Swedish submarine hunt continues ….. but is it just a play to promote NATO membership?

The hysteria is dying down.

Well nothing has been found so far but the search continues for “foreign” underwater activity. There are military officers addressing press conferences every day. Of course, it is implied, the military cannot reveal all the information they have. “We know much more than we are telling you — but trust us. We know what we are doing” is the impression they try to foster. They have even threatened to use “live fire” to force the dastardly, foreigners to the surface.

The coverage, not only from the outside world but even in Sweden, is more amused than concerned. Coverage from European NATO countries tends to paint a picture of a naive Sweden terribly “unprepared” for the real and nasty Russian Bear (implying that Sweden needs to join NATO). Some of the Swedish comments are about the threat to the West from Russia through the Baltic (implying that NATO needs Sweden to join the club). Other commentary in Sweden is about the lack of personnel and ships and equipment and how the defence budget needs to be increased sharply. Some claim that Sweden’s military has only the capability to resist foreign (read Russian) aggression for about 3 days!! This needs – so the story goes – to be urgently increased to at least 4 days of resistance.

The Russian press and social media comments have treated the whole story as a bit of a joke.

Dagens Nyheter:

That there is any real foreign submarine in the Stockholm archipelago is anything but convincing. Meanwhile, “the hysterical” submarine hunt is part of Sweden’s effort to get ever closer to the Western defense alliance NATO. These are some of the general comments in the Russian media in response to the feverish search for a “possible submarine” in Swedish waters.

“Sweden has suffered from a ‘Russian submarine syndrome’ since 1981, when a Soviet submarine through a navigational error came into Swedish waters and went aground near the Swedish naval base in Karlskrona. Since then ‘Russian submarines’ show up in Swedish waters just before a defense budget is to be adopted”, says the Russian newspaper, Pravda, about events in the Stockholm archipelago. 

Pravda, which has consulted with military experts, also dismisses press reports (in Svenska Dagbladet) that the Swedish military had captured emergency radio signals from an unidentified submarine in Swedish waters. The signals were reported to have been directed to and received in Kaliningrad, where the Russian Baltic fleet’s main base is located. The signals were said to be on a frequency that the Russian Navy uses in extreme situations, hence the conclusion that there may have been a submarine that was in distress.

But according to Igor Kurdin, president of the Submarine Men’s club in St Petersburg, the information about a distress signal is baseless. “There are several channels of communication on board submarines. Registering a signal is possible, but it is impossible to decrypt them, and to determine the direction of a radio signal is impossible according to the laws of physics”, says Kurdin (Interfax news agency).

Perhaps there is a submarine out there. Perhaps it was in distress. Perhaps it was testing Swedish defences.

I have my doubts. Maybe I am just being cynical but I see two “drivers” here. A push for NATO membership and a larger defence budget. There is a new Red/Green government in place and they are due to present their first budget proposal today. Normally the Red/Greens could be expected to cut back on defence spending and they are ideologically not at all comfortable in joining NATO. They have an idealised and somewhat glorified vision of a “Swedish neutrality” even if it is completely contradicted by the reality of cooperation with the US and NATO for at least the last 30 years. Public opinion is against NATO membership – but only just. The Swedish military would just love to be part of NATO and take part not only in exercises but also in some real live fire-fights. The Swedish military – for all its restricted defence budget – is quite technologically advanced but lack playgrounds for their toys. Being part of NATO would provide more playgrounds and even more toys and many more players to play with. The difference between playing The World of Warcraft all by yourself or playing it on the internet!!

There are therefore – as I see it –  three parties who could possible lie behind the furore in the Stockholm archipelago:

  1. It could have been a real Russian submarine on a testing or a training exercise, or
  2. It could be a play by the Swedish military to try and get a larger defence budget, or
  3. It could be a joint NATO/ Swedish military exercise to show the benefits of NATO membership.

There is a faint possibility there was something real but relatively innocent by the Russians but which has been opportunistically seized and blown up by the defence lobby and NATO supporters.

The budget proposal today is now expected to have some defence spending increase included.

A partial success for someone.

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One Response to “Swedish submarine hunt continues ….. but is it just a play to promote NATO membership?”

  1. Did one false report in Swedish newspaper cause the submarine fiasco? | The k2p blog Says:

    […] have posted earlier about the “Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago” hysteria which gripped the […]

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