“I would like to mention why it bothers me now. It turned out that even in such an educated, Western-European state, in such a bulwark of democracy, it was quite easy to distract vast masses of people and brainwash them, to zombify them” – Boris Pankin, Soviet Ambassador to Sweden in the early 1980s
This quote by a former Soviet diplomat refers to a US-NATO false flag operation carried out in Swedish waters in the 1980s to undermine the Swedish prime minister and make the Swedish public believe they were facing an imminent threat of Soviet aggression. The quote also has great relevance to the contemporary world in which the citizens of all Western, educated, democratic states have been brainwashed, within only a few months, to orient their thinking about contagious diseases, vaccines and personal autonomy in a way that conforms with a new, monolithic doctrine imposed upon them.
The most commonly understood version of the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 is that it collapsed because of its own flaws and contradictions. According to this view, its market system was utopian. Its government was tyrannical. The people wanted freedom, so they withdrew their support of the system and overthrew it. Less well-known is the extent to which in the early 1980s the US government led by Ronald Reagan began an aggressive “full court press” offensive to weaken the Soviet Union by all methods short of military invasion. Billions of dollars were spent on this project, and the economist Sean Gervasi, who studied this offensive in great depth, concluded in 1992:
… the Soviet Union today, in the absence of this extraordinarily crafty, well-thought-out, extremely costly strategy deployed by the Reagan administration, would be a society struggling through great difficulties. It would still be a socialist society, at least of the kind that it was. It would be far from perfect, but it would still be there, and I think, therefore, that Western intervention made a crucial difference in this situation.
One chapter of this offensive was the engineered international incident involving Soviet submarines allegedly entering Swedish maritime territory. As told in the documentary Deception: The Methods of Reagan, Ronald Reagan formed a secret “deception committee” to create a disinformation campaign against the USSR. On several occasions, this disinformation was dangerously provocative, moving the world to the brink of nuclear war. See below for a transcript of this documentary that follows this introduction.
The “Soviet” U-boat scare that shook Sweden in the 1980s was caused by US and UK subs that penetrated Swedish territorial waters disguised as Russian submarines. Swedish military were fully aware of these operations, but did not report on them to Prime Minister Olof Palme.
Palme was prime minister of Sweden during two terms separated by a six-year gap, 1969-76 and 1982-86. He pursued a non-alignment policy towards the superpowers, and throughout his career he had supported numerous national liberation movements that came after decolonization. He visited Cuba after its revolution, giving a speech praising Cuban revolutionaries. He was a frequent critic of United States and Soviet foreign policy. He was against imperialist ambitions and authoritarian regimes such as those of Francisco Franco of Spain, Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union, António de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, Gustáv Husák of Czechoslovakia, and especially apartheid South Africa. In his 1972 condemnation of American bombings in Hanoi, he compared American tactics to the Treblinka extermination camp. This statement resulted in a temporary freeze in Sweden–United States relations. With these endorsements of countries struggling against imperialism, he had courageously gone down the same road as JFK and paid the same price for it. He was assassinated in 1986. Yet, in contrast with JFK, because he was not an American president, he was able to make more radical and explicit critiques of American foreign policy than JFK, seeking re-election in 1964, ever could have dared to make.
The number of Swedes believing in a Soviet threat increased fourfold during the time of the “Soviet” submarine incursions. With public opinion alarmed about the “Soviet” subs in Swedish waters, Palme had no choice but to take an anti-Soviet stance. In spite of this capitulation to the forces aligned against him, he was still deemed too much of a threat. He was assassinated on February 28, 1986, the day before his trip to meet Gorbachev—then the new Soviet leader with whom he had hoped to negotiate a new way to co-exist. His murder remains unsolved.
The documentary Deception: The Methods of Reagan (by German director Dirk Pohlmann) premiered in May 2016 on ARTE, the European television channel. Broadcast late at night and early in the morning, it generated no reaction. It has not been shown in Sweden, even though it sheds light on two of the most dramatic episodes in modern Swedish history—the Soviet U-boat scare, a version of which was repeated in 2014, and the assassination of the Olof Palme.
Several months after this documentary aired, there were media reports that Russia was planning to invade the Baltic states. In February, 2016, a Newsweek headline declared, quoting NATO’s secretary general, “Russia’s air force practiced a nuclear strike against Sweden.” These reports were obviously a replay of the old script from the 1980s. Such blatant scaremongering never expresses any skepticism about what could possibly motivate Russia to launch a war of aggression against its European neighbors. Every Russian leader and military planner knows that there is nothing to gain and everything to lose from such a war. The immediate response would be a full counterattack on Russia, probably resulting in nuclear war. Russia’s military exercises have the same rationale that is claimed by NATO leaders for NATO’s military exercises and deployments: they are simply for defensive and deterrent purposes. All of these plans feature numerous war games and hypothetical situations involving massive attacks on enemy territory. Such is the world have we lived in since 1945.
