As the country's top military commander put it the other day, Sweden's strange and worrying hunt for an alleged submarine is "f---ed up."
There have been at least five sightings since late last week of what is thought to be a foreign submarine in Swedish waters, prompting the country's biggest anti-submarine operation since the end of the Cold War. While the Swedish authorities are being circumspect in saying what exactly it might be, the Swedish press has been full of reports of Russian distress signals.
It's all a worrying reminder of the early 1980s, when a Soviet submarine ran aground in Swedish waters, and heralded the arrival of years of reported submarine sightings and Sweden responding with large-scale yet apparently unsuccessful investigations. The current operation has had difficulties, too, with the vast archipelago near Stockholm providing a variety of potential hiding spots.
Sweden is now said to be scaling back the operation, entering what military spokesman Erik Lagersten called “a partially new phase.” But some observers are wondering whether the apparent threat could have long-term effects for Sweden, which has historically been nonaligned and is not a member of NATO.