Stranger than Fiction

Soviet Submarine Operations in Swedish Waters

by Gordon McCormick


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The Soviets have conducted submarine operations in Swedish waters continuously since World War II. Although the evidence of these violations of Sweden's territorial waters is incomplete, Swedish authorities indicate that "foreign" submarine operations were carried out infrequently and at irregular intervals during the 1960s and into the late 1970s. The scope and character of Soviet operations in Sweden changed in or around 1980, however, becoming much more frequent, penetrating the heart of Sweden's coastal defense zones, and involving the use of multiple submarines, mini-submarines, and combat swimmers operating in a coordinated manner. This report examines the strange case of Soviet submarine operations in Swedish waters since 1980. It discusses the nature of these operations as well as related activities being carried out on Swedish soil, the political and strategic context within which these operations have evolved, the objectives that apparently underlie these activities, and the continuity in Soviet civil-military decisionmaking on the submarine question.

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