The US and NATO have increased defense spending and started a massive build-up on Russian borders in recent years. The history lesson from the 1980s about “Soviet” subs in Sweden suggests that such plans to increase defense spending require a similar campaign of false flag incidents, disinformation, and manipulation of public opinion through the media. The disinformation campaign of the 1980s has been exposed. It was blatant and obvious, even though the Swedish military managed to cover its tracks and destroy incriminating documents. But the citizenry of the NATO countries today seem none the wiser. They are being duped all over again.
Alexei Pankin, “CIA, NATO and Swedish Military Plotted Regime Change in Sweden in 1980s,” Global Research, February 16, 2016.
A recent book on the Palme assassination
Jan Stocklassa, The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin (Amazon Crossing, 2019). This is a translation of a book published in Swedish in 2018: Stieg Larssons arkiv: Nyckeln till Palmemordet. Translated by Tara. F. Chace.
When Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, died, he had been working on a true mystery that out-twisted his Millennium novels: the assassination on February 28, 1986 of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister. It was the first time in history that a head of state had been murdered without a clue who’d done it—and it occurred on a Stockholm street at point-blank range.
Internationally known for his fictional villains, Larsson was well acquainted with their real-life counterparts and documented extremist activities throughout the world. For years he’d been amassing evidence that linked their terrorist acts to what he called “one of the most astounding murder cases” he’d ever covered. Larsson’s archive was forgotten until journalist Jan Stocklassa was given exclusive access to the author’s secret project.
In The Man Who Played with Fire, Stocklassa collects the pieces of Larsson’s true-crime puzzle to follow the trail of intrigue, espionage, and conspiracy begun by one of the world’s most famous thriller writers. Together they set out to solve a mystery that no one else could.
Stocklassa never found the “smoking gun” evidence that would allow him to say he solved the case. Most political assassinations always remain shrouded in mysteries. But he amassed enough evidence by the end to suggest the most plausible theory about whodunit.
From the film Deception: The Methods of Reagan
Transcript compiled from the English subtitles in the video
Narrator: In 1989, the Soviet empire started to collapse. A historic victory. It could be that the Secret Committee of US President Ronald Reagan contributed to it.
Herb Mayer, CIA vice-chief of Intelligence: They stopped playing defense and began to play offense. That was the great shift that changed the course of world history.
Thomas Reed, Special Questions Advisor: We could have brought them to their knees if we wanted.
Narrator: Did the Committee in fact exist? What methods did Reagan’s soldiers use?
John Lemann, the Minister of the US Navy: The use of deception could make it appear that the Soviets were 20 feet tall.
Admiral James ‘Ace’ Lyons: You have to go out and physically demonstrate…
Narrator: For the first time, witnesses tell of those events.
Mathias Mossberg, the Secretary General for 3rd Submarine Investigation Board: They made fools of the Swedish parliament and government as well as Swedish media. What kind of world do we actually live in?
Narrator: Deception: Reagan’s Method, a film by Dirk Polmann. Submarines against Olof Palme. The next target was to be a supposed neutral state in the North of Europe—Sweden. Only the Baltic Sea separated it from the Soviet Union.
Ula Tunander: Sweden was actually extremely important in case of a future World War.
Narrator: Sweden was located northward of Germany and was kind of an unsinkable aircraft-carrier that the US could operate from. Since 1960 Sweden had been integrated in plans of NATO militarization. In the 1960’s, Swedish Air Forces ranked 4th strongest in the world. The US Army counted on Sweden’s secret loyalty to NATO.
Ula Tunander: Since 1960, Sweden had been preparing to receive US aircraft on its territory. There was a direct phone line with the headquarters of the US Navy in Wiesbaden.
Ingemar Engman: We prepared airfields on which the American jet airplanes could have landed on their way eastwards.
Narrator: The USA needed Sweden as an ‘aircraft-carrier’. And besides, the Soviet Union would be forced to fight on two fronts. There’s an extremely conservative elite in the Swedish Army, economy and aristocracy, completely aligned with the USA, that treats social-democrats with deep mistrust.
Ula Fritjofson: The social-democratic party of Sweden was perhaps the most powerful social-democratic party in the world. It had a charismatic leader, Olof Palme—a man of indisputable international renown. A man who had enemies.
