The Hunt for Red October
• JULY 31, 2015
Eugene Sergeev / Shutterstock.com
These days, Sweden is all agog. In the midst of the coldest summer in
living history that deprived the Swedes of their normal sun-accumulating
July routine, the country plunged into an exciting search for a Russian
submarine in the Stockholm archipelago, and (as opposed to the previous
rounds of this venerable Swedish maritime saga) this time they actually
found the beast.
Now we know for certain the Russians had intruded into the Swedish
waters! The Swedish admirals and the Guardian journalists
probably feel themselves vindicated, as they always said so. Does it
matter that the U-boat was sunk one hundred years ago, in 1916? Surely
it does not, for the Russians are the same Russians and the sea is the
I would continue in the same vein and have a lot of fun, but many
innocent readers (especially on the internet) are not attuned for irony.
If they read Swift’s Modest
Proposal, they’d call the police. For the benefit of the
reader in whom is no guile (John 1:47), I’ll say it in plain words: the
Swedish Navy and the great British newspaperGuardian made
fools of themselves again, as they blamed the Russian president Putin
for sending a submarine that turned out to be a one hundred year old war
The U-boat called Som (Catfish)
had been built in the US in 1901 for the Russian Navy, served in World
War I and went down with all hands in 1916. The Swedes admitted that
much, but, as in the one-liner about a guest suspected of stealing
spoons were found, but the ill feeling loitered.
The previous round of this pleasant Swedish pastime took place last
October 2014 when the search for Russian submarines in the Stockholm
archipelago, that is, in the archipelago of thousands of islands in the
Baltic Sea, began in earnest. Nessie of the Loch Ness would envy the
hunt. In the newspapers, on radio and on television, they spoke only of
the mysterious submarine, that allegedly had sent a distress signal to
the Russian naval base in Kaliningrad from the Swedish waters. Millions
of krona were spent on the futile search. A video of the U-boat rising
was released. Eye witnesses reported they saw a man in black emerging
from the sea near a tiny island. As the water temperature was about 10°C
(50°F) this could not be a Swede, it’s got to be a Russian Spetznaz man,
as they are immune to cold…
The old-timers told the press that the sailors of the damaged Russian
submarine probably landed on an island in the archipelago and waited
there for rescue. “There are many uninhabited cottages, they should be
searched”, they proposed to the horror of wealthy Stockholmers, the
cottage owners. Dozens of military vessels in cutting-edge-state-of-art
Stealth armour ploughed the waters. Depth charges killed a few dolphins
and other sea animals. Newspapers warned that of Russian naval commando
hunts for Ukrainians in Stockholm pubs.
There were sane voices, too, but they rarely were given a chance to be
heard. Wilhelm Agrella, a professor of Intelligence Analysis at Lund
University spoke of “budget submarines” invented by the Swedish navy in
order to boost its budget.
In the end, all sightings were accounted for. One was a Swedish private
submarine belonging to a Lasse Schmidt Westrén, another one was a Dutch
one that participated in NATO manoeuvres. The alleged distress signal
has been sent by a Swedish transponder, and had nothing to do with
Russia or Kaliningrad.
There was no Russian U-boat to hunt. The true goal of the hunters has
been Swedish neutrality. Sweden was and remains notionally neutral,
while the US wants to see the country integrated into NATO.
The Hunt for Red October in October 2014 was a new round in the Second
Cold War, the war against independent Russia. As a Social Democrat
government came to power in September 2014, the Swedish Army, Navy and
pro-NATO media plotted to prevent a possible rapprochement of Russia and
This is not the first plot of this kind. In 1982, the Swedish military
conspired with their colleagues in the United States and Britain against
its Social Democrat government. Although the Swedish navy knew that NATO
submarines operate in the Swedish waters, they played along with the
right-wing politicians and talked about the ‘Russian threat’. Only much
later the truth was found out – the government commission appointed by
the Social Democrats after their return to power showed that there were
no Russian U-boats.
This was subsequently proven by a member of the Swedish government
commission, a leading Norwegian military expert Ola Tunander in his
detailed 400 page long work,The
Secret War Against Sweden: US and British Submarine Deception in the
1980s (London: Frank Cass 2004).
In the eighties, Ola Tunander did not doubt the reality of Russian
submarines, and had written several textbooks and manuals for Swedish
sailors on the subject. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union, he
gained access to all files at the request of the Swedish government, and
came to the unequivocal conclusion that all the evidence about the
Russian submarine incursions was falsified or invented.
