dilluns, 29 de juny de 2015

If Greece exits the euro, what happens to the US base Souda Bay?*

Stars and Stripes

There has been widespread concern about the consequences for global markets if Greece defaults on its debts and is forced to give up the euro. But how would a tiny American naval base on the island of Crete fare?

The challenges for the base of a Greek exit from the euro would be similar to those of many American companies watching developments in the country, say security and financial consultants.

Greece is in a series of last-minute negotiations with creditors over a deal to avert a looming default on bailout loans from recent years.

Even if a deal is struck by an end-of-the-month deadline, most economists believe this would not solve the country’s underlining financial problems, and a new crisis down the road is likely.

“The potential for chaos and a huge amount of uncertainty and instability is very significant,” Marianna Vintiadis, the managing director for security consultant firm Kroll’s Southern European office, said of a possible Greek default.

Like many overseas American bases, U.S. Naval Activity Souda Bay has hundreds of local employees and contracts with local businesses. American employees live on the local economy and make purchases in euros.

Navy public affairs officials declined to discuss base planning around a possible Greek default, saying they were under strict instructions to refer all matters to the State Department — including unclassified figures such as the number of base employees or the base budget.

A State Department spokeswoman referred to previous White House statements on the issue.

In the event of a default, Greece is expected to drop the euro and replace it with a local currency. Stabilizing that currency, which is expected to immediately fall in value to the euro, would take time, said Naresh Aggarwal, a treasury consultant with PwC.

Because the Greek government will likely close local banks to prevent people from emptying their accounts, businesses typically want more cash at their disposal to make payroll and pay for services.

“What you would want is not to be holding local currency,” Aggarwal said of foreign businesses in Greece. “You would want a foreign currency, whether it’s euros, pound sterling, Swiss francs or U.S. dollars. Or you would want to hold tangible assets.”

For Navy personnel, who have access to U.S. dollars through on-base institutions like Community Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union, access to cash shouldn’t be a problem while a new Greek currency is unavailable.

Whether the base would have an issue paying local employees is less clear. Of Souda Bay’s roughly 900 military and civilian personnel, about 400 are local civilians, according to a military official familiar with the base. Yet its payroll has in the past been made through the Greek government, which then pays the employees, a scheme that could complicate payment in an alternative currency.

Another uncertainty is whether contracts now paid in euros could be switched to the new currency. The base might also worry about the viability of some local service providers, especially smaller businesses that could take a financial hit from the loss of the euro.

“You need to make sure the first group of suppliers you have is resilient,” Aggarwal said of overseas businesses.

That issue, too, could be defused by the fact that the American base is located inside a Hellenic Air Force base, meaning some infrastructure is maintained by the Greek Defense Ministry instead of locals contracted by the U.S.

Social unrest is another concern for foreign businesses operating in Greece, both Aggarwal and Vintiadis agreed. So far, Athens has been the scene of most of the protests and violence surrounding debt negotiations. Aggarwal said that, as symbols of capitalism, larger American companies can become targets in times of financial unrest.

But Vintiadis said the current situation is different because it doesn’t directly involve Americans. Greece’s creditors are European, and Germany in particular has become the target of popular frustration. The U.S. has encouraged any resolution that would keep Greece within the eurozone.

“In this case, would there be anything specifically targeted at Americans? I don’t see it,” she said. “This is not that sort of a crisis; this is not that sort of a problem.”

The likelihood that significant unrest would spread outside Athens depends on how long the Greek government needs to stabilize the currency and return the economy to a sense of normalcy, she added. “What we have at the moment is a situation in flux,” Vintiadis said. “When you’re in a situation in flux, you need to be careful. Things are changing every day.”

* Article publicat a Stars & Stripes. És incerta qualsevol previsió que es faci sobre el futur immediat de Grècia, ara bé, potser a Catalunya algú hauria d'anar pensant alguna contraoferta en cas que la US Navy marxi de Souda Bay.


divendres, 19 de juny de 2015

This infographic gives some interesting details about the four NATO exercises taking place in Eastern Europe*



By David Cenciotti

A series of training events is taking place in eastern Europe.

NATO and regional Allies are involved in a series of training events in eastern Europe that go under the name of Allied Shield.

Allied Shield is a series of exercises that includes:

Exercise NOBLE JUMP, the first training deployment of Allied high-readiness units under the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) framework.

