Mysterious Submarines in Swedish Waters
In the early hours of October 28, 1981, the Swedes discovered a Soviet submarine which had run aground deep into the archipelago close to their main naval base in Karlskrona on the Baltic Sea. The incident, known as the "Whiskey on the Rocks" in allusion to the NATO designation of the vessel's class, resulted in a tug of war over the terms of the Swedish inspection of the submarine and interrogation of its crew before their release to the acutely embarrassed Soviet authorities. The inadequacy of Moscow's explanations seemed to corroborate beyond reasonable doubt also the identity of other mysterious submarines periodically detected in Swedish waters both before and after "Whiskey" hit the rocks.
While Soviet responsibility for these and other violations of Swedish sovereignty has been generally taken for granted outside of Sweden, in the country itself the identification of the culprit has been an agonizing exercise. As late as two decades after the 1981 incident and a decade after the end of the Cold War, the submarine incursions became a subject of a heated, yet strangely inconclusive debate in Sweden as it navigates its transition from a dogmatic to a pragmatic concept of neutrality. The larger questions that have been raised - and not raised - in the debate have prompted the PHP to introduce this surprisingly complex subject matter to the readers of its website.
Already at the time of the incursions, Western observers were shocked and puzzled about the seeming contradiction between Moscow's political courtship of Sweden, which under Prime Minister Olof Palme posed as Western Europe's leading critic of US foreign and security policy, and what appeared to be gratuitously offensive behavior of the Soviet military. Was there a devious design aimed at retaining options for attacking Sweden, the Baltic approaches, and the Scandinavian peninsula in the event of a war with NATO? Or, was there a genuine contradiction, suggesting the inability or unwillingness of a declining Kremlin leadership to control their military? And if so, were the probes that the military may have been engaging in on their own responsibility more or less innocent or, on the contrary, were they disturbingly indicative of perils not adequately contained? The submarines, after all, were carrying nuclear weapons.
With an anxious eye on the security of their neutral state, the Swedes themselves tried to answer some of these and other questions in April 1983, when they published the report of a Commission appointed by Prime Minister Palme in October 1982, right after another much publicized incursion had occurred near another naval base, close to Stockholm. Over the next several years, however, the conclusions of this Commission, which identified the Soviet Union as having been responsible for the incursions, were increasingly questioned. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new official Commission, this time mainly consisting of scientists, reviewed in 1995 the evidence assembled since 1980 while refraining from any analysis in terms of security policy. Finally, in November 2001, a prominent retired diplomat, Ambassador Rolf Ekéus , published the results of an investigation that he personally had been asked to produce by the Swedish Government. His report includes a presentation of the security policy perspective in which he believes the incursions should be viewed. The conclusions of Mr. Ekéus are available in English in a Summary printed as an annex to his Swedish report and published on this website.
This latest official investigation caused a good deal of debate in Sweden, both in the media and within the research and security policy communities. We have therefore asked one of Mr. Ekéus's colleagues, Ambassador Krister Wahlbäck, who has taken part in the debate and is also a professional researcher, to provide a commentary on the report and the controversy it provoked. This is the second document reproduced below. We have further invited Mr. Ekéus to write a rejoinder, which we intend to publish as well.
The report and the criticism it has provoked illustrate with unusual clarity the differences between political practitioners and historians in gathering and using evidence and drawing conclusions from it. The authors of official reports enjoy privileged access to archival sources, although they are often constrained not to reveal those sources, and are in the fortunate position of being able to elicit more information from witnesses than these are usually willing to divulge to historians. But official investigators, beholden as they are to the governments that appointed them, do not necessarily exploit the documentary evidence for what it is worth nor do they feel compelled to look for additional sources that may not be explicitly related to the subject of their inquiry but are still relevant to their conclusions.
The Swedish report presumes that all that matters about Soviet military plans - or the lack of them - has by now become known from the records of the defunct Warsaw Pact. Much though such a happy situation would be a compliment to the achievements of the Parallel History Project and others who have been seeking access to those records, the reality is unfortunately very different. While much has, indeed, become available from the archives of the Soviet Union's former Eastern European allies, Soviet military records from the Cold War period still remain effectively closed. This is particularly distressing in regard to Sweden, since the Eastern European records hardly leave a doubt that any operations against Sweden would have been an exclusive Soviet responsibility.
In painstakingly trying to maintain equidistance between NATO and its Eastern rival, the Swedish report concludes that neither the Soviet Union nor the member states of the Western alliance can be excluded as possible violators of Swedish waters. Such a conclusion, allegedly drawn from a "broader security and foreign policy context," can hardly be satisfactory for a historian searching for plausible, rather than merely possible, explanations of events now twenty years past. Limiting the context to the outward postures of the two alliances without taking into consideration the nature and functioning of their domestic determinants is another difference that distinguishes the report from a historical analysis. Reaching beyond the old-fashioned dogma of Primat der Aussenpolitik seems particularly appropriate in view of the crucial changes in the Soviet system of power that were taking place at the time. In trying to present a more comprehensive view of the "Second Cold War," to be sure, the historian needs to expand the scope of inquiry as well as the range of sources to include evidence that may not be acceptable in the court of law yet remains crucial in the court of history.
Unlike an official investigator sailing in treacherous political waters, a historian would be judged deficient in his or her trade by refusing to offer an opinion on such a key question about the submarine incursions as that of "whether or not the violation was deliberate." Significantly, the latest report implicitly sets its standards by criticizing the Palme government for ceding "control of the political outcome" of the previous report it had commissioned - a deficiency that makes "rational approach to security and defence policy difficult." For a professional historian, who rejects as a matter of principle any restrictions on the freedom of inquiry, such a deficiency is the very foundation of scholarly objectivity.
Whatever the limitations of the genre, the official report nevertheless provides a wealth of questions and hypotheses for further thought that, in conjunction with Mr. Wahlbäck's commentary, makes both documents an absorbing reading. We wish to encourage further comments by experts not only in Sweden but also in the other Baltic Sea countries, including Russia and Germany, as well as in the United Kingdom and the United States.  Above all, we hope this publication will provide an incentive for the release of Russian documents that alone can prove or disprove much that until has been the subject of more or less judicious speculation.
 Mr. Ekéus was head of Sweden's delegation to the UN Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1983-89 and of the delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Vienna in 1989-94. He was Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in 1991-97 and served as Sweden's ambassador to Washington in 1997-2000. He was also a member of the Carnegie Endowment team of experts that in September 2002 presented the report Iraq - A New Approach: Coercive Inspections.
 Mr. Wahlbäck received his Ph.D. from the University of Stockholm in 1965, taught international relations at the University of Stockholm in 1964-76, joined the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 1976 as a policy planner, served in London and Helsinki in 1984-91, and was one of Prime Minister Carl Bildt's security policy advisors in 1992-94. Since 1994 he has been an Ambassador at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an Adjunct Professor of International Politics at the University of Umeå.
 "Summary in English," below, p. 368.
 Ibid., p. 356.
 Ibid., p. 358.
 Such comments may address yet another official report prepared by Mr. Ekéus, announced for publication by the end of 2002. This report is to survey Swedish security policy during the entire 1969-1989 period, and is to follow up, in part, on the 1994 official report concerning Swedish preparations in 1949-1969 for the reception of US military support in case of an attack: Had There Been a War...: Preparations for the Reception of Military Assistance 1949-1969: Report of the Commission of Neutrality Policy. Translated by Ingrid Tersman and Hans Zettermark.(Stockholm: Statens Offentliga Utredningar, 1994:11)