By Ilgin Karlidag
The Swedish military has called off a $2.75m search off the Stockholm archipelago - Sweden’s biggest mobilization since the end of the Cold War - with officials unable to confirm reported speculation that a "Russian submarine" may have been beneath Swedish territorial waters.
Hundreds of military and naval staff were involved in the week-long search for an underwater vessel after Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported a damaged or missing Russian submarine could be in the archipelago, saying "encrypted signals" allegedly sent to Russia from a location in the area last Friday had been intercepted.
Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad said on Friday: "Our assessment is that, in the inner archipelago, there was a plausible foreign underwater operation, but we believe what ... violated Swedish waters has left.
''If it is a craft, it is a lesser type. But I do not know how long it is, or what nation it belongs to."
Grenstad said the search operation cost around 20 million kronor ($2.75 million) from the 2014 Swedish defense budget which, according to the government, has been allocated 9 billion kronor ($1.24 billion) for the year.
He added: ''It was worth it, because we must prevent this kind of activity going on in our waters with all available means."
'Cold War-style rhetoric'
But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov accused the Swedish government of hyping-up tensions in the Baltic Sea region.
He said: "Such unfounded actions of the Swedish Defense Department, fuelled by the Cold War-style rhetoric, are only leading today to escalation of tension in the region.
"It might result not in the strengthening of a particular country’s security, but in undermining the principles of the naval economic activity in the Baltic Sea."
The Swedish Armed Forces earlier warned they were ready to use armed force in their search.
Supreme Command General Sverker Göranson told Swedish media on Thursday: "Our aim now is to force whatever it is up to the surface ... with armed force, if necessary.
"The most important value of the operation - regardless of whether we find something - is to send a very clear signal that Sweden and its armed forces are acting and are ready to act when we think this kind of activity is violating our borders."
The Russian Defense Ministry had denied having military vessels in Swedish waters and said none of its fleet was damaged.
One Russian Defense official said: "The search for a Russian submarine is so unsuccessful because there is none," Russian news agency Itar-TASS reported.
'Language of power'
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom described the reports as "speculations".
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has raised the prospect of taxpayers increasing military spending, which currently accounts for one percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, a modest ratio of national income compared to its European neighbors.
According to a budget proposal for 2015 released on Thursday, the government is seeking to spend 40 billion kronor on the military "in the event of war" or other "extraordinary circumstances".
However, The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), Scandinavia’s largest peace organization, warned that a military build-up would not improve security in Sweden.
Anna Ek, Chairman of SPAS, told the Swedish public broadcaster SVT on Tuesday: "If we respond with military means, then we will further shift the language of power in that direction, which would be incredibly unfortunate, both for our own safety and security in the Baltic Sea area."Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.