian government have that view, the problem is the Norwegian population and the fact that Russian attack was a naked agressive act against a neutral power, which had stayed out of earlier conflicts, where Sweden had opportunity to attack Russia. If Sweden had somewhat been a aggressor, Norway could get away with less pro-Swedish policies, this is also the problem for UK, the Russian attack on Sweden are a PR disaster for the Allies, and UK being too aggressive toward Norway will only worsen that PR disaster.
 
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