Norway, Relations with

   As a result of the Soviet annexation of Finland’s Petsamo (Pechenzhskii raion) region, Norway and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) gained a common border in 1946. Three years later, Norway abandoned four decades of neutrality and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an original member, creating a tense relationship with the USSR. This rivalry grew in intensity with the establishment of the Warsaw Treaty Organization in 1955 and the discovery and exploitation of oil in the Barents Sea. However, Oslo generally pursued a pragmatic approach to the Kremlin during the Cold War, deemphasizing the defense of its Finnmark region adjacent to the Murmansk Oblast and rejecting proposals to host nuclear weapons on its soil (though Norway was and is a major site for radar installations monitoring Russian military movements).
   Under glasnost, Russian-Norwegian exchanges greatly expanded, being based upon cultural commonalities of the Fenno-Scandinavian Peninsula and resumption of cross-border trade. Cooperation on joint energy projects has helped improve relations between the two counties since 1991. Norway has also proved to be an effective facilitator of improved NATO-Russian relations in the post-Soviet era. During the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000, the Norwegian navy provided substantial aid to Russia. Recently, competition for Arctic Ocean resources (particularly fossil fuels and fisheries) and delimitation of maritime borders has come to the fore in bilateral relations. Environmental concerns also impact relations; Oslo is particularly sensitive to transborder pollution from Norilsk Nickel’s smelting in Russia’s extreme northwest.
   A significant number of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians reside in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard on Spitsbergen, a situation allowed under the Paris Treaty of 1920. Under the Putin administration, settlement and investment has increased after a decade of stagnation. In 2008, the Russian navy conducted war games off the coast of Bergen, much to dismay of NATO and Norway. Conservative politicians in Norway have been particularly critical of Moscow’s actions in the Caucasus, suggesting such moves represent a resurgence of Russian imperialism that might eventually be directed at Norway.
   See also Baltic States.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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