Oslo Files on defence and security no. 1/2009
Title: Norwegian foreign policy in the High North. International cooperation in the High North.
Author: Ole Andreas Lindeman
The external dimensions of Norway’s new policy for the north and the strategy underpinning it are the focus of this study. First, Norway’s long-standing security and sovereignty interests in Northern ocean areas are examined. Second, the vision of a Northern energy province, and the prospect of achieving a sense of shared interests and community in the region are investigated. Third, domestic forces behind Russian sovereigntism are looked into, including examples of diverging and converging security and energy interests in Northwest Russia. Finally, the study seeks to determine the significance of the High North as geopolitical space for Russia, and how this may infuse unsettled disputes with additional meaning.
Norway’s High North policy rests on two main external orientations: one is to intensify and broaden relations with Russia in the North; the other is to create a greater understanding in Western partners and allies for Norway’s position on the unsettled sovereignty issues in the region. While the ambitions fuelling Norway’s political strategy for the North are still high, the realisation is seeping in that substantial advances in cooperation in the North may call for a greater sense of community than is currently the case. The study also suggests that state identity and interests in the North are pervasive, and may hinder more binding cooperation, functional integration and regime compliance.
Whereas security was previously the overarching contextual reality of the High North, firmly keeping issues of sovereign rights within legal confines, this may now have been inverted. Questions of territorial sovereignty seem to be gaining in geopolitical significance. A greater awareness of energy as a means to exert state power affects relations between Russia and the West, including Norway. Although bilateral cooperation with Russia within practical enforcement in and regulation of ocean areas is steadily progressing, the chances remain remote of finally solving the most difficult issues of sovereignty. The High North Policy may not be as at fault as the high expectations and ambitions associated with it. It could be time to bring the politics of sovereignty more to the fore.
Ole Andreas Lindeman (b. 1962) has read political science and Russian. In 2006–07, when the main research for this study was conducted, he was a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.