World

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, 'Cold War' Comparisons Flourish

With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison?

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, 'Cold War' Comparisons Flourish
BBC

With the Swedish navy on the hunt for a suspected Russian submarine, in October... you'd be forgiven for drawing up certain comparisons. 

And a number of outlets have done exactly that, with the news that the Swedes had detected possible "foreign underwater activity" and have mobilized some 200 personnel to look for the suspected sub. (Video via Euronews)

SASKIA O'DONOGHUE, BBC: "All of this has overtones of the Cold War, submarine activity around Sweden was a major concern at the height of the conflict. Russia submarine U137 ran aground in a secret Swedish submarine leak in 1981."

That refers to the so-called 'Whiskey on the Rocks' incident, when a Soviet submarine prompted a standoff and investigation after running aground in a Swedish military zone. (Video via STV)

The Guardian also took that angle, describing the operation as, "reminiscent of the cold war when neutral Sweden regularly swept the island-strewn Baltic Sea coastline around the capital for Soviet spy submarines."

Couple that with reports last month that a Russian jet had violated Swedish airspace, and it's easy to see why Nordic states would be on edge. 

But Russia and the U.S. aren't exactly threatening each other with nuclear warheads, or fighting proxy wars across the globe, so it's worth asking if coverage isn't jumping the gun on Cold War comparisons.

Writing for The New York Times, historian Viktor Sebestyen argues it's not an apt comparison because, stripped of the ideology, the current conflict is localized, and Putin-centric.  

"If there is a threat, it is geographical, not ideological, and it is to a confined area on Russia’s periphery ... there is no global military challenge, no clash of a cultural or economic kind." He goes on to say only the rhetoric feels familiar. 

There has been plenty of that — especially in the wake of Western sanctions. RT quoted Russia's foreign minister as saying, "You can essentially feel it in their statements and actions, the true goal of restrictions to alter Russia and to change its position on key issues, the most fundamental for us and make us accept the vision of the West.  "

And rhetoric from Western leaders in response probably hasn't helped, as John Kerry described Russia last spring

JOHN KERRY VIA CBS: "In Russia, an authoritarian country." 

For its part, the Swedish military has been very careful about disclosing the origin of the foreign underwater activity, and hasn't confirmed that it is of Russian origin.