What if Russia demands a naval base in Finland or invades a Swedish island?

This is a translation of an article by Michael Moberg, James Mashiri and Charly Salonius-Pasternak in Suomen Kuvalehti issue 9/2015, published online on February 27, 2015. It was titled “Venäjä vaatii Suomelta laivastotukikohtaa, Gotlanti miehitetään – voisiko näin tapahtua?” Permission to post this translation (Charly and James helped with numerous corrections) was granted by Suomen Kuvalehti. The excellent graphics are by Hannu Kyyriäinen (SK). In a similar vein, Salonius-Pasternak wrote a piece in Helsingin Sanomat (“Suomi voisi olla sotilaallisen iskun ensimmäinen kohde” on December 29, 2014) considering the implications and likely Finnish reactions to Russia’s fictional invasion of a few Finnish islands, for example from the Åland archipelago.

Three gloomy scenarios in the Baltic Sea. What would Finland do?

Preparing for the worst is vital for every independent nation. Scenarios as possible chains of events are an important tool of assessment.

The events described below are completely fictional. These aren’t predictions of the future. They are fabricated chains of events to facilitate thinking and planning.

Our scenarios are located in the Baltic Sea. Central factors in them are the level of readiness of the countries around Finland and that of NATO as well as Russia’s military capabilities and it’s willingness to use military force. Russia’s modes of action are taken to include several elements of hybrid warfare as well as those of information and psychological warfare.

In our scenarios the timelines are rather short and situations develop quickly. We fictionalize decisions by other countries and by NATO and their possible actions in the depicted events. We have chosen to leave Finland’s final actions open and have not stated the impact and conclusions the scenarios would have for Finland. Our goal is to challenge the reader to sketch out the situations further.

The scenarios have been vetted with other experts and their comments have been taken into account.

Michael Moberg is a retired Lieutenant (N) whose service includes Nyland brigade, Afghanistan and the headquarters of the Finnish Navy. He is currently in private business.
Lieutenant (N) James Mashiri is a security policy blogger and serves in the Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command.
Charly Salonius-Pasternak is a Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA).

Åland (Ahvenanmaa) facing Russian hybrid warfare. 40% of Russian oil exports are carried via the Baltic Sea. The Nordstream gas line carries 40% of Russian gas exports.

Åland (Ahvenanmaa) facing Russian hybrid warfare. 40% of Russian oil exports are carried via the Baltic Sea. The Nordstream gas line carries 40% of Russian gas exports.

Scenario 1: Åland Islands, Finland

A month ago an oil tanker with a full cargo was captured in the Baltic Sea. Two weeks ago Russia announced that there had been an attempt at sabotage on the Nordstream undersea gas pipe 40 kilometers south of Helsinki. Only a faulty radio-controller unit prevented an explosion and catastrophe.

Videos from a group called Oil Fighters Front (OFF) have been spreading in social media. In those the reasons for OFF’s strikes against Russia’s oil export via the Baltic Sea is given. The leader of the organization who calls Åland, Finland, his home has publicly thanked a political party that is part of the Finnish government for their support. The Finnish prime minister denies any claims of support from the Finnish government.

Soon there after news emerge that an attempt to capture another oil tanker has been made. Russia announces that it will step up patrolling in the Gulf of Finland and in the northern Baltic Sea.

Despite the increased monitoring, an oil tanker that was returning to the Primorski oil port without cargo sends a distress signal late at night using international emergency frequencies: there has been a massive explosion below decks and the ship is sinking. The crew is rescued, but the tanker is lost about 30 km south of the island of Jurmo.

The Russian Baltic Fleet and the Western Military District begin a wide-scale readiness exercise the very next morning. A full combat unit of marines with all gear from vehicles to anti-aircraft missiles is loaded onto ships.

On Saturday morning the international media is told of a Russian fisherman who has seen sea mines in the northern Baltic Sea. The information is corroborated with photos taken by the fisherman. Cargo ships immediately begin to change their routes and by the afternoon all sea traffic in the region has ceased – and along with it 90% of Finnish imports and exports.

Finland announces that it is sending a minesweeper vessel of the Katanpää class to the area. All focus is, however, taken by Russia’s announcement that it is now forced to shoulder the main responsibility over the security of the Baltic Sea, because terrorists supported by western governments are trying to destroy Russia by strangling its exports.

Finns are waking to their Sunday chores when the captain of the minesweeper Katanpää receives a message directly from the commander of the Russian naval task force. It is a complete surprise: Finns are told to remain in the Turku archipelago. Russia will take care of identifying and dismantling the mines and will hunt for the terrorists.

An hour later the intelligence chief of the Defence Forces gives his update to the Finnish Foreign and Security Policy Committee that includes a number of ministers and the president. The chief of defence suggests enacting certain powers given in the emergency powers act and that Finland interprets the demilitarization treaty of Åland in a way that allows free access to the Defence Forces.

