It’s been five days since a suspected Russian submarine was first spotted in Stockholm’s archipelago, a violation of Sweden’s sovereignty ostensibly confirmed through subsequent sightings and a possible Swedish-intercepted Russian-language transmission through an emergency-radio frequency.
But as Elias Groll explains at Foreign Policy, the Swedish military is at a bit of a disadvantage in locating the vessel. It sold off its last sub-tracking helicopters in 2008. And the search area is spread out over “a dense island grouping, with myriad places for a submarine to hide,” Groll writes.
The sightings — all of which have been made by private citizens, rather than the national military — are spread out over a vast area, as this map, at right, released by the Swedish government demonstrates.
Sweden isn’t a NATO member. With such vague information — Groll notes that much of the speculation around the search has turned “farcical” in the absence of any solid developments or leads — there’s little public indication that a more capable military is interested in getting involved in the hunt.
The Swedes don’t seem to be totally sure what they’re looking for. The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet is reporting that authorities believe they could be searching for more than one vessel.
And they aren’t certain of the vessel’s size or purpose. “It could be a submarine, or a smaller submarine,” Swedish Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad said on Oct. 19. “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.”
But earlier this week, Russia issued a strangely worded denial, with the Kremlin’s defence ministry claiming that “there have been no irregular situations and, even less so, accidents involving Russian naval vessels.” This statement rules out the possibility that a submarine may have become disabled and drifted into Swedish waters — without denying that a submarine could be in the area intentionally.
The Swedes are certain that the country’s sovereignty has been violated.
Sverker Göransson, the country’s top military commander, told journalists Tuesday, “This is very serious … I would even go so far as to say that it’s f—– up.”
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