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Arctic Yearbook 2012
State of the Arctic Strategies and Policies – A Summary
The Norwegian Government has built its High North Strategy on the general perception
that the main feature of the geopolitics of the Arctic region in the early 21
century is
stability and peaceful cooperation; not a ‘race’ for energy resources nor emerging conflicts,
or the return to a cold war, although Russia has increased its military activities in the Arctic.
Therefore, it makes great sense to emphasize the development of knowledge, to promote
sustainable use of natural resources and business, and to maintain state sovereignty by
strengthening cross-border cooperation (with Russia) in the North.
Based on and following from this, it is not surprising that perhaps the most progressive part
of the High North Strategy, particularly in the 2006 version, is Norway’s focus on Russia and
cooperation with Russia. Indeed, objectives in that regard are numerous, ambitious and
concrete. In several places, for example, references are made to how Norway plans on
building and engaging its Russian partners. The text is progressive, almost aggressive, at
times in the way it calls on an active Russian participation in cooperation. This indicates the
significant shift in the Norwegian foreign policy in the early 1990s – after the end of the
Cold War period and the collapse of the Soviet Union – towards decreasing military tension
and increasing stability in the European North. These objectives have led to establishing the
BEAR between the Nordic countries and Russia, and enhancing bilateral functional
cooperation with Russia and its neighbors. As a consequence, this ultimate aim gained some
ground, when in September 2010 Norway and Russia managed to reach an official
agreement by their Treaty of Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and
the Arctic Ocean.
The Norwegian Government also aims to develop marine industries and business activities,
particularly petroleum-based business activities, and therefore defines “the High North as a
(new) petroleum province”, in cooperation with Russia, as a part of promoting sustainable
use of off-shore petroleum and renewable marine resources (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, 2009: 18). Furthermore, it describes its determination to be “the best steward of
resources in the High North” (ibid: 13, 55). The premise for this is energy security on which
the Strategy states that globally “energy is becoming more clearly defined as a part of security
policy”, and further that “it is clear that climate change will have an impact on the security of
countries and people all over the world” (ibid: 14).