The political leadership is not ready to accept the latter suggestion. They are afraid that it would send a wrong signal and could escalate the situation. On the matter of using emergency powers, the assembled ministers cannot agree whether the situation fits criteria for emergency conditions set in Chapter 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3, which states that emergency conditions include “the threat of war [or] other specific conditions outside Finland having a comparable effect“. Nevertheless, the level of readiness is raised for the military.

Monday morning breaks and the main news in all countries around the Baltic Sea are about a new video that the Oil Fighters Front has published online. It says that the group will also use aircraft and submarines against Russia’s oil exports. In the background of the video there is a glimpse of the Åland islands. Russia immediately announces a no-flight zone up to 10 km that will be enforced from the sea and air.

The Finnish military intelligence is informed by Sweden that the components of the division ordered to participate in the readiness exercise are still in their ready positions in Kaliningrad. The Finnish navy is then informed that three Ropucha-class landing vessels are moving to the sea. A Swedish submarine has followed them closely and the captain’s assessment is that the ships are filled to capacity with equipment and troops.

A brief telephone conversation between the Finnish and Swedish Chiefs of Operation confirms one thing: Russia has with its readiness exercise created the ability to conduct amphibious and airborne assaults anywhere in the Baltic Sea region within 24 hours.

Finns cannot make it to Åland in time should Russia choose to invade. A Swedish amphibious battalion has been in a high state of readiness for two days. After a quickly called meeting of the Swedish government they offer the battalion to the defence of Finland.

The offer comes as a shock to the Finnish political leadership. Even though Finnish military intelligence has presented alarming assessments for a long time, the political leadership has not dared to decide upon partial mobilization. Because of these delays only the air force has the immediate capability to defend the integrity of Finland’s territory. Finland thanks Sweden for the offer but is not ready to accept it yet. 

When the Foreign and Security Policy Committee adjourns, the prime minister is given an urgent message. Its main point is that Russia does not foresee improvement in the security of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, therefore it would be important that it would be given a base from where it could fight against the terrorists.

Russia suggests a joint base with Finland and Sweden. The military port in Upinniemi or the Hanko port are presented as good choices.

The message ends with a statement that Russia wishes for cooperation but is prepared to take independent actions to secure a base for the operations.

The Finnish Foreign and Security Policy Committee is immediately reconvened.

Gotland island with city of Visby surrounded by Russian vessels. Long-range support by ballistic Iskander missiles.

Gotland island with city of Visby surrounded by Russian vessels. Long-range support by ballistic Iskander missiles.

Scenario 2: Gotland, Sweden

The situation in the Baltic Sea has become very tense. For Sweden and NATO countries only few diplomatic connections remain with Russia. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have partial mobilization in place and the state of readiness has been raised for NATO’s new vanguard troops. The Russian troops in Kaliningrad are in a state of constant readiness and they have had three readiness exercises within the last month.

The battalion commander of Hemvärnet (national guard) of Gotland is kidnapped. This news has barely reached Swedish media when another news story breaks: the army storage buildings in Gotland have caught fire. The depot on fire is where all 14 tanks on the island are stored. A new entity called the Gotlands folkrepublik (Gotland’s People’s Republic) makes its first appearance on the internet. Their official pages state that the republic has been formed because Sweden has not been willing to defend the island nor utilize the shale gas deposits in the close proximity to benefit the islanders. Now Gotlanders are seizing the responsibility over their resources, economy and government.

A Swedish JAS Gripen fighter is shot down with shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.

All countries with any Baltic Sea coastline condemn the incident. Russia announces that despite the increased tensions it will go on with its Zapad-18 exercise. A large part of Russia’s Baltic Sea navy is on its way from St. Petersburg along the Gulf of Finland, with the intention of passing Gotland.

Russia begins another large-scale readiness exercise that involves the entire western military district. In Sweden chaos ensues: stores are emptied and cash runs out of ATMs.

The Swedish government is having a crisis meeting when three large car bombs go off: one in Stockholm, another in Malmö and the third in Göteborg. Svenka Islamistiska Arméen (Swedish Islamistic Army), an organization that security police Säpo has never heard of claims responsibity for the strikes. SIA says that the bombs are the beginning of a fight against the Swedish Armed Forces, this includes strikes against reservists.

The next morning helicopters of an airborne landing battalion appear above Gotland; they are from a Russian Vladivostok class vessel. Heavy Ropucha class landing vessels bring additional troops to the shores carrying both S-400 and Pantsir S-1 anti-aircraft systems.

Swedish attempts to prevent the landing are only partially successful: the formidable vessel-borne anti-aircraft capability parked between the Swedish mainland and Gotland limits the operations of the Swedish airforce. Gripen fighters and navy’s HMS Visby and Karlstad however succeed in sinking landing vessel Ivan Gren and the destroyer Nastoychivyy.