Classified documents clearly point to the US and the UK as the culprits,
and this was confirmed by the former US Secretary of Defence Weinberger
and British commanders in the secret hearing, says Tunander. It turned
out that in the seventies, after the Vietnam War, the Americans and
their British allies were preoccupied with the pro-Soviet sympathies of
the Swedes. The Swedes stubbornly refused to see the enemy in his great
eastern neighbour. In 1976, only 6% of Swedes believe in the Russian
threat, and another 27% thought the USSR is an unfriendly power.
Even the Afghan war had only marginally changed these figures. And only
the submarine panic bore fruit – by the mid-80s, 42% of Swedes believed
in the imminent Russian threat and 83% considered the USSR being an
enemy. In order to achieve this revolution in the minds, the British and
American submarines made hundreds of violations of Swedish waters. They
intruded into the inner harbour of Stockholm, raised their periscopes
and antennas in the archipelago, posing as “the Red Scare.”
The USSR did not have submarines of the class detected by the Swedish
radar (35-40 meters long), but the United States had the submarine NR-1,
that was used to penetrate the Soviet waters.
In 1981 there was an amusing accident – an old Soviet submarine lost its
bearings and ran aground close to the Swedish coast. This single
incident was been blown out of all proportion; rumours of Russian
submarines in every bay flooded Sweden.
In October 1982, the Swedish fleet mounted a huge operation to capture
or destroy a submarine sighted near the island of Muskö. The operation
was attended by hundreds of journalists from all over the world.
Ola Tunander says the bridge of the sighted submarine had a NR-1’s
square shape, not the shape of the Soviet submarines. The American
submarine had been delivered to Stockholm waters by the American tanker Monongahela,
coming on an official visit. They left the submarine, so it went around
and scared the Swedes. The command of the Swedish navy had been warned,
the navy knew about it, took part in the hunt for the submarine, and
concealed the truth from the Social Democrat government.
So the Swedish military conspired with the Americans and British against
their own country. The Swedes managed to hit the submarine, and it
released a cloud of yellow-green dye – the distress signal of the US
submarine fleet. Swedish sailors allowed the submarine to leave.
Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, thanked the Swedish sailors
for allowing the U-boat to leave and keeping mum. The Swedish government
did not believe that this was a Russian submarine, but under pressure
from the media and the navy, they were forced to lodge a protest to the
Soviet Union. The Swedish – Russian relations soured.
In October 2014, the then (1982-1985) Foreign Minister Lennart Budström
remembered this plot of the right-wing politicians and the Swedish
military. He bitterly recalled in an interview for the newspaper Expressen how
in 1982 the Swedish navy hunted an alleged Soviet submarine in
Hårsfjärden thirty miles from Stockholm – it was the culmination of the
The government convened a commission to figure out where the submarine
originated – in Russia or NATO. The most active member of the commission
was the young right-wing politician Carl Bildt – he practically wrote
the commission’s report, saying this was a Soviet submarine. He claimed
there was an acoustic signal recording and other evidence. Only in 1988
it emerged that the Swedish army and navy did not intercept any signals
from submarines. It was all a lie of Carl Bildt, says Budström.
Bildt (with American support) had spread panic in the press. He claimed
the Russian submarines make their way right into the centre of
Stockholm, land troops and prepare for the invasion. Russian submarine
sailors sneak into Stockholm bars to drink beer and squeeze Swedish
blondes. Army and Coast Guard supplied photo of submarine periscopes for
the front pages of newspapers.
“You are welcome to sink these subs – calmly said the Secretary General
Yuri Andropov in 1984, after listening to the Swedish prime minister
Olof Palme’s complaint. – We’d only approve of such a move.”
Only twenty years later, the meaning of Andropov’s words became clear.
The submarines in the Swedish waters were not Russian, but English and
American. Instead of invasion, they had another plan, namely to sow
enmity and distrust of Russia.
Budström retired as he stood for friendship with Russia, and in his
stead, the Minister of Foreign Affairs became (and remained until
recently) Carl Bildt, a staunch pro-American Atlanticist,
a supporter of Swedish accession to NATO, the greatest enemy of the USSR
and Russia. It is alleged that Bildt in his youth was associated with a
clandestine anti-communist combat organization created by the Americans
for the event of the Soviet occupation of Western Europe, known as Stay
Behind or Gladio.
Its members founded the secret US Fifth Column in Europe. The State
Department dispatches published by the Wikileaks,
indicate that the US embassy and the State Department took care of Bildt
and helped his career. Bildt was a personal friend of Karl Rove, Bush’s
adviser, and actively supported the US intervention in Iraq.
