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Force of Habit: Stockholm Fruitlessly Fishes for Phantom Russian Subs

© AP Photo / Fredrik SandbergThe Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen, left, and a guard boat in Namdo Bay, Sweden,Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago
The Swedish minesweeper HMS Kullen, left, and a guard boat in Namdo Bay, Sweden,Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 on their fifth day of searching for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago - Sputnik International
Sweden never fails to entertain the public with its impressive record of unsuccessful submarine hunts. By their own admission, the Swedish military suspended naval exercises off Stockholm earlier this spring due to a possible submarine incursion. Needless to say, no evidence was found.

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A naval exercise focused on anti-submarine warfare in Stockholm archipelago was adjourned following an unconfirmed submarine alert. Nearby vessels, including a Swedish submarine, were dispatched to investigate the incident. After the April 21-24 exercises were suspended, the military launched maritime surveillance in the area and divers were sent to investigate.

"We suspended the exercises because there were indications of unknown underwater activity," navy spokesman Jesper Tengroth told the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, without disclosing the exact nature of the indications for security reasons.

Tengroth subsequently explained that the navy term "unknown underwater activity" had a broad definition and did not apply exclusively to submarines.

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In October 2014, Sweden launched a massive eight-day witch hunt for a foreign submarine, which was suspected to be Russian. The chase in the Stockholm archipelago ended in a bitter fiasco, spurring a hot debate on whether the largest Nordic nation, with almost 10 million, should abandon its non-alignment policy and join NATO on account of the fact that it is unable to defend itself properly.

Later, the Swedish military confirmed that "a mini submarine" had supposedly violated its territorial waters, but was never able to establish the vessel's nationality and never came with more substantial proof than grainy photos taken on mobile phones.

In July 2015, a mini submarine was found by divers off the coast of Sweden amid anxiety over Russia's alleged surveillance operations in the Baltic. However, this "sensation" turned out to be a Tsarist-era Som-class submarine which sank in 1916 during WWI. Since then, Sweden has never tired of accusing Russia of sending submarines into Swedish territorial waters, obviously using it as a pretext for inflating its military budget.

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Last year, Sweden's red-green coalition government announced a 10.2 billion kronor (1.25 billion dollars) increase in defense spending for 2016-2020, citing concerns over Russia's "militarism."

Of late, non-aligned Sweden has also markedly stepped up its cooperation and joint exercises with NATO. Presently, Sweden takes part in two US-led maneuvers in the Baltic (BALTOPS 2016 and Anakonda 2016). In this year's edition of BALTOPS, Sweden will provide NATO forces with a springboard in Stockholm's archipelago, whereas US bombers B-52 will fly across Sweden's airspace.

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