The logistics systems designed for small-scale international operations are not suited to handle the demands of the needed Swedish airforce activity. There are enough aircraft but not enough mechanics nor pilots to keep them in the air around the clock.

Russia announces that it will stop its use of force if the Swedish navy with its submarines withdraws to its ports.

The rapid military escalation catches Finland’s political leadership by complete surprise. Emergency powers have not been authorized, but the defence forces are in the highest state of readiness that is possible without enactment of the laws. The President has unofficially suggested that Finland should offer military support to Sweden. The Finnish government has not responded to the suggestion.

By the evening news the government announces that Finland will enact certain parts of the emergency powers act and will concentrate defence capabilities around Åland.

Soon after this, the Nyland brigade sends a company of volunteer coastal rangers towards Åland. The conscripts that had nearly completed their service were officially released from their remaining duties, enabling them to immediately volunteer. The transport ships are guarded by a navy vessel and a flight of Hornet fighters.

One hour after the announcement, a deserted Finnish highway acts as a runway for six arriving JAS Gripen fighters. They are met by a group of Finnish aircraft mechanics who have received training on servicing Gripens. The Swedish mechanics are on a private plane flying towards the closest Finnish civilian airport.

The Finns have located a massive, low-flying squadron that seems to indicate a formidable bombing strike is being prepared. Hornets are sent to make identification flights in preparation for Swedish Gripens to strike above the Gulf of Finland.

Ballistic missile tracking systems operated by the United States and NATO detect eight Iskander missiles being fired. The information reaches Swedish operational headquarters near Stockholm only minutes before the first missile strikes the main building. The Swedish air force battle headquarters, StriC Grizzly and military signals intelligence (FRA) centers are also struck by the Iskanders.

By the next morning, Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft systems in Gotland are positioned in a way that flying anywhere over the Baltic Sea is very risky. The United States could take out the S-400’s, but for now it is only observing and waiting.

The Finnish Foreign and Security Policy Committee is facing its greatest dilemma to date. The government is split between two choices. Some are in favor of complete and open military support for Sweden, in effect a full joint defence.

Russia would surely react to that. However, Russia knows that Finland is capable of striking strategic targets and neutralizing its activity around the Gulf of Finland, for example, by striking Luga from where the Iskander missiles were launched. On the other hand, some believe that Russia does not yet see Finland as being an open party to the conflict. Could Finland be the peace maker?

Narva in eastern Estonia (Viro) facing hybrid warfare and Russian invation.

Narva in eastern Estonia (Viro) facing hybrid warfare and Russian invation.

Scenario 3: Narva, Estonia

There is a deepening split between Russia and the rest of Europe, since the invasion of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. In Narva, Estonia, various non-governmental organizations have emerged, all united in their demands that all rights belonging to citizens should also be granted to minorities. The alternative the NGOs present is Narva’s separation from Estonia and joining with Russia.

Estonia has raised the readiness of its armed forces and has organized joined exercises for different governmental branches in eastern Estonia (Ida-Viru). Two weeks ago there was an incident near Narva: three men and one woman were killed and two people were wounded by shots fired by the Kaitseliit (national guard).

According to Russia, three of the killed were Russian citizens living in Estonia. Estonian sources state that a Kaitseliit patrol was suddenly fired upon while conducting a drill, the schedule of which was public knowledge.

Russia is appealing to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the EU so that the rights of the citizens of Russia and of the Russian ethnic minority are secured. Demonstrations in Narva as well as many in social media are promoting the benefits of separation from Estonia.

Earlier demands for civil rights have morphed into accusations of government officials’ systematic control efforts and arrests among the Russian population. At the same time, Russia is publishing on its government-controlled media stories saying that “Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish fascists” have been recruited to strengthen Estonian defense forces. According to the media stories, these units are already operating with NATO special forces in Ida-Viru.

In the beginning of the week, an intercepted cell phone conversation by the Estonian chief of operations began to spread in world media. The recording included the Estonian officer talking brashly: “I will have everyone who speaks Russian shot to get this problem taken care off. We won’t let these animals destroy our country.”

Demonstrations in Narva are beginning in a magnitude never seen before, and they quickly become riots. The situation becomes extremely tense when the local police chief is kidnapped and an officer of the Estonian armed forces is publicly executed.

Two days later the main government buildings in Narva are in the control of armed men who call themselves Narva’s self-defense troops (Narva enesekaitsevägi). Their commander announces that they won’t allow any aircraft into the area, to protect civilians from the “terrorism of the Estonian fascist military”.

The Latvian and Lithuanian governments call emergency meetings when news of the no-flight zone are carried by the media. That afternoon Finnish news broadcast that both Latvia and Lithuania have started mobilizing.

The Finnish defence minister announces later that evening that even though the Defence Forces have raised their level of readiness, there are no other measures being taken due to the situation in the Baltics. Finland is not considering offering support to the Baltic countries, nor have there been any official requests to do so.