BALTOPS, a major Allied naval exercise in Poland that sees the involvement of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command’s B-52 Stratofortress bombers deployed to RAF Fairford, in UK, as well as NATO AWACS, US F-16s used as OPFOR (opposing forces), P-3 and P-8 Maritime patrol aircraft, German Tornados, Swedish Gripen and US KC-135 tankers.

SABER STRIKE, a big land exercise with forces scattered across the Baltic States.

TRIDENT JOUST, a NRF (NATO Response Force) command and control exercise in Romania.

According to NATO, approximately 15,000 troops from 19 different allied countries and 3 partner nations are taking part (or about to) in this series of training events whose purposes are “defensive and are a part of NATO’s assurance measures in response to challenges on NATO’s southern and eastern periphery.”

In other words, these are just some of the measures NATO has taken in the region to reassure local allies threatened by Russia.

Click here to open a larger version of the infographic.

Image credit: de Volkskrant

* Infografia publicada a The Aviationist. No hi trobeu a faltar ningú? Segur? Mireu bé. Pista: surt en la notícia anterior.

Dos buques de la Armada rusa hacen escala mañana con más de 200 tripulantes*

Dos buques de la Armada rusa harán escala en el puerto mañana con más de 200 tripulantes a bordo y la previsión de permanecer en la ciudad hasta el próximo martes.

Se trata del ‘Ivan Bubnov’ y del ‘Alexander Shabalin’, un buque de asalto anfibio el primero y otro cisterna, el segundo, que vienen a Ceuta para realizar labores de avituallamiento y que vienen a engordar las escalas que en lo que va de año han realizado los buques rusos, nueve en total. En el caso del ‘Alexander Shabalin’ ya estuvo en Ceuta el pasado enero y ahora regresa para tomar 300 toneladas de gasoil y 150 de agua. Se ha previsto que atraque en el dique de Levante. En el caso del ‘Ivan Bubnov’, se prevé que realice labores de avituallamiento destacando la toma prevista de 3.750 toneladas de gasoil y de agua. Los comercios de la ciudad se preparan para atender a unos tripulantes que se han convertido en fieles y que siempre que visitan la ciudad hacen muestra del alto poder adquisitivo que tienen. Entre los tripulantes que llegan a bordo de los buques hay oficiales, suboficiales y marinería. Tal y como ha destacado la Autoridad Portuaria, con estas llegadas ascienden a 9 las escalas de buques rusos en este año mientras que en 2014 visitaron Ceuta 13 buques con 2.300 tripulantes. “Estos datos confirman el interés de la Armada rusa por el puerto para realizar sus paradas”, explica la Autoridad que resalta también el beneficio económico para los comercios.

*Notícia publicada El Faro Digital. Segur que els aliats de l'OTAN estaran d'allò més contents en saber que Espanya allotja amb tanta devoció les naus russes.


dissabte, 13 de juny de 2015

Russia Disposes of 195 Decommissioned Soviet-Era Nuclear Submarines*

Currently, 195 of the 201 decommissioned submarines have been recycled. The demolition of the rest submarines and 14 technical support vessels is due to be completed by 2020.

Russia’s Rosatom Corporation is nearing to complete the recycling of Soviet-made decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines and support vessels.

Currently, 195 of the 201 decommissioned submarines have been recycled. The demolition of all the decommissioned nuclear submarines and 14 technical support vessels is due to be completed by 2020.

"We have started the recycling of technical support vessels and depot ships. By 2020, we are expected to complete the dismantling and recycling of all 14 support ships decommissioned from the Northern and the Pacific Fleets as well as two Atomflot support ships," Rosatom CEO Sergei Kirienko said during the "70th anniversary of the Russian Atom" forum in Chelyabinsk.

"195 of the 201 submarines have been dismantled and recycled. Six submarines are left. Now we have no vessels standing in queue for dismantling. In 1999, when Rosatom was charged with the disposal there were 120 submarines waiting," Kirienko said.

In 2014, the recycling of the "Volodarsky" depot ship was completed. Now, the dismantling of the "Lepse" depot ship has begun. Within six months, it will have its nuclear fuel removed. Then it will be prepared for wet storage before the disposal.

Kirienko also pointed out that under the "Nuclear radioactive safety 2" program new equipment and technology were developed, including the recycling technology for the uranium-beryllium fuel from project 705 submarines which were equipped with liquid-metal reactors.

