Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will make an official visit to Moscow in May, and Arctic issues will likely sit high on the agenda. At a ceremony for officially receiving new ambassadors to Russia, whose members include new Norwegian Ambassador Knut Hauge, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced:

We seek to strengthen our multifaceted ties with Norway, our good neighbour to the north. We plan to continue building up our partnership, including in the energy sector. Russia and Norway have very [sic] broad scope for developing bilateral relations through cooperation in the Arctic. I plan to discuss all of these matters with Prime Minister Stoltenberg when he comes to Moscow in May.

(Official press release in English and Russian.)

But Medvedev’s niceties cannot overshadow ignore the elephant in the room: Nordic plans for military cooperation, if not outright joint defense. The Stoltenberg Report, authored by the prime minister’s father, Thorvald Stoltenberg, will be officially discussed by the Nordic countries in May, around the same time as the Norwegian visit to Russia. Concerns over Russia, particularly in light of the country’s recent activities, are evidently one of the reasons behind the Nordic countries’ plans to mutually strengthen their defenses.

On the other hand, the Kremlin – never one to be outmanoeuvred – may also use this Nordic cooperation as a forum to meet simultaneously with five countries, which together exert considerable influence in the Arctic, outside of NATO. Russia would be able to discuss major issues in the Arctic with key players without North American interference.

Furthermore, playing in Russia’s favor, the Nordic states have a history of attempting to reach peaceful solutions with Russia. Norway’s border with Russia has endured for hundreds of years, while the two countries have together enjoyed 1,000 years of peace. Historically, Finland has attempted to avoid antagonizing Russia at almost any cost, which is one of the reasons why it has not joined NATO. Therefore, it could turn out that perhaps the Russians might not just accept, but actually even welcome, furthered cooperation among the Nordic 5- if only because it would divert their resources away from NATO.

Nordic Cooperation in the Arctic. Copyright Aftenposten.
Nordic Cooperation in the Arctic. Click to Enlarge. © Aftenposten.

The map from Aftenposten, posted above, illustrates the various facets of Nordic cooperation. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden also plan to work together outside of the domain of military affairs in the Arctic. For instance, they plan to establish an Arctic satellite observation system for both surveillance and communication purposes, and monitor the ocean’s health, as the map illustrates. The countries are particularly eager to share their expertise in areas such as the environment in the Arctic – another area in which Russia could stand to benefit.

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