Estonia demands consultations under the fourth article of the Washington Treaty, and NATO ambassadors in Brussels are called together.Estonia is also facing broad scale attacks on its information and electric networks, causing Estonia to consider call for the activation of article 5 collective defence.

Sweden suggested to Finland two days ago, that they could step up monitoring in the Baltic Sea and as part of an agreement regarding the shared use of the airspace and territorial waters. The new Finnish law on Defence Forces and territorial monitoring makes this possible as of January 2016.

Finnish leadership was surprised that Sweden made this request publicly, and Finland refused almost immediately. The President emphasized restraint and keeping channels of communication open. He said he would travel to Moscow before the EU emergency meeting. After three armored personnel carriers carrying the first group of volunteers from Russia crosses the Estonian border, Estonia announces that it is under an attack from Russia.

The demand for collective defence is a bolt of lightning in an otherwise rainy Brussels morning. In a separate message, Estonia reminds Finland and Sweden of the Lisbon treaty based responsibility for defence and support pertaining to all EU countries. It requests armed support from both to repel the attack it is facing.

Sweden responds immediately and announces that it will support Estonia and NATO with all possible means. Units of US Air Force and Marines that have earlier been at Norway’s bases in Bodö and Tromssa begin arriving in Såtenäs and Ronneby in Sweden.

Russia makes a statement that this is a provocation and claims a right to preemptive strikes against Sweden if the allied troops do not leave Swedish territory. Russian forces are also regrouping elsewhere. They advance closer to the Finnish border on the Karelian peninsula and near the Arctic Circle, from the Alakurtti military base.

An anonymous high-level source leaks that Sweden is negotiating directly with the US about its status.

These negotiations were started when Finland had repeatedly rejected Swedish requests for enacting components of joint defence plans. According to the source, Finland forsook the joint defence fearing to endanger its special relationship with Russia.

The Finnish government calls all ministers and high-level officials to return to Finland. The prime minister announces that the Foreign and Security Policy Committee will meet immediately to discuss the situation in Estonia.

In the meeting the President relays a message he has received: Russia says that should Finland become involved in the situation with Estonia, this would force Russia to take direct countermeasures. Involvement includes military cooperation with third party countries. Finally the committee decision is formulated in a way that it will be unanimous. Preparations for the expected responses to the decision are begun immediately.


A New Normalcy or a New Cold War?

This is a translation of Niklas Wiklund’s (Lieutenant-Commander in the Swedish Armed Forces, aka @Twitt_Skipper) Swedish blogpost on 12 October 2014 Ny normalbild eller ett nytt kallt krig?
James Mashiri‘s Finnish translation was very helpful considering my poor Swedish: Uusi normaalitila vai uusi kylmä sota?


Skipper gives this opening to his post:
The purpose of this text is to be an eye-opener to those who have not yet understood the serious and broad shifts in the security landscape whose main author is Russia. There are many who continue to live in ignorance and look for everlasting peace, even though we are hearing daily reports on events that are connected – directly or in a roundabout way – to the our safety in the northern Europe.

The situation in our neighborhood and the relations between Russia and the West have so fundamentally changed that we must describe this new situation properly and factually in order to get the full gravity of it across. This post is lengthy but I hope that you will stick with it, because in all likelihood this is my most important blog post thus far.


“We have in our hands a state of new normalcy
– not a Cold War.”

A Russian fighter plane flying close to a Swedish reconnaissance aircraft. The Swedish national authority for signals intelligence FRA published this picture on their website on 3 October 2014 stating that the behavior Russian planes has changed recently. They fly much closer to other plane and the airspace violations against Sweden and Finland have been numerous in 2014.

Cold War – how to define it?

This post is about the question whether we are heading towards a Cold War – or are we there already? Or are we facing nothing but a new ‘normal’ in international relations. To tackle these questions we need to find a definition for the concept ‘Cold War’ and what it contains and then connect several indicators to actual events.

The label ‘Cold War’ has been used in various ways. It has described both a time period and a state of affairs. Here we are interested in the Cold War as a definition for a state of affairs.

Research on the topic has employed numerous indicators in order to determine whether there is a ‘Cold War’. Such indicators include:

  • Are the relations between the states generally poor or frozen?
  • All means except direct force are applied against the opposing faction?
  • No compromises are reached, instead one-sided sanctions are in place?
  • Is psychological warfare taking place?
  • Are subversion tactics employed?
  • Are the means of economic warfare used (sanctions)?
  • Does the rhetoric employ aggressive slogans?
  • Are there threats of violence or territorial demands?
  • Are there coups or other similar operations underway?
  • Are there foreign interventions?
  • Are military buildups taking place?
  • Are military allies being sought and are alliances strengthened?
  • Are there limited or local ‘hot’ wars?

Keep these indicators in mind and think about them as you view events from last three years and especially those of 2014!

Before that we should take a look further back and at the developments in Russia over the last decade.