The need to recycle nuclear submarines and depot ships emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. At that time, military spending was significantly reduced. More than 200 submarines built in the 1950-1980s, and a large number of support vessels, were decommissioned from the Russian navy.
* Notícia publicada a Sputnik News. Més enllà de que Rússia hagi anat recuperant-se progressivament, la qüestió de la desactivació, desmantellament i reciclatge dels submarins nuclears d'era soviètica, cal que es segueixi.


dijous, 4 de juny de 2015

Chinese Submarines in Sri Lanka Unnerve India: Next Stop Pakistan?


The sighting of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean has unnerved India. A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Song-class conventional submarine along with Changxing Dao, a Type 925 submarine support ship, docked at the Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) in Sri Lanka last September (China Military Online, September 24, 2014). The two vessels made a stopover in Colombo harbor for refueling as well as rest and recuperation for the crew before heading to the Gulf of Aden in support of international efforts to fight piracy (Times of India, November 2, 2014). A few weeks later, a submarine (presumably the same submarine) and the Changxing Dao were again docked in Colombo harbor (Colombo Mirror, November 3, 2014). Reports on the presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean are not new. According to an Indian media report, during December 2013 and February 2014, a Chinese nuclear submarine was deployed in the Indian Ocean on patrol for two months in the (India Today, March 21, 2014). Although details of the submarine deployment are not known, apparently, the Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense had informed India of plans to send a submarine in the Indian Ocean. Likewise, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia were also told of the planned PLA visit (India Today, March 21, 2014). It has now emerged that a Chinese nuclear submarine completed a two-month escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and returned to Qingdao, its home port (South China Morning Post, May 3).

India Reacts

The Indian government and analytic community were completely surprised by the presence of Chinese submarines in Colombo harbor, as Indian analysts had predicted Chinese submarines would first dock in Pakistan. The issue came up for clarification by way of a question in the Indian parliament, there were sharp comments from Indian analysts and the Indian media “played up” the visit through public debate on television.

The Minister of State for External Affairs informed the Upper House of the Indian Parliament that a Chinese submarine visited Colombo for “replenishment purposes” and the Sri Lankan government had assured Delhi that it would not do “anything against the security interests of India.” [1] The Indian Navy chief announced that Chinese naval activities in the Indian Ocean were being continuously monitored and his force was “ready to face any challenge” (Times of India, September 25, 2014). However, the Indian strategic community warned that China was testing the Modi government’s resolve not only on land but also at sea (Times of India, September 28, 2014). Although not connected to his visit, days before President Xi Jinping’s arrival in India, there was a stand-off between the PLA and the Indian Army in the Chumar sector of eastern Ladakh in the Himalayas, where the two sides have a boundary dispute (Hindustan Times, September 16, 2014). A few weeks later, in November 2014, the PLA made a two-pronged incursion into Indian territory in the Himalayas—Chinese boats crossed into Indian waters in the Pangong lake and PLA trucks carrying troops were intercepted five kilometers into Indian territory through the land route in the same area (The Indian Express, November 3, 2014).

These developments generated a public narrative of a heightened “China Threat,” particularly at sea, and Indian TV channels spent more time than normal addressing China issues by hosting a number of strategic and naval experts during prime time (a time of high viewership in India). In response, the Chinese media accused the Indian media of repeatedly trumpeting the submarine threat based on “conjectures” and being “devoid of facts,” which could potentially create more friction between the two countries and “cause unnecessary trouble to the normal military exchanges between China and India” (China Military Online; December 10, 2014).

Response by China

The Chinese riposte to the high-decibel Indian concerns was quick, as a Ministry of National Defense spokesman clarified that the submarine visit to Colombo was a “routine port call” (China Daily, September 26, 2014). China’s foreign ministry spokesperson stated that it is an international practice for warships to call at ports across the globe and resupply (Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs [MFA], March 2). Also, the port call by the submarine was a “normal and transparent” activity and had the approval of the Sri Lankan government. Further, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson observed that it was her understanding that the “Sri Lankan government holds a policy of supporting international anti-piracy campaign [sic] and welcoming the docking of vessels from any friendly country in its ports” and it welcomes warships from friendly countries, including China (MFA, March 2).

