The recent Swedish Mystery has raised many concerns.
Swedish media first reported about an appearance of a foreign underwater vessel in the Stockholm archipelago last week. Subsequent searches were undertaken by the Swedish military. A local newspaper reported that Sweden intercepted radio transmissions that were allegedly made in Russian after it began its naval operation in the waters near Stockholm. It is said that the transmission was directed towards the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which is 330 miles south of Stockholm, on the Baltic’s southern shore. This led to the speculation of the underwater vessel being a Russian submarine. However, the Swedish military has denied rumors of it looking for submarines, and said that it was conducting an intelligence operation. Additionally, the Swedish Prime Minister announced an increase in spending on defence in its budget last Thursday.
Russia responded to the incident by denying having any vessels in Sweden’s territorial waters. Yet, as mentioned previously, Russia has several submarines that are based in Kaliningrad. Russia also holds a much bigger force near Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, which is close to the Russian borders with Norway and Finland. The events in the past few days have sparked alarm across the Baltic Sea in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are the three small former Soviet republics that were already startled by current Russian intervention of Ukraine. Lithuanian president publicly expressed his concern, saying that if Putin’s aggression in Ukraine is not stopped by the international community, “he will go further” and is an open threat to “Warsaw, the Baltic States and Bucharest”.
With this event, it is likely that there will be a change in the security status in the Baltic region. Sweden’s search for the submarine is currently still ongoing, while Estonia has already stepped up surveillance of its territorial waters. As for Russia, it is pointing its fingers at Netherlands, claiming that the submarine may be Dutch. Russia is also questioning the Swedish submarine hunt to be an excuse for Sweden to boost its defense budget. Yet whether this incident will lead to a military conflict in the region or not is yet to be observed.
An interesting thing to note is Russia’s incentive in deploying a submarine to spy on the Baltic sea. A possible reason for Russia to be engaging in such an action may be the decrease of its oil prices in the global market. Current U.S. and EU sanction towards Russia may trigger a certain degree of agony, that might lead Russia into more aggressive behavior, such as the unproven Russian submarine incident in Sweden. Hence, perhaps in a way, economic sanction can sometimes turn into some sort of fuel to further aggression?