It has been part of NATO since 1949, without belonging to the European Union. Norway, a prosperous kingdom of 5.4 million inhabitants, did not hesitate to follow the fifth set of sanctions adopted Thursday, April 7 by the Twenty-Seven, including the ban on the entry of ships flying the Russian flag. in European ports.
No matter the cost
Maritime Affairs Minister Bjørnar Skjæran (Labour) announced that these “restrictive measures” would be transposed into Norwegian law, with, if necessary, some adjustments. This decision has serious consequences for Oslo, which has close ties of cooperation with Moscow on fishing, and dreamed of developing a world-class trade route in the Barents Sea, taking advantage of climate change in the polar region. The shipyards of Kirkenes, a port city on the border, fear the worst, when they could carry out 70% of their activity thanks to Russian orders. Whatever the cost, including the departure of part of the population, local elected officials support the decision to break with Moscow.
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Public opinion and the media are also in tune with the anti-Kremlin line. On April 10, the Amedia press group, faced with the impossibility of continuing its activity in Russia, entrusted four of its printing works to the journalist co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 Dmitry Mouratov, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The same who put the medal of its price at auction, in March, for the benefit of refugees from the war in Ukraine.
Multiplication of signs of support for Ukraine
Norway, the world’s third-largest exporter of natural gas, has promised the EU it will do its best to help reduce Europeans’ dependence on Russian gas – they expect 150 billion euros in revenue in return this year. Last year, the Scandinavian kingdom sent to the Old Continent the third largest shipment in its history (113 billion cubic meters, or a quarter of European imports). Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has modified the exploitation license of three offshore fields to maintain the effort, and the construction of a gas pipeline linking Norway to Poland, a long time suspended, was revived.
The country has multiplied the signs of support for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky was received by videoconference on March 31. Oslo has already dismissed three Russian diplomats, even if the border town of Kirkenes has become with Istanbul in Turkey one of the passageways for Russians wishing to continue to circulate, since the closure of the airlines between Moscow and the West. Since 2012, Russians can indeed come and go without a visa. In 2021, 320,000 trips were made.
At the beginning of April, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl, made the trip to the border region of Finnmark, to present a plan of 10.5 million euros against hybrid threats. “We are proposing a number of measures to secure Norway. We must prevent, detect and counter-intelligence in the face of attempts to sabotage and influence foreign states,” she said.
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The cooling of the relationship between Oslo and Moscow has rekindled fears about the Svalbard archipelago, placed under Norwegian sovereignty, but which also has a strategic value for Moscow. The mining city of Barentsburg (coal) is under Russian exploitation. And the Norwegian coast is a stone’s throw from the port of Severomorsk, where the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, equipped with nuclear submarines, is based.
In mid-March, the Norwegian government also announced a significant increase in its military spending (300 million euros) to strengthen the security of the 196 km border with Russia. Just when the country was hosting major military maneuvers involving 30,000 NATO soldiers.