Russian active measures in Norway: A situational assessment


    Recently there has been an increase in suspected Russian active measures in Norway. Norwegian police detained several Russian citizens in possession of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as well as sensitive picture and video material of critical energy infrastructure. Furthermore, Norwegian police recently arrested a suspected Russian “sleeper” working at the Tromsø University.

    Recent activities follow a pattern of Russian aktivnye meropriyatiya, i.e., active measures or political warfare. The strategy typically includes espionage, sabotage, and propaganda based on foreign policy priorities. This year, Norway became the third largest exporter of oil to the EU and is now the largest seller of gas. Hence, it is likely that recent activity is an attempt to put pressure on Norway and Europe, spurring fear and a sense of imminent threat. However, recent detentions indicate an extensive Russian presence in the country, which has implications for European energy stability. Since the sabotage on the Nord Stream pipelines, there are indeed indicators of Russia making a move in Northern Europe, and Norway in particular. As a NATO-member, the unfolding development will have implications for European and Arctic stability.

    KJ-1: It is highly likely that Russia-linked incidents, such as espionage on Norwegian territory, will continue in the next 3 months.

    In Russia’s institutionalised strategy of aktivnye meropriyatiya, i.e. political warfare, espionage, and sabotage is vital [source].

    • Norway is the major gas supplier to Europe [source].
    • On October 1st gas flowed through the Baltic Pipe from Norway to Poland [source]. The pipeline will increase European energy independence from Russia.
    • In 2022 the number of Russian crossing at the Storskog border doubled [source].
    • In September, unidentified drones were observed above at least 6 Equinor energy installations [source].
    • The observed drones are believed to be operated from nearby vessels or submarines [source].
    • On October 5th, Norwegian armed forces tracked a Russian vessel believed to be used for espionage [source].
    • In late October Norway and Russia reached a Fisheries Agreement for 2023. However, Russia announced that the deal may be put on hold if Norway further tightens its port ban for Russian fishing vessels [source].
    • At least 7 Russian citizens are detained in Norway after flying drones and photographing sensitive locations [source].
    • On October 25th, Norwegian authorities arrested a Brazilian researcher suspected of espionage for Russia [source].
    • Russian government agencies are the main perpetrators behind cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine [source]. Russian cyber capability is illustrated in the attacks on the Ukrainian power grid in 2015 & 2016 [source].

    On October 20th, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre warned of Russia’s threat to the country’s energy infrastructure [source].

    KJ-2: It is highly likely that Russian propaganda intended to generate European discontent towards Norway will increase in the next 3 months.

    • In Russia’s institutionalised strategy of aktivnye meropriyatiya, i.e. political warfare, propaganda is vital [source].
    • In 2020, the European Commission declared Russian disinformation campaigns as the EU’s greatest threat [source].
    • Russia accuses Norway of “war profiteering” within the E.U. because of its profits following the European energy crisis [source].
    • On October 27th Norway announced they oppose the EU proposal to set a dynamic price ceiling for natural gas transactions [source].

    KJ-3: It is highly likely that NATO-presence in Norway monitoring Norwegian territory will increase in the next 3 months.

    • The significance of Norway in the Arctic facing a potential NATO-Russia conflict has reportedly increased [source].
    • As Norway is the major gas supplier in Europe, there is a common interest in protecting its energy infrastructure [source].
    • The observed suspected Russian drones are believed to be operated offshore [source].
    • On September 30th, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre welcomed a NATO detachment to secure critical energy infrastructure [source].
    • On October 31st Norway put its military on raised alert following increased “uncertainties” [source].

    Intelligence Cut-Off date: November 20, 2022

    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren is a student at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm. His main focus area is the Sahel Region and West Africa. Specific interests are asymmetric threats, mainly terrorism, covert action, and cyber threats.

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