Ula Tunander: It was the social-democratic government that held power in the country, but there were also ruling elites who shared quite different views. They were closely related to the USA and Great Britain. And this means that you have a divided Sweden. Once I was invited for dinner with James Schlesinger—the former US Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA. I asked him what he thought of Sweden at the time he had occupied his position. And he asked me, “Which Sweden? The political Sweden or the military Sweden?”
Narrator: At the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Vietnam War shook up the Western states and deeply divided society. Outraged youth organized demonstrations all over the world. Olof Palme led demonstrations criticizing US policy together with the North Vietnamese Ambassador. A figure like Palme is exactly what the Committee would target. In 1981, Palme was still the opposition leader, but a year later he won the elections and had high approval ratings. Palme’s and Reagan’s plans were as different as fire and water. However, the Committee was able to use the preliminary work of the CIA. Since the 70’s, the US Secret Service had been scheming against Palme on Swedish territory. Reagan and Casey knew that within Swedish security agencies Palme was considered to be a traitor. Furthermore, important Swedish admirals were on their side.
John Lehman: Certainly there were efforts to see that the Swedish military addressed the demands of NATO strategies and ideas, and that Sweden had access to technologies needed to defend their neutrality.
Narrator: On the morning of October 28th, 1981, the Chief of Swedish Naval Staff in Karlsrona received an unexpected report. Fishermen found a submarine washed ashore. Commander Karl Andersson immediately headed there.
Karl Andersson: As soon as we called in at Gosefjerden, I slowed down. And suddenly I saw a black and green Whiskey-class submarine 100 meters in front of me. It was obviously a Russian submarine.* The highest rank aboard was the Chief of Brigade Staff from the city of Baltiysk—Joseph Avrukevich. He had navigated the submarine along quite a narrow fjord. The commander Peter Gushchin was forced to follow Avrukevich’s instructions.
Karl Andersson: I could never understand what kind of commander he was or what the operation was meant to be. I actually didn’t even think of that because it was incredibly stupid to call in at Gosefjerden since a submarine could run aground.
Narrator: The submarine had been drifting for a long time until Avrukevich, guided by a beacon, steered the submarine into the fairway that was just 100 meters wide Gosefjerden.
Karl Andersson: They could hire a fishing boat under the guise of a Swedish flag for that purpose. But it was a very stupid decision to call in there with a submarine.
Narrator: The public would be told that the submarine was sent to spy—in a fjord that it couldn’t submerge into, since there was 1.5 m of water under the keel! Anderson notes that the person who was responsible for making decisions was the mysterious Chief of Staff Avrukevich. He then received an order not to interrogate him.
Karl Andersson: Yes, I received this exact order. I received orders to interrogate Gushchin only, the watch officer, the signaler and the navigator. I was prohibited from interrogating anyone else.
Narrator: Swedish Naval Forces sent a diver under water. Their footage is being officially shown here for the first time ever. They make a startling discovery. A big sand dune formed behind the marine propeller.
Ula Tunander: In front of the propeller there was no sand dune. That meant someone wanted the submarine to run further against the rocks, to stay there. And then it was turned around more than 50 degrees so the submarine would really get stuck in the rocks so it wouldn’t slide off.
Narrator: To sum up, a supposed spy submarine was put into the extremely narrow fjord where there’s almost no water under the keel and will sooner or later run aground. When it happened, the engines continued to work at full capacity. The submarine crawled further onto the rocks until it got stuck. But one mustn’t interrogate the officer responsible for this insane operation. “Whiskey on the rocks” hit the headlines. Sweden was shocked and indignant.
Narrator: Olof Palme had won the elections in 1982. He wanted to achieve neutrality, disarmament and nonalignment to the military blocs for Sweden. He wanted confrontation mitigation, but Reagan wanted just the opposite. Therefore, the Deception Committee began a psychological warfare operation. They created a pretense of reality that would return Sweden back on the course that corresponded to the Reagan strategy. Two weeks after Palme took office, a submarine’s periscope was detected at a Sweden’s Muskö Naval Base. After “Whiskey on the Rocks,” it could only be—as everyone claimed—a Soviet submarine.
Ula Tunander: They showed their periscopes and cone towers to the public. A submarine’s captain wouldn’t do that.
Mathias Mossberg: Why did they want to be seen? It was all part of this deception. And they did that very well. A few hours after the submarines had been detected, the Swedish Naval Forces convened a press conference. More than 750 journalists from all over the world reported on Swedish Naval Forces ready to hunt for the Soviet submarines, but they were unsuccessful.