Sri Lanka Engages in Damage Control

The Sri Lankan government defended the submarine visit and stated that 230 foreign warships had called at Colombo port for refueling and crew recuperation since 2010 (Xinhua, November 3, 2014). The Sri Lankan Navy chief denied that there was any Chinese military presence in his country and said they “will never compromise on the national security of India” (The Sunday Times; October 27, 2014). The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority dismissed Indian unease and stated that the Chinese submarine docked at the CICT because the berth had the required depth of 18 meters unlike other berths, which are only 14.7 meters deep (The Sunday Times, October 19, 2014).

In March, just prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Colombo, the Sri Lankan cabinet decided to suspend the controversial $1.4 billion CICT project; but a few days later, President Maithripala Sirisena met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing and clarified that the “problem does not lie with Chinese side and hoped to continue with the project after things are sorted out.” (DNA, March 26). Sri Lanka is caught between the two rising Asian powers—India, a neighbor with whom it has strong civilizational ties; and China, an all-weather friend, strategic partner and a major investor in the country—and appears to exercise autonomy in the conduct of its foreign policy (Caixin, March 10).

Why Were Chinese Submarines in the Indian Ocean?

The above narrative merits an important question—what prompts China to deploy submarines in the Indian Ocean? At the strategic level, it helps China to showcase its blue water capability. Since 2008, the PLAN has dispatched 20 task forces to the Gulf of Aden in support of antipiracy patrols, comprising of destroyers, frigates, replenishment ships and, occasionally, amphibious vessels. Beijing’s naval forces have escorted 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships (China Daily, January 16). These deployments tested the PLAN’s ability to undertake sustained far seas operations, expeditionary missions and humanitarian tasks, such as the evacuation of Chinese nationals from Libya and Yemen (see China Brief, April 3). The search-and-rescue operation for the ill-fated flight MH 370, in which 217 Chinese nationals perished, further showcased the Navy’s ability to operate in the Southern Indian Ocean. Chinese scholars have argued that the PLAN is in the Indian Ocean for safeguarding national interests and performing its international duties as well as to to “ensure freedom of navigation, a fundamental principle of international law” (China Military Online, April 10).

There are mixed reports about the quality and stealth of Chinese submarines. The Han-class submarines are reported to be noisy and “unlikely to pose any real threat” to other submarines (South China Morning Post, May 3). For instance, in 1994, a Chinese Han-class submarine was caught stalking the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in the Yellow Sea (see China Brief, November 22, 2006). The Kilo-, Yuan- and Song-class conventional submarines are stated to be quiet. However, the PLAN has tested its submarines against the U.S. Navy and appears to have been quite successful. In 2006, a Chinese Song-class conventional submarine surfaced close to the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.

It is also important to recall a 2009 incident involving the PLAN (destroyers Haikou and Wuhan) and an Indian submarine. According to the Chinese media, an Indian submarine trailed the Chinese ships as they entered the Indian Ocean on their way to the Gulf of Aden, but they were successful in forcing the Indian submarine to surface, after which it left (South China Morning Post, February 4, 2009). However, the Indian Navy denied that any of its submarines had “surfaced in the Gulf of Aden region as reported in a section of the Chinese media” (The Hindu, February 4, 2009). This February, a Chinese military official stated that China will continue to send “different kinds of naval ships to take part in escort missions in accordance with the situation and need” (Want China Times, February 3).

Where Else Will Chinese Submarines Dock in the Indian Ocean Region?

Unlike the Han-class nuclear submarines, Chinese conventional submarines would necessarily require logistic and technological support in the Indian Ocean, and Indian analysts assess that the most likely countries in the region to support Chinese submarines are Pakistan and Iran. China has supplied to Pakistan a number of naval platforms and transferred technology for building frigates and missile vessels. Pakistan has had regular exchanges of high-level delegations, and the PLAN has provided training to Pakistani naval personnel (China News, March 26). Further, the PLAN has participated in joint and multilateral naval exercises, such as the annual Aman series held since 2007 in the Arabian Sea (Xinhua, March 12, 2007).

During the visit to China this March by Muhammad Zakaullah, the chief of Pakistan’s navy, General Fan Changlong, the Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, urged both sides to “enhance coordination and cooperation” on regional security issues. He also assured that China was willing “to deepen cooperation with Pakistan in anti-terrorism, maritime security and military technology” (Economic Times, March 26).

