(Media Fishing in paranoid water- Russian baiting season)Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please. The Hunt for Red October, 1990
UPDATE APRIL 2015
The "Russian sub" bubble has burst. It turns out that the frantic search for the "fictive" sub was all along a "workboat".
"The analysis has shown that the photograph taken in Stockholm's inner archipelago was of a smaller boat," Grenstad, told Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
The admiral, who was the deputy chief of the large-scale search operations launched after the sighting, identified the vessel as a 10.5m long, white plastic boat named "Time Bandit".
Update 14th Nov
The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said "clear evidence" that a small submarine did illegally enter Swedish waters last month.
" A second observation was made by a naval corvette. Following strong indications on its sensors, a closer examination of the area was conducted and recently made traces were found on the bottom."
Update 6th Nov
The Swedish authorities still have the jitters over "security" in the region, so have conducted military exercises on Friday. At least this time, they don't seem to be hunting for invisible subs.
Update 5th Nov
A Dutch submarine was in Sweden!
and a Swedish was also in the area; http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268781/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Wraf0Mwz
|Unknown object in Swedish waters. Estonian cartoon by Urmas Nemvalts, published by Postimees|
Last week, the Swedish armed forces were looking for some kind of foreign submarine for 8 days, with an approximate cost of 20 environ 20 million SEK, ($2.8m). The hunt was finally called off on the 24th of October, so the origin & nationality of the "underwater foreign activity" remains undiscovered.
In a frenzied hunt reminiscent of the "Cold War days", the Swedes deployed a number of warships, patrol boats, minehunters, helicopters & planes, and around 200 personnel to locate the intruder, but it seems to no avail. Two locations, (as indicated in a press briefing), were searched, one within the Stockholm archipelago and another off the coast in the Baltic Sea.
It all started with information released to the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing unidentified sources, about the interception of a distress message, supposedly sent out on a Russian distress frequency. So the first story about a damaged Russian submarine was quickly picked by the international press & flashed across the world. Then there were about 5 "credible" sightings of suspicious marine activity from members of the public, including a grainy photo. Practically right from the start, the Swedish press jumped to the reckless conclusion that the intruder was a Russian submarine, without the slightest shred of any credible sources or evidence of its flag whatsoever to back this up. The international media circus also kicked in, adding their own flourishes to the ever increasing chorus of "it's a Russian sub" headlines.
Within a couple of days, the international media narrative went from a search for a "foreign underwater operation" to a dramatic 007 style hunt for a Russian mini-submarine. "A Russian miniature submarine is being pursued by the miniature Swedish navy". The Guardian 20/10/14. To add to the mystery, the Swedes then also went looking for a 'man in black', photographed on a beach, not surprisingly, the farcical media chorus line for this was "a Russian spy". The story was swiftly developing according to the Monty Pythonesque application of the principles of logic. Allegedly, the 'spy' turned out to be a local pensioner called Ove sea fishing.
Moscow denied that it was one of their naval vessels and suggested that it could have been a Dutch NATO sub instead, the Bruinvis. The Dutch Ministry of Defence in turn vigorously denied that this was the case, in spite of the fact that it was in Tallin, a Baltic port during this period. But on Sunday, the media circus didn't stop to ask any further questions, but rather carried on and speculated on the reportedly bizarre activities of a commercial ship, the NS Concord, as being somehow connected to the "Russian sub". More unsubstantiated media claims were made about the NS Concord, which was supposed to have some connections to Vladimir Putin himself. Once again, the media continued to speculate on the NS Concord, even after these media claims, could not be confirmed by the Swedish Coast Guard since its spokesman Anders Nordin said that; "NS Concord's movements were consistent with the normal movements of a crude oil tanker.” Here is a twitter example of the media claims that the tanker's movements were abnormal.
1) #Russia submarine 2) tanker that's presumably searching 3) tanker's route last 7d @andersostlund @forest_brother pic.twitter.com/D92QN24CCx
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) 19 Octobre 2014
Laconically, the Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman described the Swedish operations as a "tragicomedy" and was looking forward to "the culmination of this exciting operation" to find a Russian submarine. Furthermore, it was quite amazing to find out that your average hack took this opportunity to instantly become some kind of Russian naval submarine expert as well as a shipping expert.
While the Swedish military didn't actually officially give any details on the nationality of the intruder, it didn't deter the international press in producing tonnes of anti-Russian propaganda laced with cold war rhetoric. The Swedish military spokesman, Rear-Admiral, Anders Grenstad said "I don't want to comment on what Russia says. I have not pointed fingers at any nation." He equally dismissed the original press reports of a distress signal: "The Armed Forces has no information about distress calls, or that any emergency frequency has been used."
Rear Adm. Anders Grenstad, stated that "Our assessment is that in the inner archipelago there was a plausible foreign underwater operation." Then he talked about "strange underwater activity". As the search progressed, it was becoming evident that the Swedish military were not sure at all as to the type of craft it was, as Rear Adm. Grenstad said:
“It could be a submarine, or a smaller submarine,” said Grenstad. “It could be divers using some form of moped-like underwater vehicle and it could be divers that don’t have any business on our territory. This does not belong to us. It is a foreign vessel and we have no indications that there would be any civilians involved in underwater activity.”
On 23th October, the Swedish government announced an extra SEK300m each year for the next 5 years on defence spending. Quite by chance, on the next day the "unidentified underwater object", (UUO) search was called off. Was this entire "submarine hunt" just a pretext in order to justify an increased military budget? Specialised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters were retired in 2008.
The whole story has the distinctive flavour of a 1980's Cold War incident involving Sweden hunting Soviet and NATO submarines. The latest story so effectively 'seeded' by the press, seemed to play straight into the hands of those wanting Sweden to join NATO. This could also be a very "valid" reason for Sweden to forge a closer alliance with NATO. Moreover, Sweden stated it would suspend military cooperation with Russia. In a recent poll, it was reported that 37% of Swedes said they supported joining Nato while 36% were against. Five months ago a poll showed 28% per cent in favour and 56% against.
There is one certain outcome to this submarine saga, as it has spooked the public and politicians into believing that there is a clear & persistent Russian military threat on their doorsteps. More worryingly, it has resulted in increasing tensions in the Baltic region over perceived Russian aggresiveness. Take for instance this twitter message from Edgars Rinkevics:
Closely following events in the Swedish territorial waters, may become a game changer of the security in the whole Baltic Sea region - Edgars Rinkevics (@edgarsrinkevics) 19 Octobre 2014
Even Carl Bildt jumped on the "Russian submarine" bandwagon: https://twitter.com/carlbildt/status/523736685579079680
BREAKING: Sweden sends task force to Graz, Austria to check if their Kunsthaus is in fact a Russian submarine. pic.twitter.com/4ja2oto5RD - Varyagi (@varyagi) 22 Octobre 2014
Warning. KGB put fake submarines everywhere to confuse space intelligence from #Sweden. Be careful! #svpol pic.twitter.com/3MM269XhRa - Sergei Kostigoff (@kostigoff) 22 Octobre 2014
Typical example of euro-Atlantic MSN slant on the events: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/20/guardian-view-on-sweden-defence-nato-inevitable