mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Explosions in the deep
Finland Goes After Russian Sub With Depth Charges

Finnish forces dropped depth charges into Baltic waters as a warning after sighting a foreign submarine presumed to be Russian. The Financial Times has more:

Commodore Olavi Jantunen, the navy’s chief of operations, told Finnish broadcaster YLE that he could not say for certain whether it was a submarine, and he did not want to speculate. “It is a possible underwater object, that is the only thing we can say about this at the moment,” he said.

The depth charges “were not intended to cause damage” but to assist detection, he said. Ships had been sent to the area near Helsinki, the capital, to aid the search, he added.

Carl Haglund, defence minister, said he knew only that sounds had been detected “which suggest that there were some underwater activities”, and that it was possible that this was a submarine. Whatever it was had probably already left the area, he added.

As the FT points out, the scene is redolent of “the hunt for reds in October,” the name a bemused media gave to Sweden’s effort to track down a Russian sub in its territorial waters in the fall of 2014.

The fact that the Finns responded to the supposed Russians with small explosives (in a grand Finnish historical tradition dating back to the Winter War) makes this the most dramatic incident yet. But it’s part of a trend; having discovered that at least some Western guarantees to protect territorial sovereignty are merely nominal, Russia has been upping the provocations. Since the outset of the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s subs, ships, and aircraft have been repeatedly rattling its saber by either violating or coming close to violating foreign territory. Russia has flown bombers off the American west coast, made Japan scramble jets at unprecedented levels, sailed destroyers in the English Channel, and conducted a cross border raid into Estonia.

It will be interesting to watch how the submarine incursions affect the evolving debate in Finland and Sweden over whether to join NATO and/or for regional collective defense. Hopefully, the Kremlin takes this latest incident as a sign that it’s unwise to keep incrementally testing whether Western defense is a paper tiger. Because once it finds the line it shouldn’t have crossed, it will already have precipitated a disaster.

Features Icon
show comments
  • FriendlyGoat

    That’s the thing about lines. You may not know whether you’ve crossed them or not, because some of the most effective lines are not clearly drawn.

    • Anthony
      • FriendlyGoat

        Thanks. As a member of the church community in the 1980’s, I became aware that evangelicals were (willingly, it seemed) being led by “Movement Conservatism” into more and more questionable political posturing. “But it’s all about abortion”, so many of them said.
        But politics is NOT all about abortion, ever. It’s about high end tax cuts and so much of the whole church community has been made into patsies. I wish Jindal had fractured this, but I doubt it.

        Meanwhile, we’ll discover in June whether the five conservatives of the Supreme Court decide to preserve gay marriage for “movement conservatism” argument in the statehouses FOREVER. We already know four of them absolutely will. Kennedy may too, and if he does, it will be for precisely the political reasons described in this article.

        • Anthony

          Given both your Christian background and political interests, I thought article and general theme would be worth your “examining eyes”. Yes, the Roberts’ court has to make a decision (probably 5 to 4).

          • FriendlyGoat

            It certainly hasn’t been “difficult” for the five of 5/4 to make Republican decisions so far during the past eight years. But five Catholics making a decision all by themselves to do what a brief filed by the Catholic Bishops in this case asks them to do is a stretch, even for them. We’ll see. Someone “might” be considering appearances, wouldn’t we think?

          • Anthony

            I heard that the Chief Justice has expressed reservations (but I caught tail end of discussion so I can’t give you precise information) and sounded out attorneys at court about leaving issue to legislatures – if you have update pass on info. But, as you say we’ll see.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I took notice that John Roberts sounded concerned about ending the “debate” of this subject in America. If there is a finer hint of his understanding how “movement conservatism” works, I don’t know what it would be.

          • Anthony

            Help me understand idea movement conservatism interest here and Chief Justice’s attention to.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It has appeared to me that the five conservatives of the Supreme Court have made a majority of their decisions in favor of the incorporated business community over individuals wherever cases presented that choice. Their original decisions against Lilly Ledbetter and Anup Engquist years ago signaled this trend, and THEN we endured the likely political ruin of our country with Citizens United, McKutchen and their failure to fix gerrymandering.

            I believe that four of our five current conservatives would prefer to leave same-sex marriage to the states for the purpose of allowing PERMANENT political debate on the issue in many states with the hope that it would help conservative candidates at the ballot boxes in red states, just as being pro-gun and anti-abortion tends to do that in red states. Kennedy may go along too. We don’t know yet.

            The thing is, there either IS or there IS NOT a rationale for denying marriage equality on some compelling justification other than the beliefs of various religions. Our Supreme Court should easily be finding that, without the interplay of religion, it’s virtually impossible to make the case of how two women or two men who want to marry are hurting everyone else. They should be settling this as simply as they struck down state bans on interracial marriage nearly 50 years ago.

            If they insist HERE on letting voters decide what individuals’ rights shall be—-state tot state—– I believe it will be BECAUSE they want to encourage voters in some states to continue railing on this subject from the religious angle and translating that into votes for the GOP agenda (which is mostly about tax cuts, deregulation, union busting, environmental disregard.)

          • Anthony

            Thanks FG (and I had not considered the electoral angle). I had not been following issue. But, I agree with your outline – though I read an interesting piece yesterday about Kennedy’s line of questioning: an “argument for dignity”. Again, thanks.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Kennedy may “surprise” either way. I think they met on this case and voted today, but we won’t know how it went for two months while they write the opinions and dissents.

