'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years?


Hildebrandt, a former war correspondent and a fellow at the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, says she has been shouting at her television while watching coverage of the submarine hunt, now in its sixth day. 
"The reporters aren't asking the right questions."
She says Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad's assertion that the Stockholm archipelago sighting was far from the first of its kind in recent years is the most interesting thing to have emerged so far. 
"If this is actually a fact, then the Armed Forces must have reported it to the politicians, who should have told us. Imagine if the Minister of Health didn't report on an Ebola outbreak," she tells The Local.
"If this is the case, why did it stop with the politicians? Why haven't we been informed? And most importantly, why have there been so many cuts to the defence budget if Swedish territory is being violated on multiple occasions?"
Grenstad's comments on regular activity were backed up by Göran Frisk, who led Sweden's anti-submarine division in the 1980s. In an interview on Sveriges Television this week, he said that there have been many similar incidents with foreign vessels in Swedish waters in the past few years.
"The Russians know what they're doing. The Swedes know what they're doing... The only people who don't know what's going on are the Swedish public," he said, adding that there should an annual report explaining everything that has taken place. 

Sweden, like the rest of western Europe, had long chosen to believe that Russia was ready to join the democratic club, he said.

In the 1980 and 1990s, the armed forces routinely informed the public about foreign activity in Swedish territorial waters, but the new consensus on Russia meant this stopped happening.  

Hildebrandt says Frisk's comments were "sensational claims from a legendary sub commander".

Around 200 troops took to the Stockholm archipelago this week. Photo: TT
She adds that Sweden has had an "insulting" approach to the Armed Forces throughout the last eight years of the Fredrik Reinfeldt government, and earlier. 
"When Reinfeldt called the Armed Forces a 'special interest group', he was insulting the soldiers he had sent to Afghanistan. We're talking about five dead soldiers here, and 12 who were seriously wounded. Was that not important to him?" she says. 
"I can't imagine another country that treats its soldiers that way."
Hildebrant suggests that the new Social Democrat'led government needs to be "more reasonable" about defence spending.
"But they're in bed with the Greens, who aren't sensible at all. Vice Prime Minister Åsa Romson said just yesterday that the Armed Forces have a lot of money and that it needs to be 'shuffled around'. It's simply not true."
"The Armed Forces have lost a lot of competence over the years due to the cuts. Now, we can only defend a small part of the country, like Södermalm for a week if it came to it," she said, referencing a report from the academy from February last year. 

The Armed Forces held a press conference on Wednesday. Photo: TT
She concludes that the submarine hunt may lead to positive improvements for Swedish defence.
"I hope it will result in more investments for the Armed Forces - it's also a question of responding to our neighbouring countries. The public opinion will soon sober up and realize that 200 years of peace is nothing to take for granted at all," she says. 
"There's more turmoil in the world than there was before and we need an adequate defence against it."


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