A Centre-Left government in Sweden? Time to dispatch a ‘Russian submarine’

The investiture of a social democratic minority government in Sweden committed to ending the neoliberal adventure has been anticipated intensely—certainly in the tiny room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is languishing, for about two years now. 
However, there was a quite different surprise in store, one about which the media once again are telling us very little as far as background goes. That concerns the appearance of one or more Russian submarines in Swedish waters. A picture of the ongoing search is below. 

Maybe a bit of explanation can help here. 
In the sixties and seventies Sweden, then still an emphatically neutral country, became one of the fiercest critics of the American war in Vietnam. When the new Cold War against the USSR came on stream in 1979, there was not much interest in joining that enterprise either.

In the early 80s Sweden was confronted with submarines active in its coastal waters. As was established later these were American and British submarines used to test the vigilance of NATO naval defences. By emitting signals that identify a ship as a Soviet submarine, it was possible to determine whether those on the watch were not asleep.

In 1980 it was decided in NATO to ‘adjust’ Sweden’s neutrality. The country for decades had been governed by the socialist, Olof Palme, who jointly with Willy Brandt and the Austrian chancellor, Bruno Kreisky, led the Socialist International. He was committed to disarmament and favoured an active development policy for the Third World.

As was established at the time by the researcher, Ola Tunander, a handful of top admirals of the Swedish Navy were privy to these operations, but local naval units were not, and the media and the Palme government were not informed either.

This did not fail to produce an effect. In the 1970s around a quarter of Swedes saw the USSR as a threat, but in 1983 this percentage had climbed to 40. The number that defined the Soviet Union as an ‘unfriendly’ state even rose to 80 percent. In the US this is called ‘perception management’, the regulation of what people think—influencing public opinion in other words.

This was not just an innocent game. When Palme persisted in his neutrality policy, he was assassinated in 1986 near a cinema, exactly one day after having welcomed the initiative of the new Soviet leader, Gorbachev, to begin to work actively for a world without nuclear weapons. This assassination has never been solved.

Now we have a new government, which wants to stop the neoliberal privatisation and social desertification, and wants to return to a more just society. One of its first steps was the recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

It may well be that a Russian submarine has run into difficulty in the shallow waters of the Swedish coast, although the Russians have denied that their navy has ships in the area.

What we do know is that there are NATO units in the Baltic because of the Ukrainian crisis, to which an aggressive response is made with great display of power. There is also a Dutch submarine of the ‘Bruinvis’ class in operation. For it may be that the Dutch police budget has been cut back with a quarter of a billion euros a year and the police is no longer able to close down illegal hemp plantations in our neighbourhood, but our liberal-social democrat government has no qualms about playing the policeman in the Baltic.

I have no knowledge about who else might be active in the Swedish waters but a little bit of background might be useful.

Kees van der Pijl

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