General developments in Russia 2005 – 2014

Johan Wiktorin @forsvarsakerhet has presented the original Swedish table in his blog post titled “It’s Russia, stupid”. It shows several events and markers of Russian/Putin’s activities that one would have expected to affect the world’s and Sweden’s view of Russia – and collectively they should have caused strong reactions in our security policy and defense. But this hasn’t taken place!


Below we list events from last three years in more detail. It is evident that the frequency of important events and actions has greatly increased during this period.

Various events up to 2013

September 2009
Russia had a major military exercise Zapad in the Baltic Sea that caused significant alarm. The exercise was an eye-opener. Russia brought landing craft to the Baltic Sea without a prior notice and assembled a large number of aircraft for airborne invasion. During the Zapad exercise Sweden’s defense forces rallied their few troops and run their own preparedness exercise in and around Gotland. This probably lit up a few lights showing the real level of Sweden’s effectiveness, plans and preparedness.

27 August 2010
Russian Akula class submarines were detected near the Great Britain’s Faslane navy base, the home base for the strategic nuclear submarines of the UK navy. This is a new game of cat and mouse where Russian assault submarines are stalking nuclear submarines to their bases. Russian submarines are hunting down British Vanguard boats in a return to Cold War tactics not seen for 25 years, Navy chiefs have warned.”

17 September 2012
The chief of Sweden’s military intelligence service MUST said in a newspaper interview in Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) that there is increased signals intelligence (SIGINT) against Sweden.

8 December 2012
SvD told that the Swedish Security Police Säpo had said that espionage against Sweden has increased. Russia is one of the main culprits and the chiefs of the Swedish Armed Forces were informed on the topic. “Russia is the most active party and it has participation in most of the known espionage cases of the 21st century.”

30 December 2012
A New Year’s interview with the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces General Sverker Göranson in SvD got a lot of attention. He indicated that Sweden could defend only one location, for one week only and only against an attack of a limited scale. The term ‘one-week defense’ was created.

14 January 2013
NATO states that it cannot help Sweden in the event of war. “You cannot be outside NATO but want everything that Nato can give,” NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen said.

28 February 2013
Russian television channel RT1 makes fun of the Swedish ‘one-week defense’ on a YouTube music video (no longer available) – the tune was Swedish music group Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’.

29 March 2013
Russia practiced nuclear strikes against Swedish targets with Tu-22M3 bombers. This event becomes known as the ‘Russian Easter’ and it has an impact on the Swedish scrambling readiness.

11 April 2013
It was revealed that the Russian military buildup with a budget of inconceivable 540 billion euros would be accelerated. The rapid-deployment troops were to be a priority. There was talk about Putin’s new capability for lightning strikes.

13 July 2013
Russia began, without any prior notice, the largest preparedness exercise since the Cold War. 160,000 soldiers participated in this enormous event and it included huge troop concentrations all over Russia.

9 September 2013
Russian signals intelligence vessel Fjodor Golovin passed through the narrow passage of international waters between Öland and Gotland for the first time in 20 years. It was observing the Northern Coasts exercise run by Sweden and several NATO countries. “We have not seen this kind of Russian activity by SIGINT ships on the westside of Gotland since the Cold War”, said Rear Admiral Jan Thörnqvist.

16 September 2013
Russia’s activity with extensive military exercises was a cause for worry in the Baltic states. “We don’t live in world of ‘eternal peace’. Russia is beginning Zapad 2013 exercise (trans. West 2013), where the target is the occupation of the Baltics”, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said.

20 September 2013
Zapad-13 exercise commenced (Jägarchefen gives a great summary in Swedish of the activities in his blog: Zapad-13). Russia stated that 12,900 men participated in the exercise, but actually the true numbers were closer to 70,000. “[The scale of the exercise is very surprising and it differs greatly from Russia’s prior announcements. Russia has misled on this: to hide Zapad’s extend it is running other exercises, but these are in reality coordinated with the activities of Zapad.]http://www.svd.se/nyheter/utrikes/ryska-ovningen-storre-an-vad-som-aviserats_8575010.svd)”

16 December 2013
German Bild magazine reported that Russia has placed tactical Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad. This information is yet to be confirmed. “Iskander can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads. The likely maximum range is 500 km, thus reaching Öland, Gotland, southern Sweden up to Stockholm as well as much of Poland and the entire Baltics.”


Events during 2014 (partial list)

14 January
Sweden’s Supreme Commarder Sverker Göranson gave a talk in Sälen in a national security policy seminar organized by Folk & Försvar. On the changing security environment and situation and Russia he states: “(For these reasons) We don’t see a direct military threat against Sweden in the foreseeable future. However, we have to follow closely the progress of the political and socio-economic development taking place in Russia. It is also interesting to see over time if we can analyze further changes in the normalcy in the region.”

