Scandinavian countries suffer from 'periscope syndrome'

Russia still remains NATO's key adversary, despite its declarative cooperation with the alliance

The official report about the “problem of foreign underwater incursions in Swedish waters from 1980 until now” was published in 2002. Respectable diplomat Rolf Ekeus, who chaired the UN's special committee for Iraq, presided over the committee that prepared the report.

The report from the committee provoked a very vivid reaction in the society. The tradition to blame the Soviet Union was broken with a “revolutionary” affirmation, which said that not only Soviet, but also Western submarines could perform “underwater incursions” with equal possibility. Sensational detections of underwater objects, suspicious noises and caterpillar tracks on the bottom of fiords turned out to be a mystification. According to the report, acoustic signals, as well as bubbles on the surface, were of the natural origin. It seems that shoals of sardines and seals have known no rest for 25 years, due to attacks from the Swedish naval forces. Thousands of anti-submarine bombs came down on poor sea animals. An ardent military official from Blekinge province (Sweden's southern coast, where the nation's naval headquarters are stationed) shelled a flock of swans once, having taken their long necks for periscopes of Soviet submarines. When the truth was finally exposed, Norwegians laughed at their neighbors, saying that they finished off with the “periscope syndrome” ten years ago, although they had suffered from it too.

In November of 1972, Norwegian newspapers published numerous news stories about a submarine of the Warsaw Pact, which had been found in Sogne fiord. Almost the entire national navy dropped a lot of depth bombs on the unidentified underwater object, although to no effect. Afterwards, the Norwegian media published another piece of news about a transgressing submarine from the 'eastern block.' Norway was looking for the submarine for two weeks in April 1983, but the result was the same – it was impossible to determine the national affiliation of the mysterious sub. People started laughing at naval officials. However, the population of the country's coastal areas responded with understanding. Time passed by, and the naval command started treating numerous “contacts” with unidentified underwater objects with open skepticism, which could not be said about politicians and their media outlets. The myth about the Soviet threat needed to be nurtured constantly. As a result, about 78 percent of Norwegians believed in the existence of enemy's subs. Seventeen percent of Norway's population did not believe in the myth and five percent did not bother to think about it at all. In 1982, eighty-five percent of Norwegians trusted the information about secret submarines and their top secret activities. Only four percent of them did not believe that those were Soviet submarines.

The story went into the background, but it surfaced again in 2001, after another newspaper sensation. Caterpillar tracks were found on the bottom of the fiord in the province, which bordered on Russia. The message was later rejected, as it happened before. However, the quest for such sensations continues still: such news appears at times at scientific conferences and in press as an anticipation of a political campaign, or simply as a precaution. Russia still remains NATO's key adversary, despite its declarative cooperation with the alliance. Ballistic missiles of NATO subs are aimed at Russian objects in spite of challenges of the international terrorism. Norway is NATO's advanced post, and Russia has a lot of open questions with the country, particularly the so-called 'grey zone' with its enormous oil and gas reserves on the shelf of the Barents Sea.

The last week of the summer 2004 was marked with another sensation for the same hackneyed subject. “A sunken Russian submarine was found at the depth of 120 meters in a fiord in the west coast of Norway.” The “sensational” news was broadcast on TV2 channel of the national television; it later appeared in Norway's largest newspaper Verdens Gang and in other media outlets of Sweden.

The new adventure was initiated by Anne Vik, who published an article in a local newspaper of the town of Stavanger. The submarine's whereabouts were not exposed, because the underwater photographer signed an adequate statement with the government. “Judging upon the layer of seaweed on the hull, the submarine has been lying on the bottom for over 30 years,” Anne wrote. She then specified that she was not a specialist, and it was hard to determine the national affiliation of the unfortunate sub. A simple calculation showed that the submarine supposedly sank during the peak of the Cold War years.

The story ended very quickly – it did not last just for a couple of days. The information was refuted, the “unique” underwater photographs of the Soviet submarine turned out to be the photos of a Japanese submarine, which sank during WWII in the Pacific Ocean. The mystification vanished, having left a bad taste in the mouth. However, the subject is still actual nowadays, there are a lot of people, who want to gain profit from it. On the other hand, such stories do not last long, which means that the intimidated Scandinavian people start believing in the improvement of the political atmosphere in the north of Europe. It is not ruled out that the “periscope syndrome” will finally vanish from the history of relations between Russia and its northern neighbors to give way to mutual understanding and cooperation.

Sergey Aprelev
especially for PRAVDa.Ru

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Author`s name Olga Savka