  • Corlyss

    Oh my! Someone in Europe has dusted of the ol’ mothballed cojones.

  • Fat_Man

    My plan for a Baltic defense alliance (Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland with the US as convener and honorary chairman) looks better and better.

  • Dan Greene

    Why was the “submarine” presumed to be Russian? Why was it believed to be a submarine at all?

    Last November17, TAI published an article entitled, “Putin Targets the Scandinavians.” In that article and others, TAI referenced the alleged Swedish sighting of a Russian submarine operating in the archipelago off Stockholm, Sweden’s capital in mid-October 2014.

    The article made all sorts of outlandish accusations that Russia was targeting Sweden and Finland using air and submarine assets. But all of this was nonsense. There never was any serious evidence of a Russian (or any other) submarine in the Stockholm Archipelago. Two weeks ago, Swedish authorities admitted that there was no Russian submarine in Swedish waters. Moscow Times (an English language paper that is typically quite skeptical of the current government of Russia) reported that:

    “A photo that a retired Swedish naval officer said showed a Russian submarine in Swedish waters last autumn was actually of a much smaller civilian boat, a Swedish admiral told his country’s media Monday. ‘Analysis revealed that the photograph taken in Stockholm’s inner archipelago was of a smaller boat,’ Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. He added that it was a white plastic boat named the ‘Time Bandit.’ That boat is only 10.5 meters long, at least half the size of what the photographer described seeing, according to the report. The boat’s owner confirmed to the newspaper that it was his vessel in the photo. The photo was taken by the retired naval officer in late October, shortly after the Swedish military engaged in a weeklong search for what it suspected was a Russian submarine illegally lurking in Swedish waters.”

    So the hoo-hah over the supposed Russian submarine is finally debunked by the Swedish Navy. I hate to quote myself from the comment string of the above-linked November 2014 TAI piece, but I will anyway:

    “I have yet to see any compelling evidence that a Russian submarine was in the Stockholm Archipelago. Are you satisfied with the evidence at this point?”

    “Do you have any idea why the individual who supposedly took the photograph of the supposed submarine has not been made available to the media so we can get a bit of background on his sighting? Also, I believe the sighting took place in a channel of some kind, off the island of Ornö in the Stockholm Archipelago. The description I have seen of the area–thousands of small islands–makes it sound very treacherous for submarine navigation. Did Russian subs try to maneuver through there during the Cold War? The Soviet sub that ran aground in Sweden in 1981 was down near Karlskrone which makes more sense than the very complex and dangerous waters of the Stockholm Archipelago.”

    So, we now know for a fact what anyone with half a brain already knew, namely that there was no Russian submarine in Swedish waters last year. And, based on that track record, there is no Russian submarine in Finnish waters now. Why would Russia violate Finnish waters after Finland just elected a new government that is averse to taking Finland into NATO? TAI is once again showcasing its intellectual dishonesty and penchant for the propagandistic. Knowing that last year’s reports of Russian submarines have now been shown to be bogus, TAI goes right ahead anyway and churns out new and similarly absurd allegations.

    It is ironic in the extreme that the Soviet-like mindset of Mead and his minions is directed to creating non-existant Russian submarines. Good to see that the ethos of Tass and Pravda soldiers on at this weird, paranoid publication.

    • CaliforniaStark

      So many words to deny the obvious. Are you also going to deny the Russian air force incursions into Finnish air space. Maybe they were UFOs with Russian markings?

      Given the recent cooperation and joint military exercises between Finland and the U.S. and NATO; the real question is whether Finland will change from a de facto to a de jure NATO member.

      • Dan Greene

        What is “the obvious?”

        The allegation that a Russian submarine violated Swedish waters as asserted without evidence in the Western press but which claim we now know conclusively to be untrue (a revelation that unsurprisingly has gotten almost no coverage)?

        Or that a new allegation surfaces–again without evidence–as soon as one is debunked?

        It would be nice if you could at least make some small show of deference to facts and logic.

        • Gene

          “So, we now know for a fact what anyone with half a brain already knew,
          namely that there was no Russian submarine in Swedish waters last year.
          And, based on that track record, it is 99% certain that there is no
          Russian submarine in Finnish waters now,”

          Interesting how your example in the first sentence (n=1) is used to justify the conclusion–which you have no way of knowing to be an accurate likelihood–in the 2nd. Are we to believe that the many stories of recent Russian incursions into other nation’s airspaces and waters are all fabricated?

          • Dan Greene

            If you don’t like 99%, use whatever figure you like. The track record of our media creating “incidents” out of thin air particularly in regard to Russia fully demonstrated. The same overwhelming lack of motive for violating territorial waters with submarines applies to Finland now just as it did to Sweden only a few months ago.

            Instead of quibbling with my percentages, why don’t you produce some evidence or a reasoned argument that would explain why Russia would put itself at such strategic risk for no perceptible gain.

            Do you have a theory as to these wild-eyed reports of submarines or do you just go along with the absurd consensus until it is proven completely wrong and then ignore the refutation and cling to the next bit of disinformation?

          • CaliforniaStark

            So Russia has “the same overwhelming lack of motive for violating territorial waters with submarines” of Finland. Then what are Russia`s motives for violating Finland`s territorial air space?

          • Dan Greene

            I don’t know–you tell me what Russia’s motives for violating Finland’s air space would be.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service