Pakistan was originally interested in buying Chinese submarines, but it acquired three Agosta-90B submarines between 1999 and2006 from France due to a number of technological considerations. There was speculation that President Xi might announce the sale of eight Chinese submarines to Pakistan during his visit last month; however, a Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman did not confirm if discussions on the submarine sale took place (Bloomberg, April 18). Interestingly, India is unlikely to be deterred if Pakistan acquires Chinese submarines, as the Indian defense minister has stated that by the time France supplies the submarines to Islamabad, India would have built 15 to 20 submarines (The Hindu, April 18).

Iran is another possible candidate to support Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. The Iranian Navy operates three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia, and it also has indigenous capability to build submarines. Iran can offer both logistic and technical assistance for the repair and maintenance for the Chinese submarines operating in the Indian Ocean. Their navies engaged in naval exercises during the visit by two ships of the 17th escort taskforce in September 2014 (China Military Online, September 23, 2014).

Conclusion

Since the sighting of the Chinese submarines in Colombo, the Indian strategic community has upped the ante and argued that China has successfully challenged Indian naval supremacy in its backyard. The Indian Navy has closely followed the Chinese submarine deployments in the Indian Ocean. It is already building newer conventional and nuclear attack, and the construction of anti-submarine warfare ships is being sped up. The newly acquired P-8I maritime patrol aircraft (similar to the US Navy P-8A) are fitted with a number of modern sensors and anti-submarine weapons that should allow India to counter China’s growing naval presence in the IOR (Times of India, May 18). These developments have significantly augmented the Indian Navy’s maritime surveillance, reconnaissance and combat capabilities to detect Chinese submarines. In light of these events, Chinese submarines will continue to make forays into the IOR and expand the PLAN’s operational environment, which is certain to cause further alarm in India.

[The views expressed in the above article are the author’s own and do not reflect the policy or position of the National Maritime Foundation.]

Notes
Rajya Sabha, Unstarred Question No. 516, “Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lankan port,” November 27, 2014.
Vijay Sakhuja, “Submarines in Pakistan’s Naval Strategy,” South Asia Defence and Strategic Review, February 8, 2010.

* Article publicat al China Brief. Un pas més de la consolidació de posicions de la Xina, en aquest cas a l'Índic. Si algú es pensava que el suport xinès contra la insurgència tàmil sortiria gratis, aquí té la resposta.


dilluns, 1 de juny de 2015

Sweden is fighting intruders, naked*

The thought of submarine chases off the Swedish coast may sound a tad dramatic, the stuff of cold warrior fantasies. But after two rumored sightings of Russian submarines in the country’s Scandinavian waters this fall, those fantasies have become all too real.

Swedish Armed Forces were tipped off to the presence of the first submarine on October 17, but called off their search a week later after failing to find enough evidence — it had already snuck away. On October 31, they began searching for a second foreign submarine, but only this month has conclusive evidence surfaced: On May 15, five independent witnesses came forward to say that they spotted a submarine very close to Stockholm on October 31 last year. That dramatically raises the stakes in Sweden’s hunt for aquatic intruders.

The witnesses — local residents with marine experience — described their sightings to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. Their reports of a submarine sighting on October 31, near the suburb of Lidingö and thus much closer to Stockholm than the October 17 submarine, contradict the armed forces, who maintain that the object was a white plastic boat.

Sverker Göranson, supreme commander of the Swedish armed forces, now finds himself in a predicament. He can maintain the armed forces line that the witnesses are mistaken, or he can choose to believe the witnesses, which would raise the question of why the submarine was able to get so close to Stockholm. The Russian media, meanwhile, is already poking fun at what it labels Swedish military incompetence.

“It’s almost impossible to keep mini-submarines out,” notes Tomas Ries, a lecturer in strategy and security policy at the Swedish Defense College. “That would require rebuilding the whole coastal defense system that the armed forces decimated after the 1990s, especially sensor lines and helicopters.” Russian nuclear submarines are usually tailed by the US Navy, and vice versa, while smaller subs are not.

At the end of the Cold War, Swedish submarine hunters commanded an arsenal featuring depth charges, torpedoes, and anti-submarine-warfare grenades, and surface submarine hunters were aided by a large number of helicopters, which easily spot movements in the water. Now, however, “we’ve got rid of our more modern weapons,” says Göran Frisk, a naval commander and top submarine hunter until his retirement 12 years ago. “The Russians can do whatever they like in Swedish waters as long as they’re not careless, because in that case a Swedish warship can shoot and disable them.”