23 February
Crimean crisis began and later Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. Also the war between Ukraine and Russia became later a fact. The world stood helpless and responseless in the face of this unforeseen turn of events (see Russia taking over Crimea predicted in 2008). The relations between Russia and the West deteriorated to the worst level in years. This was the start of a series of further events.

28 February
Anders Lindberg in Aftonbladet writes “Don’t start a new Cold War”. “It is now most important to lower the tensions in the area. Parallels are now drawn with the Russian actions in the war with Georgia in 2008, where Russia in practical terms conquered South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Should something like that happen with Crimea we would be facing a new form of the Cold War. This is exactly what took place, even perhaps worse: Russia conquered Crimea, annexed it, and the war in Ukraine is still going on.

3 March
Scandinavian’s airplane that took off from the Copenhagen airport nearly collided with a Russian SIGINT aircraft southwest of Skåne. The Russian plane flew without a transponder.

13 March
Dagens Nyherter reports on the concern and alarm of the Estonians despite their membership in NATO and in EU. “All European countries should be worried when Russia tells us that it will protect Russians abroad and that it will use its military to obtain its goals”, said Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

7 April
The Swedish Security Police Säpo tells that Russia had stepped up espionage against Sweden. Russia had among other things bought a massive amount of maps of Sweden, which is hard to see as anything else than as a preparation for war.
The Swedish government announced that for the time being Sweden cancels all bilateral collaborations with Russia. Joint military activities that had been planned were called off.

16 April
NATO put its Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 in action in the Baltic region. The group had previously been unused. This was a part of the NATO actions in response to the Russian aggressive acts in Ukraine and also a show of support to the Baltic member states where the concern on the development in Russia has been growing.

19 April
USA announced that it will send troops to Poland in response to Russian actions in Ukraine.

21 April
Researcher Fabian Linde from the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Uppsala University wrote in Svenska Dagbladet that right now we see the greatest hostility between the West and Russia since the Cold War. He states: “Politicians in EU should finally recognize this and act accordingly. History will judge them harshly if they fail to do so.”

24 April
There is a military buildup in the Baltic Sea – but no new Cold War, said specialists from the Swedish National Defence College and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. They think that the right description of the situation is not a Cold War. The difference is that now there are no two blocks – the former allies of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.

28 April
USA applied sanctions against Russia in order to bring the Ukraine crisis to a close. Russia’s reaction to the news was strong; Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov put words to the Russian outrage: “The White House has lost contact with the reality. This will only intensify all the processes in Ukraine.”

29 April
NATO announced that it will triple the number of aircraft participating in the Baltic Air Policing operation in the Baltics and in Poland.

30 April
The Swedish government makes a unique decision to allow NATO AWACS flights through Swedish airspace. (AWACS stands for Airborne Warning and Control System) This will shorten the flight time from Norway’s NATO air force base to Poland. This is another response to the Russian attack against Ukraine and the increased military activity in the region around Sweden.

10 May
“We are not back to the Cold War”, said lieutenant colonel Jörgen Forsberg in a newspaper interview.

On the same day the Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves called Sweden a security hole of the Baltic Sea. Estonia and other EU countries had told the National Defense Council that they would like to see Sweden becoming a NATO member.

20 May
One of several incidents in 2014 when Russian planes violate the Finnish airspace.

6 June
USA made plans to send strategic B-52 bombers to the Baltic Sea for mine dropping exercise. The plan is unique that must be viewed as a message for Russia.

9 June
Russia began a large exercise that is a response to NATO’s Baltic Sea exercises BALTOPS and Sabre Strike. Russian planes and vessels act threateningly making close passes. The Russian exercise lasts two weeks and it includes landing training. Swedish newspapers noted the events and wrote about the power games and military showdowns.

14 June
Russian attack plane Su-24 violates the Swedish airspace.

19 June
Another close call between a passenger plane and a Russian military plane near borders of Denmark and Sweden. The Russian plane had no transponder also in this case. The situation was possible avoided because a Danish F-16 fighter plane that was following the Russian plane used flares to warn the passenger plane.

20 June
Polish MiG-29 fighter planes violated (unintentionally) the Swedish airspace over Gotland. It was later revealed that the planes were a part of NATO’s standby forces that had scrambled to intercept Russian military planes near the Swedish airspace.

8 July
The Commander of the Swedish Air Force Mikael Bydén told Svenska Dagbladet that the Swedish Air Force hasn’t in many years had as many scramblings as in the early summer of 2014. The crisis in Ukraine and large military exercises have forced the Jas Gripen fighters in the air exceptionally often. “Every day was raising eye-brows; the situation became extremely dynamic. We participated in the exercises and, in addition, scramblings were interesting events and occasions. — Our fighter interceptions have increased almost 50 percents from 2012. We do now much more than before.”

17 July
Russian air defense shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 while passing through Ukraine airspace. All 298 personnel and passengers were killed. Everything points towards that the plane was downed with a BUK system of air defense missiles operated by Russian officers.

