Disputes with Russia

Among the very few places where such disputes could arise, the most obvious likely arena is the Barents Sea. In August 2008, reports emerged that the Agency on Subsoil Resources (Rosnedra) in Moscow was preparing to undertake extensive geological mapping of Russia's outer continental shelf and had allocated 2.6 billion roubles - far more than in previous years - to do so. While as many as 34 separate areas were due to be surveyed, Moscow proclaimed that it regarded the Arctic's waters as the most important and was set to prioritize mapping in the Barents, Kara and Pechora Seas. However, the Norwegians were concerned that this unexpected move was a sign of much greater Russian interest in Svalbard and could herald trouble. Soon afterwards, in an interview with a Russian journal, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere reiterated the long-held Norwegian view that his country was entitled to declare a 200-mile economic zone around the archipelago and that the 1920 treaty only gave Russia a claim over resources found on land and did not apply to the surrounding waters beyond the belt of 'territorial sea'.10

Despite Stoere's upbeat tone, a few other developments appear to confirm that Russia's ambitions around the archipelago are growing. Four months after Rosnedra's statement, for example, Artur Chilingarov informed the Duma that a new scientific station in the old mining village of Pyramiden was going to be opened. 'We are going to be all over the Arctic', claimed Chilingarov, 'this is not just science: this is presence in the Arctic.'11 Shortly before, the Russians had blatantly disregarded a request by the Norwegian governor of Svalbard to hand over a number of historical objects that were kept in a museum in the Russian settlement of Barentsburg. Under local law, all objects found in Svalbard belong to the Norwegian authorities, who in this case were concerned that the objects were not being stored in the special conditions they need. However, the Russians flatly refused, partly because they were increasingly reluctant to recognize Oslo's rights, and partly also because the artefacts were made and used by Russian hunters of the seventeenth century and therefore helped to demonstrate Moscow's long-standing affiliation with the islands.

But as an earlier chapter has mentioned, Moscow cannot afford to alienate the Norwegians, who are a very important potential ally in its bid to develop future energy supplies. The successful launch of the Snow White field near Hammerfest exemplifies all the technical capabilities, and the management skills to organize such a massive project, that the Russians badly need but so sorely lack to develop their own offshore fields. Above all, the Russians know that if they are to realize their goal of supplying the United States, as they originally envisaged, then they would have to liquefy and transport the gas using the very techniques that Statoil is proven to have mastered.

This is why Statoil has always been a frontrunner in the international contest to win contracts to develop the mammoth Shtokman field, and company representatives have held a number of highprofile talks in Moscow with their counterparts from Gazprom to finalize various proposals. Finally, in February 2008, the Norwegian company signed a deal that gave it part ownership of a joint venture with the French giant Total and Gazprom, whose chief, Alexei Miller, publicly praised Statoil's 'long experience, vast resources and advanced technologies which are fundamental to the success of this unique project'.

In general, Norway and Russia have a long history of working together in the Barents Sea, and this means that both have a strong interest in resolving their border disputes amicably. Examples of this close cooperation are numerous and wide-ranging. In August 2000, Norwegian divers and experts had tried desperately hard, if unsuccessfully, to save the lives of 118 sailors on board the stricken Russian submarine Kursk, and each of the rescuers were personally thanked by President Putin for their gallant but doomed efforts. And in the summer of 2008, the foreign ministers of both countries opened a new laboratory in Murmansk that Russian and Norwegian scientists were operating together to analyse oil samples and use their findings to help clean up any spillages.12 Their respective coast guards also constantly share information and pool their limited resources to fight the threat of overfishing: in 2008, the fisheries minister in Oslo, Helga Pedersen, publicly praised the stringent efforts made by the Russian authorities to reduce the overfishing of cod in the Barents Sea, which had been slashed from 80,000 tons in 2006 to around half that figure the following year.

This spirit of cooperation became clear from the Kremlin's 2009 document on national security, which argued that 'Russia has been working hard to find ways of cooperating with Nordic countries, and this has included the implementation . . . of joint projects in the Barents/Euro-Arctic region and the Arctic as a whole (taking) account of the interests of indigenous peoples'.13 In its 'High North' policy document, the Norwegian government has also strongly reaffirmed its wish to work closely with Moscow: 'A number of the challenges in the High North in areas such as the environment and resource management', it argues, 'can only be solved with Russia's engagement and Norwegian-Russian cooperation.'14

In a worst-case scenario, even if tension between the two countries does ever flare up over the Barents Sea, Norway would align itself even more closely with its allies in NATO. It has already worked hard in recent years not only to build strong relations with its traditional military partners but also to stop disputes over the Barents from spoiling them. In 2005, Oslo initiated a dialogue with the United States, Germany, the UK, France and Canada over a number of Arctic-

related topics and fought to win broad international support for its legal position over disputed regions. At a press conference Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik emphasized that 'we work to gain understanding for the Norwegian view internationally', while Barents Sea minister, Kim Traavik, stated that disputes over Svalbard would be discussed with what he termed 'our most important partners'.15 Similar sentiments were made by members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.16

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