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    Norwegian Arctic Policy: 12 Month Outlook

    Norwegian Kystjegere conducting air mobile operations with the Royal Norwegian Air Force during exercise Arctic Hawk. Photo taken by Ole-Sverre Haugli/ Forsvare; via Flickr

    Summary

    The Arctic has been an area of international cooperation, but in the last 15 years, it has become an area of competition, both militarily and diplomatically. Norway finds itself in the middle of a power struggle between the United States and Russia, especially following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its involvement in Ukraine, further complicating Norwegian Arctic policy.

    In the next 12 months, it is highly likely that Norway will keep supporting the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which emphasizes cooperation, the protection of the environment, the delimitation of each country, and research. The Norwegian government will balance the exploitation of natural resources and their protection, as stated in Norwegian Arctic policy.

    It is highly likely that Norway will facilitate the US role in the region. It will also ease its participation in significant activities such as military ones. In the past years, the US interest in the region grew due to climate change as well as Russian expansion. It is highly likely that the US forces will take part in more military exercises in the area and that they will increase their presence.

    Key Judgement 1

    It is highly likely that Norway will try to stabilise its relationship with Russia due to its growing activity in the Arctic and its recent military modernisation. Norway is a close ally of the US, however, Norway cannot risk losing Russia as an economic partner.

    Norwegian Arctic policy
    Norway and Russia territorial dispute; via BBC
    • Russia represents a threat to Norway. Russia has now thirty active military bases in the area, including the new airbase on Franz Josef Land. This new base will allow Russia to conduct air missions over vast areas in the Arctic. Also present in the area are the Russian Northern Fleet and the Spetsnaz special marine forces.

    • It is highly likely that Norwegian Arctic policy, despite the Russian threat, will try to maintain balance with the neighbour country. Both countries’ goal is to maintain low tension in the region. They both benefit from their cooperation, which concerns search and rescue, shared fish stocks and ship traffic management.

    • It is highly likely that Russia will not endanger its relationship with Norway. This is due to its interest in the Northern Sea Route and consequently the Northeast Passage (NEP). The NEP develops along Russian and Norwegian coasts. The ice melting has allowed the exploitation of the route in the past years. This route represents a great alternative to the Suez Canal. In 2021, 65 transits were completed and 1052 permissions for navigation have been issued.

    Key Judgement 2

    It is highly likely that Norway will try to confine the Chinese role in the Arctic region, fearing its imminent expansion.

    • Despite Norwegian economic relations with China since 2016, Norway fears Chinese interest in the region. Its concern is based on past experiences where China has become involved. They resulted in environmental damage, debts, low standards, and shifty methods, which are all aspects that go against Norwegian Arctic policy.

    • In the past years, China limited its interest to research on environmental issues and climate change. But lately, its interest is increasing since China started defining itself as a near-Arctic state. China is now focusing on the natural resources present in the area and the development of the Russian Northern Sea Route.
    Norwegian Arctic policy
    Norwegian M109 self-propelled howitzer on deployment during exercise Joint Viking 17; photo taken by Ole-Sverre Haugli; via tu.no

    Key Judgement 3

    It is highly likely that Norwegian Arctic policy will focus its attention on preserving the culture and identity of the Sami population.

    • The Sami population is considered to amount to over 100,000 in the Arctic region. Most of the Sami population lives in Norway, where they have their own elected assembly. The Saami Council, which is interested in the protection environment, also takes part in the Arctic Council.

    • The Sami population are more vulnerable because of climate change, which threatens their territories and their survival.
    Norwegian Kystjegere conducting air mobile operations with the Royal Norwegian Air Force during exercise Arctic Hawk. Photo taken by Ole-Sverre Haugli/ Forsvare; via Flickr

    Intelligence cut-off date: 13th of December 2021

    Rachele Momi
    Rachele Momi
    Rachele Momi is a graduate in Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University and in Middle East Politics at SOAS. Her research is mainly focused on the Middle East region, tradecraft, and defence issues.

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