18 July
An American SIGINT aircraft violated the Swedish airspace after Russian air defense started tracking it and established a lock on it and after Russian fighters had scrambled to intercept. This plane of Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint type took the fastest route out of the area and flew over Gotland. This was during the day following the downing of MH17.

31 July
The Swedish government informs that sanctions against Russia being increased.

4 August
“The Cold War is back,” international press writes. “The Cold War brinkmanship between Russia, NATO and the United States is back with military aircraft once again playing their deadly game of chicken in the skies.”

28 August
Russian planes violate Finnish airspace for the third time within six days. Finland views the incidents as intentional.

2 September
Finnish research vessel Aranda operated by the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE was harrassed by Russian military vessels and helicopters in the vicinity of the Gotland Deep. Numerous media outlets reported on this on 11 October 2014. Expressen published pictures of the Russian warships taken onboard Aranda.
On another earlier incident Russian warship had ordered Aranda to change its course near the same location on 2 August 2014, Aranda had not complied.
The incidents may have occurred on Sweden’s exclusive economic zone. The Gotland deep is located near the border of the economic zones of Sweden and Lithuania.

5 September
A Russian strike team kidnapped Estonian security policeman Eston Kohver near the Russian border and takes him to the Russian side. “The timing points that the kidnapping of Eston Kohver, 43, was authorized by the highest ranks in Russia. It took place right after Barack Obama had visited Estonia in connection to a NATO summit. Russia is giving Estonia a warning: ‘You are as safe as Obama made you think,” said Johan Eellend, researcher from the Swedish Defence Research Agency FOI.
Kohver’s imprisonment in Russia continues.

11 September
EU sets new sanctions against Russia.

14 September
Russian trucks with TIR signs haven’t had any company decals or, in other instance, a truck was seen driving to the center of the city of Luleå – on a Sunday.
[The TIR is an international agreement by which transit countries receive a fee from transports passing through them. Russia had started charging for additional fees for transports but backed down on 17 September, the last day of TIR negotiations – otherwise complaints to the World Trade Organization WTO against Russia would have been likely.]

15 September
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen names Russia and the Islamic State as the main threats. “Russia has trampled all the rules and commitments that have kept peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Cold War.”

16 September
President Obama announces that USA will modernize its entire nuclear arsenal. It will cost $350 billion. The nuclear warheads, missiles, submarines and bomber planes will be modernized or replaced with new systems. The upgrade is the largest ever and it is told to be a direct consequence of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

17 September
Two Russian Su-24 attack planes violate purposefully the Swedish airspace near Öland.

19 September
Russia begins the large Vostok 2014 exercise that is participated by 100,000 men and strategic bomber planes. Iskander M artillery missiles are included in the exercises.

On the same day Russia detained a Lithuanian fishing vessel from the international waters in the Barents Sea and forced it to the port in Murmansk.

21 September
Russia uses Tu-22M3 planes again over the Baltic Sea, it’s probably training for long-range missile strikes. Nearly all stanby fighters belonging to the coastal countries of the Baltic Sea scramble.

22 September
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitrij Regozin announces that Russia will modernize it’s entire nuclear arsenal. “Russia has 1800 nuclear warheads. That is not enough for Putin.”

23 September
The Swedish Armed Forces increases their presence at sea with corvettes. The government grants 100 million kroner for the purpose due to the decreased stability in the region.

26 September
US military expressed concerns over Russian nuclear-armed strategic bombers flying close to the coastline of USA and Canada. They have been met by fighter planes. “Tensions between the US and Russia may be at the highest level since the Cold War.”

29 September
Denmark deploys F-16 fighters in Greenland in a response to Russia’s increased activity in the polar region.

2 October
The Swedish national authority for signals intelligence FRA and the Swedish Armed Forces confirmed that Russian fighter jets have disturbed Swedish SIGINT planes. “They are acting in a way that we haven’t seen before; the flights are more demanding now. As our government has stated, the situation is disturbed and Russia is much more aggressive than before,” Deputy Chief of Operations Anders Grenstad said.

3 October
USA agrees to sell AUM-158 JASSM missiles to Poland to be used in F-16 fighters. The missiles can be used to destroy important immobile targets protected by air defense systems.

4 October
The whole Russian air force had a five-day civilian defense exercise, excluding some troops in Kaliningrad. “The air forces from Sakhalin to Kaliningrad are practicing emergency response,” Emergencies Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said, specifying that the drill includes aerial engineer, nuclear, chemical and biological reconnaissance.

5 October
New York Times wrote about the kidnapping of Eston Kohver and how the situation has changed. “It is clear that Russia did not accept the outcome of the Cold War. That is what all this is about,” NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen said, referring to the tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine and other former Soviet territories. “This will last a long, long time.”

7 October
Two JAS 39 Gripen fighters broke the sound barrier over Gotland, which is highly untypical. “It was a so-called ‘hard’ task, and as a matter of fact I can’t say anymore than that,” the air force’s spokesperson said to Sveriges Radio.