Following a series of budget cuts starting the late 1990s, the naval commandos defending Sweden’s 2,700-kilometer coastline find themselves rather modestly equipped in the fight against underwater intruders, with just seven torpedo-armed corvettes (small warships), four submarines and one marine battalion. In March, the government announced an ambitious naval investment program that includes the purchase of two new submarines and the upgrade of existing corvettes. But that process will take years.

“Today we’re naked,” says retired Admiral Nils-Ove Jansson, a top submarine hunter in Swedish antisubmarine operations during the 1980s and 1990s. “The little equipment we have is good, but otherwise the situation is dreadful. The risks involved with intruding into Swedish waters are so negligible that the biggest risk facing a sub is that it has an accident.”

That is what happened to the Soviet Whiskey-class submarine U-137, which ran aground close to a Swedish naval base in 1981, an incident known as Whiskey on the Rocks. On October 27 that year, local fishermen discovered the submarine, stuck on a rock, and raised the alarm. The sailors, on an espionage mission off the Swedish coast, had misjudged its tricky waters. Though they all survived the accident, it led to a high-stakes diplomatic drama that ended when the Swedish navy escorted the submarine out of Swedish water 10 days later. After that scare Sweden hastily beefed up its submarine-hunting abilities, increasing both equipment and crew training.

And while Sweden’s navy boasts several modern ships and submarines, its sailors haven’t had much submarine-hunting practice since the 1990s. Finding an intruding submarine is harder than it sounds off the Swedish coast, whose archipelagos offer intruders countless hiding places. Philip Simon, a spokesman for the armed forces, is certain, however, that unwelcome guests will be caught. “We can discover an intruding submarine and get it to stop its activity,” he says. “The armed forces have no intention of disabling an intruder but want him to give up his unlawful activity.”

Not unexpectedly, the armed forces maintain that their navy is well-equipped for submarine hunts. “Regarding systems and their abilities, we’re well-equipped, probably the best in the world when it comes to advanced submarine-hunting in shallow waters,” says Simon. “We have weapons and systems to detect and fight intruding submarines both inside and outside our archipelagos.” But, adds Simon, reductions in the number of systems and vessels have had an effect on the navy’s ability to hunt for submarines in a larger area or over a longer period of time.

“The vast majority of security researchers believe that the intrusions are Russian under-water activities,” notes Ries. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of submarine intrusions in Swedish waters dropped, but started growing again in 2000. Independent naval experts report that the Russian navy uses mini-submarines in the Baltic to spy on Swedish, Finnish and NATO activities. It’s no secret that the Russian signals-intelligence ship Fyodor Golovin also gathers information in the Baltic Sea, and doing so in international waters is not illegal. Russia’s military attaché in Stockholm, Colonel Vladimir Ermachkov, did not respond to a request for comment. Following massive military cuts in the 1990s, Russia is now half-way through a $700 billionmodernization plan.

Jansson, who’s also a former deputy director of the Swedish military intelligence agency, MUST, and a leading authority on Russian military espionage, argues that the Soviet Union’s snooping on its largest Scandinavian neighbor has returned in Russian guise, with an undeniable logic to it. “The Russians suspect that Sweden and Finland are not really independent of NATO,” he explains. “With their submarine activities, they’re preparing to put nuclear mines in Swedish locations likely to host NATO naval units. And their TU-22M supersonic bomber airplanes that fly towards Swedish airspace are testing the course of their missiles, which they’d direct against locations that may host NATO air force units.”

As Captain Marko Ramius says in the Cold War-era thriller “The Hunt for Red October”: “Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary.”

The Russian assumption is, of course, right on target: Though officially non-aligned, Sweden cooperates closely with NATO. A Russian air incursion on May 21 is reported to have targeted a state-of-the-art southern Swedish airbase recently used by the Nordic Battle Group, which includes several NATO members. Until reinforcements arrive, the Swedish navy will have no choice but to keep vigilantly patrolling its waters, hoping that unwelcome guests will do themselves in.

Elisabeth Braw is a correspondent for Newsweek, which she joined following a fellowship at the University of Oxford.

* Article publicat a Politico.eu . No és el primer cop que surten notícies assenyalant la debilitat de la defensa de Suècia. Com veiem altra vegada, el buit estratègic acostuma a omplir-se.