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Home* News and Stories → Local Rus­si­an-Nor­we­gi­an rela­ti­onships more dif­fi­cult now

Local Rus­si­an-Nor­we­gi­an rela­ti­onships more dif­fi­cult now

Rela­ti­onships bet­ween Rus­sia and many other count­ries are obvious­ly dif­fi­cult, to put it mild­ly. It is true to say that this includes Nor­way on various levels from Oslo to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

But the­re is still cont­act and at least some coope­ra­ti­on. Recent­ly in Octo­ber, the Joint Nor­we­gi­an-Rus­si­an fishe­ries com­mis­si­on has agreed to lower most important fishing quo­tas in the Barents Sea, whe­re both count­ries share lar­ge are­as. The com­mis­si­on exists sin­ce 1975. The agree­ment is not only remar­kab­le in its­elf seen from the per­spec­ti­ve of cur­rent glo­bal poli­tics, but also the results are wort­hwhile having a look at: the voice of the sci­en­tists was lar­ge­ly heard. Cod quo­tas were lowe­red by 20 % for the third time in a row. In 2024, the total cod quo­ta will be 453,427 tons (Nor­we­gi­an share: 212,124 tons). The hali­but quo­te was also lowe­red, while the cape­lin quo­te was stron­gly increased.

As could be expec­ted, Rus­sia was quick to threa­ten with a uni­la­te­ral can­cel­la­ti­on of the agree­ment if Nor­way took any steps con­side­red unde­si­ra­ble from a Rus­si­an per­spec­ti­ve. Sin­ce the lar­ge Rus­si­an inva­si­on in the Ukrai­ne star­ted in Febru­ary 2022, Rus­si­an ships are only allo­wed into three Nor­we­gi­an ports (Trom­sø, Båts­fjord and Kir­kenes). But experts con­sider the risk that Rus­sia will actual­ly retre­at from the agree­ment and even the com­mis­si­on as such rather low. Most of the bet­ter fishing grounds are within Nor­we­gi­an waters and access of Rus­si­an fishing ves­sels to the­se waters is based on the agree­ment.

Russian fishing ship, Bellsund

Rus­si­an fishing ship in Bell­sund.

But else­whe­re, things are more dif­fi­cult. In Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den, Rus­si­an pro­pa­gan­da has beco­me much more visi­ble in 2023 than it used to be in the post, for exam­p­le during the cele­bra­ti­ons for vic­to­ry day and the day of the navy.

Curr­ent­ly, Nor­we­gi­an-Rus­si­an local rela­ti­onships have to deal with Rus­si­an con­s­truc­tion pro­jects that are sub­ject to Nor­we­gi­an appr­oval. But rather than play­ing accor­ding to the rules, the Rus­si­an have obvious­ly cho­sen to make a state­ment. Super­fi­ci­al­ly, it is at least in part about tri­via, such as illu­mi­na­ted adver­ti­sing on the „Russ­kiy dom“, the house of the Rus­si­an tou­rism depart­ment in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It is also about the huge woo­den Rus­si­an-ortho­dox cross that was put up last sum­mer in the vici­ni­ty of the har­bour in Pyra­mi­den. Nor­we­gi­an experts war­ned that here Rus­sia wan­ted to make a sym­bo­li­cal­ly char­ged state­ment that includes the demons­tra­ti­on of a his­to­ri­cal­ly long con­nec­tion to the fat­her­land, with important cul­tu­ral and reli­gious aspects – a prac­ti­ce that is a pain­ful remin­der of pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for Rus­si­an aggres­si­on else­whe­re in rather recent times. And in any case, erec­ting a cross out­side is not legal wit­hout per­mis­si­on by rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties.

Sym­bo­li­cal­ly not as high­ly char­ged, but nevert­hel­ess an issue for the aut­ho­ri­ties, is the case of mobi­le homes in shape of a pile of con­tai­ners that were set up recent­ly in Pyra­mi­den to house workers. Cle­ar­ly a pro­ject that requi­res aut­ho­ri­sa­ti­on given in advan­ce by the Sys­sel­mes­ter (hig­hest local repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment). Nor­we­gi­an law is valid ever­y­whe­re in Sval­bard, inclu­ding the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments. But in all the­se cases, the Rus­si­ans have obvious­ly deci­ded to make facts and talk later. Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties seem to try to keep the­se issues on a fac­tu­al level, not show­ing any desi­re to move them up to a poli­ti­cal level.

Barentsburg

Barents­burg: curr­ent­ly a bit of a dark affair, seen from a Nor­we­gi­an per­spec­ti­ve.

Mean­while, tou­rism lar­ge­ly keeps a distance from the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments: the local inter-trade orga­ni­sa­ti­on Sval­bard Rei­se­livs­råd said in Octo­ber that they recom­mend their mem­bers not to visit Barents­burg or Pyra­mi­den. This is, howe­ver, not bin­ding for the indi­vi­du­al com­pa­nies. Rei­se­livs­råd-chair­man Ron­ny Brun­voll also advi­sed indi­vi­du­als with con­nec­tion to the tou­rist indus­try not to visit the Rus­si­ans pri­va­te­ly. Brun­voll says that the­re is a risk of data theft when using Rus­si­an wifi or mobi­le pho­ne net­work, and pho­tos might be used for pro­pa­gan­da.

It seems that the situa­ti­on is quite bog­ged down and it is hard to ima­gi­ne how rela­ti­onships might beco­me bet­ter again befo­re the war – here, obvious­ly espe­ci­al­ly the Rus­si­an war against the Ukrai­ne – has come to an end.

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last modification: 2023-11-06 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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