Retired admiral Nils-Ove Jansson has just released a new book all about the submarine hunts during the Cold War. Photo: Kris Boswell/Radio Sweden

New book reveals Soviet nuclear threat against Sweden

"The Soviet Union didn't trust Swedish neutrality"
5:08 min

Could Sweden have been the target of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union during the cold war? One of the highest-placed men in the Swedish military during the eighties and nineties says "yes".

You can't have missed the Swedish hunt for suspected foreign underwater activity in the Stockholm archipelago last month. In the end, there has been no official confirmation that anything was definitely found, apart from the original observations. But hunting foreign submarines is nothing new. According to a new book it was a common occurrence in Swedish waters just a few decades ago.

More is now being revealed about those earlier hunts in the eighties and the nineties by a man who was at the heart of the Swedish military operations at the time. The now retired admiral Nils-Ove Jansson was part of the navy's submarine analysis group and for three years was in charge of the hunts. He also headed the military's intelligence section for a while.

His new book, called "Impossible submarine", aims to tell the tales of what was really going on there in the murky waters of the archipelago, as some cast doubt on the official line.

"I wanted to describe to the Swedish people what happened in the waters during the 1980's and early nineties", he told Radio Sweden, "too many people today, especially young people, believe that we were chasing wild minks and herrings, and we didn't."

In the book, where he gives details of some of the over 40 hunts that took place during the Cold War, he also claims that Sweden was under threat from the Soviet Union in a much greater way than previously thought. There were Soviet plans to neutralise this country, with nuclear weapons.

"The Soviet Union didn't trust the Swedish neutrality, and we weren't really neutral, that has been proven by earlier books", he says, "so what they wanted to do was to make sure that we were neutral, by neutralising our weapons and the leadership."

The plans for a nuclear attack former part of the so-called RYAN operation, that was decided by Brezhnev in May 1981, Jansson says. This was not known by the Swedish military at the time, he adds, saying they were instead prepared for an eventual land invasion, should World War Three break out: "We were very naive. We didn't understand what it was all about, and actually when I started to write the book I really didn't see the whole picture. We were blue-eyed, you could say. We believed that as long as we could defend ourselves against an invasion, that was all that was necessary."

The book also gives details of one specific hunt in the late eighties when a submarine was found, and depth charges were dropped to force it to the surface, only for the wrong depth to have been set, meaning the craft could get away. But is it important to find the subs, Nils-Ove Jansson says: "It is important that you raise the level of threat, so that the risks are too high for them to continue with what they are doing."

Nils-Ove Jansson did not want to comment on last month's action in the Stockholm archipelago, saying he knows too little about what is currently going on in the Swedish navy. But was he surprised?

"No".

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