Missile Defense in Europe

This is a translation of Topias Uotila‘s blog post “Ohjuspuolustus Euroopassa” published on 14 June 2016 in Ulkopolitist.fi blog. Uotila is an avid security policy enthusiast with wide leadership experience in business. This translation and its publication were done in collaboration with the author and the Ulkopolitist.

The combination of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles brought about the biggest change in the history of warfare. These technologies not only gave the possibility to start a war with immediate strikes to any target but also made defense near impossible and finally, raised the stakes of wartime destruction to a matter of human existence.


Eight warheads from one Peacekeeper missile. Credit: David James Paquin, Wikipedia

The much debated US missile defense system in Romania came online this May. The nature of the missile defense has also been discussed among Finnish commentators. The US has stressed the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles, whereas Russians have felt it was a move against them. In order to understand this debate and the meaning of this missile defense system in particular, one must know a few underlying facts about nuclear weapons, missiles, and geography. The purpose of this piece is to bring such facts into light and to analyze the strategic role of the US missile defense.


A ballistic missile is usually accelerated with a rocket engine onto a trajectory that is guided only very little during the flight. Thus the trajectory of a ballistic missile is similar to that of a thrown object. With large distances the peak altitude is beyond the atmosphere reaching up to 1200 km. This allows the missile to have a limitless range and a very high speed (e.g., 7 km/h).

Ballistic missiles are classified by their range. The missiles of the shortest range are hard to distinguish from rocket launchers, intermediate range missiles (500 – 5500 km) launched from land are banned by the INF treaty, and missiles above 5500 km range are called intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

There are three phases in ICBM trajectories:

  1. Boost phase.
    Duration 5 minutes. Acceleration to speeds up to 8 km/s and reaching the altitude of 400 km.
  2. Midcourse phase.
    Duration about 25 minutes. Practically above the atmosphere.
  3. Terminal phase.
    Duration 2 minutes. Begins at the altitude of about 100 km.

Also the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) can be classified by their range:

ABM type Range Examples
Tactical 20–80 km Patriot, S-300V
Theatre 80–400 km THAAD, S-400
Strategic 400–1000 km A-135, GMD

Additionally, anti-ballistic defense systems can be classified by the phase of the trajectory during which the interception is performed.

Strategic defense systems

Currently, there are two strategic defense systems: Russian A-135 around Moscow and US’ GMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense). A-135 is actually a result of a project started in the 1950s based on the needs to protect Moscow at the time. GMD, on the other hand, is based on  the latest concepts and ideas that haven’t achieved fully operational status. The need for such systems has been smallish due to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed in 1972 that limited both sides to one system protecting one target and to a hundred interceptor missiles. The main practical differences between the two existing systems are as follows. First, the US has rescinded from protecting against a nuclear strike with another nuclear warhead and aims to simply crash the interceptor into the target missile. Second, GMD uses widely spread missile sites to protect larger areas such as the whole US instead of a single location.

The GMD system was justified with the thread of the ‘rogue states’ after the 9/11 terrorist strikes and the development of this defense capability was deemed so important that the US withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002. Europe was initially to have several parts of this same system. This, as expected, irritated Russia greatly as well as some of the NATO countries that were left out of the decision making. President Obama rescinded the plan involving GMD for Europe and now the European missile defense system is called European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

EPAA as a European missile defense

EPAA is not based on the GMD technology but on the US Navy’s AEGIS system. It’s a strategic range, flight phase interceptor system. However, it can only counter intermediate range ballistic missiles with ranges less than 5500 km. Its operational effectiveness is based on the radars, launch platforms, and the interceptor missiles it uses.

The missile used by EPAA is RIM-161 Standard Missile 3. The subversion in current use is Block IB and Block II is estimated be in use by the end of 2018.

Block IB Block II
Range 700 km 2500 km
Peak altitude 500 km 1500 km
Speed 3 km/s 4.5 km/s

The current missile has such a low range that it can intercept only few ballistic missile types during their flight stage. Block II’s capabilities seem to be adequate for this task.

Even though the range of the new missile is long, its speed is low enough to make reaching the target very challenging. Assume, for instance, that an anti-ballistic missile is launched 900 km from a predicted point on the target’s trajectory that the interceptor could reach in 200 seconds: the targeted ballistic missile would travel 1400 km during those 200 seconds. Therefore the target’s trajectory must be precisely known in advance in order to make interception possible. It is very difficult to determine the trajectory with enough accuracy based on the launch phase of a ballistic missile. It’s hard to say what the missiles can intercept based on their specifications alone as the flight speeds both missiles, detection distances, and the angles of interception all play a role.


US view of the challenge of speed: interceptor missile can’t reach the ICBM even with the same maximum speed and a range of 5000 km. Credit: Wikipedia.


The EPAA can use all 33 naval vessels with AEGIS AMB capabilities as part of the system. 14 of them are in the Atlantic Fleet. A central part of the system are the ground stations on the coast of Poland and in Romania.

There are two radar stations – a SPY-1 radar that was just placed in Romania and an AN/TPY-2 radar previously set up in Turkey. SPY-1 is the same that AEGIS vessels have whereas the latter is a less capable radar of the THAAD system. Based on this, neither of them have unprecedented capabilities.

“Intercepting Iranian missiles”

The US has said that missile and nuclear technologies will spread to the rogue states in time. These states such as North Korea and Iran are thought to be building a capability to launch a single ballistic missile that one naturally needs to intercept. Geographically, as far as Europe is concerned, this only means Iran. It is the only state in this region that US sees as posing a threat in the foreseeable future. Even listing Iran can be considered somewhat odd since the closure of Iran’s nuclear weapons program was just agreed upon.

Lentorata Iranista Keski-Eurooppaan. Kuva: Great Circle Mapper.

