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Home* News and Stories → Rus­sia, Nor­way, Sval­bard and deep sea cable

Rus­sia, Nor­way, Sval­bard and deep sea cable

One could almost laugh if it wasn’t actual­ly so serious and sad, and with such a dra­ma­tic geo­po­li­ti­cal back­ground: the­re is, on one side, a small coun­try that more or less regu­lar­ly sends a coast­guard or navy ship to remo­te parts of its waters to show pre­sence and to pat­rol the­se waters.

And on the other hand, the­re is a huge coun­try in the neigh­bour­hood, that has been pro­vo­king the who­le regi­on and many count­ries bey­ond that with tools within mili­ta­ry and other are­as, inclu­ding inter­net trolls, cyber attacks and so on and so forth, up to sabo­ta­ge of public infra­struc­tu­re.

The big coun­try obvious­ly thinks it has all the right of the world to do all this, or they just pre­tend it must have been someone else.

At the same time, the same big coun­try claims that the navy pre­sence of the small coun­try is an inac­cep­ta­ble pro­vo­ka­ti­on and a breach of important inter­na­tio­nal trea­ties.

This is, of cour­se, a very much sim­pli­fied and, to some degree, pole­mic sum­ma­ry of the cur­rent events. But just the fact that it seems safe to assu­me that all rea­ders will know which count­ries this is about is tale-tel­ling.

Coastguard, Svalbard

Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard ship in Sval­bard waters.

So, what hap­pen­ed now? Recent­ly, Rus­sia accu­sed Nor­way once again to have brea­ched the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty (often refer­red to as the Sval­bard Trea­ty) with their mili­ta­ry pre­sence in Sval­bard. It is the regu­lar pre­sence of Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard ships and occa­siona­ly a fri­ga­te in Sval­bard waters that alle­gedly irri­ta­tes Rus­sia. With this back­ground, it would be an idea to have a look at what the abo­ve-men­tio­ned trea­ty acc­tual­ly says, but on the other hand, who in Moscow cares about what is actual­ly writ­ten in a trea­ty? But just in case someone else­whe­re is inte­res­ted, this is the rele­vant Artic­le 9 of the trea­ty: “… Nor­way under­ta­kes not to crea­te nor to allow the estab­lish­ment of any naval base in the ter­ri­to­ries spe­ci­fied in Artic­le 1 and not to con­s­truct any for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on in the said ter­ri­to­ries, which may never be used for war­li­ke pur­po­ses”.

That is actual­ly pret­ty clear and straight­for­ward. And so are any con­clu­si­ons one might draw from the text. Nor­way doesn’t do any­thing that is in con­flict with arc­tic­le 9. Full stop. End of this part of the sto­ry. The rest is just pro­vo­ka­ti­on.

Ano­ther sto­ry is that of the deep sea cables. This is, if at all, then only at a very quick, first, super­fi­ci­al glan­ce inde­pen­dent from the first sto­ry. The­re are cables that con­nect Lon­gye­ar­by­en to main­land Nor­way, to pro­vi­de fast and relia­ble – that is the idea, at least – com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on for ever­y­thing from pho­ne­calls and ever­y­day inter­net use to satel­li­te data from SvalSat, the satel­li­te anten­na field near Lon­gye­ar­by­en which is of gre­at importance for many inter­na­tio­nal users inclu­ding orga­ni­sa­ti­ons such as ESA and NASA and others. One of the­se cables – the­re are two, for safe­ty reasons – was dama­ged in Janu­ary (click here to read more about that). Soon it was estab­lished that the dama­ge was done by humans and not by natu­ral pro­ces­ses.

Recent­ly, the move­ments of a cer­tain Rus­si­an fish traw­ler were deba­ted in media such as NRK. A ship known by the name Mel­kart-5 crossed the posi­ti­on abo­ve the cables in the area of the dama­ge more than 100 times within a few days. Bey­ond that, the­re is an impres­si­ve list of move­ments of this ship and its ten­der near places such as Nor­we­gi­an oil and gas fields, pipe­lines and a bridge near Kir­kenes that is regu­lar­ly used during Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry exer­ci­s­es. In addi­ti­on, the­re are long peri­ods, whe­re no signal of the ship’s AIS was recei­ved any­whe­re at all.

Russian fishing vessels, Svalbard

Rus­si­an fishing ves­sels han­ding over car­go in Sval­bard waters.

The­se are the facts. Any­thing bey­ond this is spe­cu­la­ti­on, con­side­ring cur­rent public know­ledge.

Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties inclu­ding the Sys­sel­mes­ter of Sval­bard have expres­sed reg­ret that legis­la­ti­on to pro­tect sea flo­or infra­struc­tu­re dates back to the stone age of the­se instal­la­ti­ons and does not pro­vi­de useful legal tools today.

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the title “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (3): Die Bären­in­sel und Jan May­en”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2022-10-10 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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