The search for a foreign underwater craft in waters off Stockholm has brought back memories of Sweden’s submarine hunts during the Cold War – and exposed a key difference.
Back then Sweden actually had a robust anti-submarine force.
Sweden, which is not a NATO member, has downsized its military significantly since the Iron Curtain fell and has scrapped some of the resources it used to hunt for Soviet submarines, including helicopters equipped with sonar and anti-submarine weapons.
“It’s been a while since we conducted this type of operation. … We are a bit rusty,” Rear Adm. Anders Grenstad, chief of operations, told The Associated Press.
Earlier Tuesday he said the military had received reports of five sightings since the search started on Friday, but did not want to speculate on the type of vessel or object in question.
“What we are looking for is something or someone who violated Sweden’s territorial integrity. This is totally unacceptable,” Grenstad said.
Military officials haven’t blamed any country for the suspected intrusion, though most Swedish defense analysts say Russia would be a likely culprit.
Sweden built up an anti-submarine force after a Soviet sub with nuclear weapons ran aground off its southern shores in 1981 but started dismantling it as part of deep cuts in defense spending after the Cold War ended.
Experts questioned whether Sweden has the tools to find a submarine hiding among the thousands of islands and reefs that make up the Stockholm archipelago.
“The odds of us locating and taking action against a foreign underwater vessel is, due to the reduction of our capabilities and the complex environment in the littorals of the Baltic Sea, relatively small,” said retired navy Commander Christian Allerman, a task group chief in Sweden’s anti-submarine warfare force in the 1990s.
Read More:News from The Associated Press.