Monday, July 06, 2009

Swedish sub hits Russian ground

Amid heated Swedish debate on the existence of a Russian Cold War sub threat, a Swedish sub this morning hit Russian ground. Information about the incidence is still scarce, but according to unnamed sources, the grounding may have been caused by a combination of overweight and shallowness. Witnesses also report rumbling from the sub's hull, indicating lack of fuel.

As of this time, no official comments have been made from either Sweden or Russia, but initiated sources within Swedish intelligence indicate that the sub for long has been transferred from military to civilian purposes, with a "healthy distance from the defence sphere."

The incident comes at an awkward moment for the two countries, coinciding with both US President Obama's visit to Moscow, and Sweden's assumption of the EU Presidency last week. Speculations thus run rampant that the grounding until now has been deliberately submerged for political reasons.

Swedish submarine scare
News about the sub may prove very inconvenient for Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, who is currently facing allegations for misleading public and media on the Russian sub threat during the 1980s, following the 1981 grounding of Soviet submarine U-137 in the Swedish archipelago. An editorial in today's Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's leading newspaper, thus claims that Bildt's "career was largely founded on alleged soviet submarines - frequently improbable, sometimes minks." As the Swedish EU Presidency might further propel Bildt's international career, such ambitions could now be thwarted by an embarrassing incident of this kind.

Political parallels
Also, comparisons are made to the confidence crisis facing the Swedish political establishment after the 1979 Harrisburg nuclear accident. As news of the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown broke, leading Swedish politicians had for years been saying that the risks of nuclear power were inprobable on the verge of incredibility. The political consequences of this grave misjudgement led to a disastrous "maybe" decision in the 1980 Swedish referendum on the future of Swedish nuclear power, forming an anticlimax on nuclear termination that has since marred the country's energy policy.

In what now seems as a surfacing Swedish-Russian sub crisis, any Swedish claims that the sub ran aground due to faulty navigation may be retorted by Russia as "improbable" - echoing both Bildt's statements during the 1980s Swedish submarine scare, and reminiscences of recurrent ministerial misjudgements, gradually eroding the legitimacy of the Swedish political system.

Things are not always what they seem...
The above only serves to prove that, in the interplay between politics and media, things are not always what they seem. Regreattably, this is also the case with the news about the Swedish sub, which would have made a true scoop had it been true. Instead, the sub in question is no other than yours truly, who over the next two weeks will be SUB-stituting as Central and Eastern Europe Editor of Global Voices - a Harvard-based project that provides alternative reporting on world affairs to that of mainstream international news media.

Alternative reporting does not mean misleading reporting, as the above paragraphs may indicate. To the contrary, following the blogosphere and other Internet resources may, in my own view, at times present a more accurate and up-to-date picture, not least of evolving events, than presented by most other media. It gives the capacity to look beyond press conferences and newsdesks, which at times tend to present nicely wrapped-up truths about events often too obscure and complex for most to comprehend.

Giving precedence to first-hand accounts and on-the-field reporting, with all the ambiguities that may involve, can thus at times be preferrable to stories about "quarrels in far away countries between people of whom we know nothing." Yesterday it might have been Czechoslovakia and Germany, today it might be Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, forming a loosely concocted perceptive pattern of numerous and frequently disparate stories, to form the truth of the matter as we see it.

For truly, if you put your hand on your heart, how much does the faked story about a Swedish sub hitting Russian ground differ from far too much media coverage on events evolving on the margins of the world as we know it. So, it may not always be advisable to follow the calls: "As reports pour in, stay tuned as the story develops..."

3 comments:

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latimeri said...

Are you sure the sub was Sweden that hit the gound?

Anonymous said...

A bit like the Vasa ship. Soon will become a national museum what was essentially a case of poor strategic economics.