A Cold War-like drama continued through the weekend as Swedish military authorities hunted down the source of “foreign underwater activity” in the vast archipelago outside Stockholm. Norwegian authorities, meanwhile, had little if any comment on what the apparent violation of Swedish territory may mean for Norway’s own long coastline.
The Swedish drama unfolding just 600 kilometers east of Oslo first surfaced Friday night, when Swedish authorities confirmed they had mobilized defense forces because of “credible” information that “foreign underwater activity” was being carried out within Swedish territory.
The Swedes had still not confirmed as of Sunday that they actually are hunting down a foreign submarine that has slipped into the waters that surround the country’s capital. Most all military experts, however, suspect the “foreign underwater activity” is a submarine, and most likely Russian.
The drama immediately stirred up memories of many such incidents during the Cold War, not least when a Soviet submarine of the “whisky” class carrying nuclear weapons grounded in Stockholm’s archipelago in 1981. The famous grounding, embarrassing for the former Soviet Union, became known as “whisky on the rocks.”
Newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported over the weekend Swedish intelligence had picked up a radio conversation on a Russian emergency channel on Thursday, 14 hours before being informed of a civilian sighting of “an underwater vessel” in the archipelago. That led to speculation that the submarine is damaged, while other reports indicated it may have been tied to a Russian “mothership,” a Novoship vessel registered in Liberia that mysteriously held its same position in the Baltic Thursday and Friday, before turning off equipment that can make its location known.
Sweden is not a member of NATO but NATO’s new secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, said NATO was following the situation off Stockholm closely. Swedish military aircraft, vessels and more than 200 troops were taking part in the search for the mysterious underwater vessel.
Norwegian authorities wouldn’t say whether they have changed any routines or heightened coastal security because of the drama unfolding off neighbouring Sweden. Norway has significantly boosted fighter jet activity because of increased Russian fighter jets buzzing Norway’s coast, especially in the Arctic, but Ivar Moen, defense department spokesman, told newspaper Aftenposten only that Norwegian defense forces regularly “adjust preparedness” in accordance with the current threat situation.