Carl Bildt, the most inveterate enemy of Russia since the days of Karl
XII, is a descendant of an aristocratic Scandinavian family (they had
been Prime Ministers and Commanders since the 17th century). For a
quarter of a century he was the most influential politician in Sweden,
in government or in opposition, and he determined its anti-Russian
Carl Bildt has been closely associated with the submarine affair from
the beginning to the end. In 1982, he denounced the Soviet invaders and
earned brownie points. In 1990, Carl Bildt said that the Soviet Union
has created a special force to attack Sweden. According to him, up to 22
Russian submarines participated in three annual manoeuvres in Swedish
This fear-mongering has helped – in 1991 Bildt became the Prime
Minister. In 1992 Bildt went to Moscow with the alleged old recordings
of the submarine. Now we know for certain that these were sounds made by
otters, but in Yeltsin’s days the thoroughly defeated Russian government
agreed these were Russian submarines.
When the Social Democrats returned to power in 1994, says ex-minister
Budström, a new commission was established, and it is completely refuted
all allegations of Bildt. The first commission was composed of
politicians, and the second – of scientists, and the findings were
different. But that was too late. Sweden has been integrated it the EU
and began to support American foreign policy.
One of the reasons is the media. The Atlanticist tendency in Sweden has
almost complete control over the media. They manufacture a Russian
threat a day, to scare the wits out of the Swedes. “Russia is a
potential threat,” – says a leading Swedish newspaper Svenska
Dagbladet (30.05). In the same issue of the newspaper, its
Moscow correspondent Anna-Lena Lauren says: “Russia is clearly
threatening the Baltic States.”
NATO planes fly close to Russia borders through Swedish airspace, in
violation of Swedish sovereignty and neutrality, but Swedish media
hardly ever reports of such frequent incidents. However, Russian air
force training flights that stay clear of Swedish airspace are presented
as a proof that the Russians are preparing to invade not only Sweden,
but all the Baltic countries.
Even a report on delivering Russian air defence systems to far away
Syria has been used to portray Russia as an aggressive monster preparing
to subdue Sweden. The army provided the newspapers with a grim
prediction: “The Russians can take over Sweden in a few days.”
Perhaps it is true, but why should they? Neither now or in their
greatest years of power has any Russian ruler—Tsar, General Secretary or
President—ever wanted to invade Sweden. The last war between two
neighbours took place over two hundred years ago. Russians have not the
slightest intention to fight Swedes, but the Swedish army and the
Swedish media are determined to present Russia as their mortal enemy.
The army wants to increase the military budget; their political allies
and their media say that only joining NATO would save the Swedish beauty
from the Russian bear’s claws.
This attitude is not helpful for the well-being of the two great
northern powers. They are closely related. Ancestors of the Swedes were
among founders of Russia, many Swedish noblemen served the Russian
Crown. The Swedes and the Russians have the same birch trees growing
along the river banks; the same mushrooms and berries grow in the same
forests on both sides of the Baltic sea. Swedes and Russians
experimented with socialism, mined ore and coal, felled trees, love
their sauna and hockey. Russians are quite fond of Swedes: Peter the
Great drank the health of the Swedish generals and called them ‘his
teachers’, after thrashing them at Poltava.
Russia and Sweden have no dispute, no common border to argue about, no
historic mishaps. All major Swedish companies – Ikea and Volvo, to
mention some – have a profitable trade in Russia. Russians, especially
the dwellers of St Petersburg region, go to Sweden on weekends. It is a
short drive via Finland. Many Russians settled in Sweden, and Swedish
businessmen are accustomed to Russia.
Russian policies towards Sweden and the West are marked with moderation,
restraint and conservatism. They do not want to invade or conquer Sweden
or other Western countries. Russia wants to be treated with respect,
keep foreigners out of its internal affairs, and it wants other
countries to take Russia’s legitimate interests into account (read:
Ukraine). But these Russian wishes are considered only when the West is
After 1991, all of the major Western countries for the first time in
world history were united (to some degree) under the military, political
and economic leadership of the United States. They have a single united
system of ideological control and hegemony via global media, social
networks, and universities. I called this system “The Masters of
Discourse.” Such setup is detrimental for Russia.
The Atlanticists want to keep the world united under their rule,
military via NATO and ideological through the Masters of Discourse
system. Russia does not want world domination, does not want to rule
over Europe or Asia or Sweden. But it can’t accept the US hegemony
either, for they would turn it into a snow-bound Nigeria, an
oil-producing country of the third world.
For the Russians, normal relations with Sweden are an essential element
of peace and stability in the Baltic Sea. Russia appreciates Swedish
neutrality and the balanced policy of Sweden in Olof Palme’s times. It
has no desires to meddle in Swedish affairs and would like to have
friendly relations. Now, after Carl Bildt’s departure, there is hope for
improved relations between the new Social Democrat government in Sweden
and Russia. And now the old trick is played again, the scare of Russian
submarines. We’ll see whether this government will manage the real
threat of right-wing plots better than its predecessors.
Israel Shamir can be contacted at email@example.com