5: Environmental and resource cooperation
In addition to Barents co-operation, both countries have focused on other forms of bilateral and multilateral co-operation in the north. An important and dangerous part of the legacy of the Soviet era is large amounts of nuclear waste collected on the Kola Peninsula not far from the Norwegian-Russian border. Because environmental problems do not take into account national borders, according to LOCALCOLLEGEEXPLORER, the waste situation was seen as a common Norwegian-Russian matter. Therefore, the Norwegian authorities decided to spend significant resources on helping Russia solve the environmental problems on Kola – problems related to the treatment and storage of nuclear waste from discarded Soviet submarines. In addition, there were environmental problems created by Russian industry on the Kola Peninsula, primarily in the town of Nikel, which is close to the border.
An important part of the environmental cooperation between Norway and Russia is a joint management of fishery resources in the north. This cooperation in the fisheries sector began as early as the 1950s, but the current cooperation is based on two agreements from 1975 and 1976, respectively, on mutual fisheries cooperation. The agreements oblige both countries to balanced and sustainable management of common fishery resources – not to harvest more of the fish stocks than they can withstand in the long term. Admittedly, some disagreements have arisen, which have, among other things, resulted in the arrest of Russian trawlers. But by and large, this cooperation has worked well and is seen as an important instrument for ensuring sustainable development in the north, despite the fact that Norway and Russia have different views on where the sea border between the two countries should go, and how to interpret The Svalbard Treaty.
6: Energy cooperation
There are many reasons why Norway is important from a Russian energy perspective: Norway is…
- the world’s third largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Russia.
- the second largest in Europe, after Russia and also among the largest gas exporters globally.
- responsible for the management of fishery resources in Europe’s largest economic zone, which can be used as an export route for Russian oil and gas from the north.
- the country in the world that has managed its energy revenues best, which means that Norway has become a significant public and private capital exporter and a role model for countries facing similar challenges. The Norwegian model of pre-management of energy revenues is viewed with great interest in Russia.
Based on all these energy-related conditions, Russia can consider Norway either as a possible partner or as a competitor in the European and global energy market.
From the Norwegian side, it is desirable to make energy cooperation with Russia a mainstay in relations between the two countries. Until October 2006, many on the Norwegian side hoped that Statoil and Hydro could be invited by the Russian state giant Gazprom to join the development of the huge Shtokman gas field 600 km north of Murmansk. In October 2006, when Gazprom announced its plans, it turned out that there would not be any of this cooperation that Norway had invested so much in. Gazprom’s decision to develop Shtokman on its own was met with great disappointment in Norway and considered a downturn in bilateral relations with Russia.
This was especially the case after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. At that time, both the West and Russia were hit by something that was both interpreted as a wave of Islamist terrorism. But after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2003), in which the West supported one candidate and Russia another, relations between them have cooled significantly. This is not a new cold war, but some have begun to refer to the relationship as characterized by cold peace. And the fact that Norway was not invited to participate in the development of Sjtokman, can definitely be interpreted as a cold shoulder. This does not necessarily mean that the bilateral relationship has deteriorated much, because today it is characterized by a large degree of “normality”.
7: Human dimension
The increased intergovernmental cooperation with Russia has also resulted in closer contact between both societies, both in the north and elsewhere. One way to measure this is to look at the number of border crossings at the Norwegian-Russian border. In Soviet times, there were only a couple of thousand border crossings a year. Traffic increased to over 80,000 crossings both ways in 1992, to 131,000 in 1999, however with a reduction to 106,000 in 2005 and 2006. Many Russian citizens visit Norway both as tourists – this group is actually the fastest growing group of foreign tourists who come here to the country – and as immigrants – to get away from problems at home.
In the period 1999–2005, a significant number of Russian citizens, mainly with a Chechen background, came to Norway to seek protection against abuse in Russia. Throughout the post-Soviet period, there have also been relatively many Russian women who have come to Norway to marry Norwegian. It is estimated that 7–8% of the population in Sør-Varanger is of Russian descent, and much of the sharp increase is due to migration from nearby Russian areas. After 1991, immigrants from Russia have been one of the fastest growing immigrant groups – in January 2007, there were 11,338 people of Russian origin living in Norway. Perhaps this human capital can help to improve relations between Norway and Russia after the so far last – and hopefully short – “cooling off”?