A ballistic trajectory from Iran to central Europe. Credit: Great Circle Mapper.

The locations of ground stations for an Iranian threat are mostly logical, but one might ask why Poland’s station is so far north where a sea vessel could do the job. Southern Poland would be closer to possible missile trajectories from Iran, but on the other hand it is also very close to the ground station in Romania. The ground stations as far as capability is concerned shouldn’t pose any greater threat to Russia than Navy vessels already do: the locations of the ground stations are known and thus their activity can be better taken into account.

“The strategic balance is shifted”

Russia has communicated that the EPAA system shocks the strategic balance between superpowers and that EPAA has an offencive capability. Russia feels ‘forced’ to counter the move with actions of its own. There have been talks about a withdrawal from the INF treaty in particular and placing Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Iskanders are short ranged ballistic missiles that would reach the missile defense station in Poland.

This threat might be based on the idea that the advanced flight patterns of Iskander missiles would be beyond the capabilities of the interceptors the Poland ground station is using. However, there are missiles designed for such interception that work with the same Mk41 launchers.

Russia has stated that the INF treaty has become obsolete due to the current aircraft speeds and new NATO bases. The flight speeds of aircraft have not, however, increased since the Cold War. The purpose of the INF treaty was to lengthen the flight times in order to increase the time window for a counterstrike decision. According to the argument this doesn’t work anymore when a flight from the Ämari air force base in Estonia to bomb St Petersburg takes only 10 minutes. Some have voiced suspicions that Russia itself could be developing missiles specifically for the Iskander platform that would be in violation with the INF.

Russia’s most dramatic argument, however, ignores geography. Most of Russia’s launch sites and possible targets in the US look like this:

Kuva: Great Circle Mapper.

An example trajectory from central Russia to Chicago. Credit: Great Circle Mapper.

The missiles flying closest to the coastline of Poland would be launched from the Kozelsk base to Miami over southern Sweden and Norway and flying closest to Poland at a distance less than 700 km. However, Russia should have no reason to launch missiles to Miami from this base, and as seen below even these missiles would be easier to intercept from the sea or from Norway.


The trajectory closest to central Europe between Miami and Kozelsk. Credit: Great Circle Mapper.

In addition, there is a central challenge in missile defense that is an economic one: interceptors may be more expensive than their targets, and multiple interceptor missiles may be needed for one target. The planned 19 Block II missiles are then a very small number compared to Russia’s 489 ICMBs.

One might think that the number of missiles available for launching a counterstrike would be greatly reduced. This isn’t the case in practice because the counterstrike is based on launching before the first strike would reach its targets as well as on submarines that the first strike would be unable to neutralize. These trajectories are naturally quite far from the Eastern Europe. Russia’s emphasis on mobile missile launchers are a sign that even ground based missiles will be resilient enough to make interception of a few missiles negligible.

Transforming Mk-41 launch pads into an offensive weapon is possible: they could be fitted to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles. However, Tomahawk missiles don’t currently have fitting nuclear warheads, and as a cruise missile with low speed and flight altitude they are vulnerable to regular anti-aircraft equipment. As Tomahawk is widely used by the US Navy and only by them, it would seem curious to think that two launchpads fitted for them would constitute any significant change – especially when such use would be a violation of the INF treaty.

The true strategic meaning

It has become obvious that the EPAA system has indeed a great importance to both sides. There has even been speculations that the treaty to limit conventional weapons was brought down because of it. What is the real significance here?

The significance isn’t likely some of the reasonable and innocent sounding objections that Russia isn’t raising, such as Russia would be afraid that its satellites would be destroyed or that it doesn’t want Iranian missiles intercepted in its airspace.

Neither is Russia complaining about the missile defense systems in Japan, Alaska or Washington even though these systems are operational and developed for more realistic needs. (After the publication of the Finnish version, Russia has voiced objections to missile defense efforts in Asia.) They are also partly more capable systems than the one in Poland could be even at its very best. So it seems that it isn’t about the US but rather about Europe. And in Europe it has to do with gaining influence – and the intermediate range missiles.

The most concrete purpose and benefit both for the US and for the countries on whose soil parts of the system are located is its potential to intercept intermediate range missiles, if and when INF treaty will be violated. These states are therefore ensuring that the US has an interest in their defense; even if the US troops in the Baltic would have their Dunkirk moment, it is certain that the Polish station couldn’t be left to the hands of Russians even if it would be just to keep the technology secret. The US, on the other hand, knows that it has more say in the matters of the host countries even if the overall power benefit seems to more on the hosts’ side. Thus the missile defense has a role somewhat similar to the tactical nuclear weapons the US has lent to some NATO countries; these are relatively small impact weapons carried by aircraft without strategic or anti-missile significance.


The situation with trajectories is entirely different if one is targeting central Europe. The range, however, is specifically banned by the INF. Credit: Great Circle Mapper.

Should a nuclear war develop through more or less controlled steps of escalation rather than with a full first strike, the EPAA system can intercept or make uncertain the neutralization of a few targets. For example should a war between NATO and Russia turn towards heavy losses for Russia and the front began to move towards Moscow, Russia could according to its current doctrine use nuclear weapons against the advancing army, their logistics, or even a city in a NATO country. EPAA could prevent a strike against Amsterdam, Paris or London, or force Russia to use a greater number of missiles rather than just a handful. This could have significance by for example making it impossible for Russia to claim multiple launches a mishap.

It seems very likely that both the US and Russia share a view of the true significance of the missile defense in Europe but choose not to say it as it is. First of all, the new European missile system is a way to consolidate political influence but in the background there is a belief that the other side is already in breach of the INF treaty. Maybe because their own side has already done so. The return of intermediate range missiles is something that will really change the strategic picture – something the European missile defense can’t do.


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!