Just weeks before it is to play the neutral host to a European security conference, Sweden is playing down the probability that more Soviet submarines, including minisubs that may belong to Soviet naval special forces, have penetrated its territorial waters in the past few months.
Summarizing a report to the Swedish government on recent submarine intrusions , Swedish Armed Forces Commander in Chief Lennart Ljung said Tuesday that in 16 incidents recorded since late August, "the nationality couldn't be determined."
At least one incident left tracks on the seabed near a military installation in the Stockholm archipelago.
Military analysts in Europe said it was hard to imagine that anything but Soviet submarines was responsible for the visual and acoustic observations the Swedes say they have made. The analysts suggest there has been a political decision to avoid naming the Soviet Union despite extensive circumstantial evidence.
A Swedish newspaper pointed out that the military apparently lacked any radar "signatures" from the submarines. It was probably such signatures that gave conclusive evidence of Soviet origin in an earlier sub incident in the fall of 1982. Sweden is believed to have extensive signals intelligence monitoring of electromagnetic transmissions in the region. The latest subs apparently turned off their radar in Swedish waters.
The most dramatic incident was the discovery Nov. 20 of tracks on the bottom indicating a minisub had recently operated near a secret military installation in the Stockholm archipelago. The tracks, photographed by divers, closely matched photographs published last spring when Sweden said Soviet minisubs had been operating in Hors Bay, near a major secret naval base, in the fall of 1982.
Some analysts say Soviet minisubs are operated by the "Spetsnaz" special forces, whose tasks include reconnaissance, sabotage, and assassination.
The summary of this secret report said the number of incidents had fallen sharply from 47 cases during the summer. But it noted there were fewer people on the beaches and islands and in recreational boats in the fall to report unusual sights. Last summer, the Navy published a pamphlet for boaters describing the signs of possible submarine activity.
As the latest submarine report was delivered, Swedish naval spokesmen said the time was near when new antisubmarine weapons, including a target-seeking torpedo and a low-powered, homing depth charge, would be available to force any new intruders to the surface.
Last spring, Sweden warned the Soviet Union to stop its submarine intrusions. The apparent failure of the Soviets to heed Sweden's warnings shows Moscow considers reconnaissance of the Swedish coast more important than bad publicity and worsening relations with Sweden.
Tourists returning from the Baltic states, where there are several Soviet submarine bases, tell anecdotes about former Navy men boasting of routine "graduation cruises" to Swedish waters.