8 October
American tanks and other combat vehicles arrived in Estonia. This was a direct result of NATO’s decision to keep its troops continually in the Baltics as long as Russia forms a threat for the area. “American troops are here as a deterrent showing that NATO is able to react quickly to a foreign threat,” said Estonia’s Minister of Defense Sven Mikser.

On the same day, Russia announces that it will increase funding for ‘information warfare’ by 41 percent. “At a time when Russia’s image in Europe and the US has sunk to extreme lows, the Kremlin has announced dramatic new plans to increase spending on foreign propaganda.”

USA announces that a missile defense system will be setup in Poland in response to Russia’s development of the R-500 missile. If this will happen soon it will cause increased tensions in the region.

9 October
USA will sell FGM-148 anti-tank missiles to Estonia.

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia will develop a spaceborne warning system against nuclear strikes.

10 October
Vessels of the Swedish Navy escorted a ferry to Gotland that carried personnel of the Amphibian Regiment. “In August our government said that the security situation in the region around Sweden has detiorated. The Armed Forces were given 100 million kroner to conduct additional drills.”

There were reports of Russia’s strategic missile forces having preparedness drills in concert with Russia’s Northern Navy.

11 October
There were news about some disturbances on road 77 at the Estonia-Russia border.

12 October
Vilhelm Konander, an expert on Russia, wrote in Dala-Demokraten about the threat Russia poses: “It is time to face to truth. Europe is at war and Ukraine is its first victim. We are waking to a reality where there is authoritarian and aggressive Russia, the European safety net has been destroyed and the rules of international law have been abandoned. Regressive Russia is a system threat: to the freedom, democracy and justice.”



The time line presented above with event connected to Russia is only a set based on what I have seen in media. There are surely more examples of the current situation and how it has progressed; I may have missed some of the more important events.

It is noteworthy that here are the things we are aware using openly available sources. In all likelihood there are a lot that is kept hidden – things that the general public is ignorant about. Even worse, there are probably things that even military personnel are not aware. One such example could be what lies under the surfs of the seas. [This was rather prophetic considering the submarine hunt currently underway on the Swedish coast!]

When I was writing this, I asked my colleague Wiseman tips on the events and on indicators that would show that we would be headed towards a new Cold War. The reply I got was: “Is there an indicator that would point the opposite?”

We can see that the situation is not a new one – the changes began already some years ago, but very few have had the skill to recognize them, and in Sweden it has been nearly a tabu to talk about the threat Russia poses. Our government, and also the military, have often said that Sweden faces no threat in the foreseeable times. Oscar Jonsson who is a doctoral student in war sciences at King’s College wrote in his blog: “When the leading Swedish politicians close off the military threat against Sweden, they do a great disservice to everyone including those who they rely on for analysis. And they demonstrate severe lack of imagination that is close to ignorance.”

Johan Wiktorin wrote on 6 June 2014 an inspiring post on the paradigm: “Attack against Sweden is unlikely”. Wiktorin thinks that a single, unprovoked attack exercise against Sweden (the ‘Russian Easter’ was directed only against Sweden) along with Säpo data show that a separate attack against Sweden is no longer unlikely. The probability, however, remains very small, but it has been there since last year’s Good Friday.


This blogpost begins with a quote from Supreme Commander Göranson. It was given in the Supreme Commander’s meeting with chiefs a few weeks ago. Thus it is an official message to all leaders in the Swedish Armed Forces.

My own analysis of that is that the Armed Forces should not be an alarmist nor be an official who uses the label ‘Cold War’ to further the discussion about the new situation. The question, whether we are moving towards a new Cold War or are we in it already, should be answered by political entities – not from the military, even if they do have the best and the most current facts.

Regardless: Is this really only a new state of normalcy that we are seeing when we put the events on a timeline like I have done? That in the end you must answer by yourself.

We have a special advantage in Sweden in that we can express our thoughts as individuals. The Supreme Commander as a chief of an official institution thinks that we are facing a new normalcy, when at the same time, HMS Malmö has a sailor that thinks this is the return of the Cold War: “It is harder now and to be frank about it: the Cold War is coming back.”

Who in the end has it right, it’s for the historians to settle when the books about this era will be written sometime in the future. Personally, I don’t think it unlikely that the Black Swan theory would be fitting for this situation.

The most important thing is that our politicians and our government set their minds to this and realize the seriousness of the matter. It remains so whether you define the events and the development as a new normal state of affairs or a new Cold War. Sweden must re-evaluate the safety assurances and the defense it has. The conclusions that have been made by the National Defense Council are not relevant in the current situation. We have been left with a military organization that was created primarily for international assignments and to deal with an enemy that is weakly organized and technologically backward.

The security environment has changed drastically and it is impossible to neglect it any longer. It must be dealt with!