Narrator: Was it just a pretense for media? In the following years, the hunt for submarines was repeated hundreds of times. Foreign submarines were seen in front of the Royal Palace and in front of summerhouses and naval bases. While Palme negotiated with the Soviets on disarmament and proposals of peace, Soviet Military Forces, apparently, did not want them. Moscow was confused. No one had given orders to send submarines to Sweden. Were there renegade captains on the submarines? Palme protested to the Soviet Ambassador again and again. In the end, the latter passed a proposal from the Kremlin.
Boris Pankin, the Soviet Ambassador to Sweden: If you think our submarines are there, you can bomb them. But we know there are none, that’s why we are not afraid of any bombing.
Narrator: Endless, unsuccessful war against the ghost submarines had its consequences.
Ulf Svenson: It was impossible for Palme to do anything other than to decisively blame the Russians. It was difficult for him to carry out the policy of common security in relation to the communist states.
Narrator: The leaders of Swedish Naval Forces sunk not a single enemy submarine, but they successfully torpedoed Palme’s common security policy. Without the Swedish media, this operation would have failed.
Mathias Mossberg: The media were very much taking the lead in blowing up this issue according to the information they got from our military. From 1981 to 1983, the number of Swedes who felt there was a Soviet threat increased from 27% to 83%.
Boris Pankin, the Soviet Ambassador to Sweden: I would like to mention why it bothers me now. It turned out that even in such an educated, Western-European state, in such a bulwark of democracy, it was quite easy to distract vast masses of people and brainwash them, to zombify them.
Narrator: Since 1983, three investigations into the submarine scam have been carried out.
Mathias Mossberg: The first inquiry concluded that it was Soviet submarines. The second concluded that this could not be proven. Then a few years went by and an interview came out with Caspar Weinberger, the US Secretary of Defense, who clearly said that the US was involved in this.
Caspar Weinberger, the US Secretary of Defense: There was no direct insertion or testing of Swedish defense without consultation.
Keith Speed, the British Navy Minister: There were exercise attacks. Could the submarines infiltrate their waters and emerge at the port in Stockholm? Well, that’s not quite the thing, but it was something like that. How far could we go? During my administration, we had Oberon-class and Porpoise-class diesel submarines for that purpose.
Narrator: It’s quite clear that Swedish Naval Forces’ leadership knew NATO’s submarines were in Swedish territorial waters. Why had they kept silent back then? And what part had the Americans and British played?
Mathias Mossberg: Obviously, we needed to go into the question again. They instituted a new inquiry and appointed me as Secretary General.
Narrator: Mossberg found a document in the Muskö Naval Base archives. Several senior admirals were worried about Weinberger’s statement and wanted to be prepared.
Mathias Mossberg: The effect was that we had to coordinate our response to this. I wanted to take a copy of this document [Weinberger’s statement]. But our military expert told us, “You don’t need to do that. We have this at the office in Stockholm.” I believed him. When I came back to our office, it turned out that we didn’t have this document at all. And the next time we went back to that archive, that particular document had disappeared. So these were the kinds of things we had to fight with.
Narrator: The board faced resistance. Access to the archives was denied, and it discovered that the military had destroyed important evidence, photographs and documents.
Mathias Mossberg: What we were dealing with was a certain group that was not telling the government the full truth about what they knew or what had happened or was happening.
Narrator: And they were taking decisions which had far-reaching implications for Swedish defense and foreign policy. They were decisions that were taken outside the democratic framework of the Swedish government. Then of course, you ask yourself where you are. You are in a country where the army conspired together with a foreign power against its own head of state.
Mathias Mossberg: Sweden was taken for a ride. Public opinion was taken for a ride. Swedish parliament was taken for a ride. The Swedish government was taken for a ride. The press was taken for a ride.
Narrator: What sort of world are we actually living in? In a world where Olof Palme was murdered. The killer has never been found.
Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR: I’m sure it was a political killing. It was a contract killing… I don’t think he was murdered for some domestic reasons… because this man and the things he was proposing… Their implementation involved the interests of groups who weren’t particularly interested in making the world a better place.
* The Whiskey class submarine was a Soviet design. The transcript doesn’t say explain how this Soviet submarine and its Soviet officers could have been fakes. The implication seems to be that NATO had one Whiskey submarine or more with which to stage the grounding and the other sightings. Some Whiskeys were sold to Indonesia in the 1950s, before the right-wing coup d’etat that turned that country into a staunch US ally.