War in Ukraine For Members

INTERVIEW: How Norway's border with Russia could be affected by the invasion of Ukraine

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
INTERVIEW: How Norway's border with Russia could be affected by the invasion of Ukraine
Norway is in a number of agreements with Russia, including one on fishing in the Barents Sea. Pictured is a file photo of a Russian fishing vessel in the Barents Sea. Photo by Norwegian coast guard, Scanpix, AFP

Norway shares a border with Russia in the High North, where the two countries cooperate on several issues at a regional level. The Local has taken a look at how the invasion of Ukraine will affect relations between the two at the border.


Tensions between Russia and western nations have flared up following the invasion of Ukraine. Norway has condemned Russia and said that it would join the EU, of which it isn't a member, in imposing sanctions against Russia.

However, the two countries share a border in the Arctic Circle in a region referred to as the High North, making the relationship between Norway and Russia more nuanced and complicated than it may appear at a surface level.

For example, while at government and high diplomacy level, relations between the two are frosty and have been marred by cases of espionage and the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the two countries cooperate on a number of matters at a regional level in the High North.

"In the High North, we (Norway) have longstanding cooperation with Russia on issues related to search & rescue, nuclear safety, shared fish stocks, oil spill response, ship traffic management, and culture and people-to-people contact," Hedda Langemyr, director of the Forum for Foreign Affairs and Security (UTSYN), explained to The Local.

"High-level diplomatic contact has been restricted over the past eight years, so most of the cooperation and contact between the two countries has happened on a regional level and at lower diplomatic levels. However, this has somewhat changed, and there has been an increase (of contact) at the top political level after the new government took over last autumn," she added.

UTSYN is an independent organisation that specialises in security analysis and policy development, with a focus on the High North.

However, since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, tensions in the High North have also heightened, and military activity on both sides of the border has increased, Langemyr said.


Langemyr explained that keeping tensions low at a regional level was essential to ensure cooperation continued.

"All parties have a self-interest in keeping tensions low. Much of that is due to the extraction of natural resources. Also, climate change hits this part of the world particularly hard, and we need strong international cooperation to be able to manage some of the greatest consequences of climate change," Langemyr explained.


The director of the UTSYN pointed out that the cooperation was also crucial for communities living in the High North, not just for regional authorities.

"For the communities bordering Russia, the long traditions of friendship and cooperation is highly important. The same goes for bilateral and international research cooperation with Russia," she explained.

The invasion of Ukraine could have several knock-on effects for relations in the High North, according to Langemyr.

"Firstly, international sanctions against Russia will, of course, also put restrictions on business cooperation between Norway and Russia. Secondly, we will probably see an increase in the number of cyber-attacks, particularly against Norwegian oil and gas companies," Langemyr said.

If the situation escalated to the point that NATO became involved, the effects could become even more drastic.


"In the event of a possible escalation of the war that would lead to NATO involvement, it will become even more important for Russia to protect their strategic submarines operating from the Kola peninsula. In that case, they might aim to control parts of the Barents Sea, for instance. However, it is reassuring that the military dialogue between the two countries seem unchanged, even after current events," the director of the UTSYN said.

On Friday, Norway's Chief of Defence Eirik Kristoffersen said that there was currently no indication of increased military activity along Norway's border with Russia. This follows on from similar comments made by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on Thursday.

Russia may also choose to exert more pressure on Norway due to it being a founding member of NATO if the situation continues to escalate, Langemyr said. She also added that it was important to be vigilant of the methods that foreign powers use to destabilise Western democracies.


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