Arctic Rivalry: Is Norway becoming an American frontline against Russia in the Arctic?

Arctic Rivalry: Is Norway becoming an American frontline against Russia in the Arctic?

[Music] hello and welcome everybody to this new video hello and welcome glenn how are you oh well thanks yourself i’m fine thank you you’re on vacation or you’re already back in business well here the holidays have just come to an end so uh yeah back back to work okay right today we want to talk about the arctic areas and the high north especially here for us in no way it is an important or interesting question all countries with territory in the arctic are connected in the arctic council where they discuss different questions around the arctic our neighbor country russia is a country with the largest territory in the arctic and so it is of course important what kind of relationship we have to our direct neighbor russia and norway has a direct border and of course we have a cooperation in the arctic and the relationship between our two countries during the cold war time was always good or neutral we manage in norway to stand between the soviet union on one side and our nato allies on the other side but the question is how is the relation now and what has changed in this relationship maybe we can start with that well the looking at the arctic is quite important to predict or make assumptions about how uh the relationship between norway and russia will develop because of the norway’s geographical position it’s uh in the high north of europe so so within the western alliance or nato and norway will be will always be a key key actor in terms of an entry point into the arctic so when the arctic is peaceful and cooperative there’s a better opportunity for cooperation and peaceful relations however if the arctic becomes uh an area of uh geopolitical rivalry as it is in the process of becoming then it’s reasonable to expect that norway would very easily become an american frontline against russia and the relations would take a turn to the worst quite quickly so the arctic is a very central aspect to understand the relationship between norway and russia but norway has always been a nato country since 1949 and we managed to balance between the soviet union and our allies the us and the other nato countries was this a problem in cooperation between norway and russia in the arctic or did they find a way to cooperate when it comes to the high north uh well lois had a initially had a difficult balancing act because after the second world war nato was formed with the purpose of containing the soviet union and norway became a member so sweden and finland did not join but norway has a as mentioned before a very important geographical position position due to its long coastline to the arctic which links north america to europe and in this high north this is this yeah i guess the attraction to the strategic importance of norway so it might be considered strange that norway would join nato as uh during second world war it was the germans who invaded norway uh and it was actually the red army that liberated the norwegian terror high territories in the high north uh that being said uh today it’s very common for pundits in norway to argue that the red army did not liberate europe they only replaced the german occupiers however in norway this was simply not the case that is the russians came in liberated the northern parts of the country and then they went home so it doesn’t fit well within the nato narrative but but nonetheless this was kind of our uh the relation and and based on this um norway attempted to develop a balancing position on one hand it argued it would be a good ally to nato and the americans but it would also be a good neighbor to the russians so so again seeking this nato a nato partnership however without provoking the russians and this balancing act initially seemed to work that is norway sets on conditions it was committed to nato by you know no stationing of foreign troops based on norwegian soil uh obviously that’s the most important aspect and no provocations against the russians in the high north so a limited activity there and i say it’s largely it was largely successful because cooperation in the byron sea and arctic appears to be ultrasonic was to some extent immune from this very fierce geopolitical rivalry of the cold war so for a while it it did work but this has gradually been begun to collapse for a variety of reasons which we can discuss nowhere as you say always had the strategy not to have us soldiers or foreign soldiers on norwegian soil now norway or the government of norway has decided to change this policy now we have uh u.s troops stationed in norway u.s nuclear submarines coming to our habits and the city of bergen and in tromso we have a radar station in the high north so we have changed this policy and that is of course obviously for russia too why we have changed this policy because it was very good and positive how it was before why we’ve changed it uh yeah it’s a good question because this this balance norway had between a good ally and a good neighbor has now i would argue been largely abandoned that is uh norway has put his full weight behind the us and nato and the relationship with russia is therefore going from bad to worse at least is a big part of the reason because nowhere no longer attempts to be a good neighbor with russia to the extent it has to reduce uh commitments to the us and nato now it’s good question how did you get to this point obviously the arctic has lately played a key role however there’s been many other reasons why uh for one and this is a bit of a paradox is when the cold war came to an end we began to build down our our military defenses and thus we became increasingly dependent on the united states and once you become too militarily dependent on the foreign power obviously the implication is that you then begin to outsource your foreign policy as well so this excessive dependence on the u.s actually was one of the paradoxes of the end of the cold war now there’s been very little democratic debate in order about for example everything from sanctions policy to this new military adventurism after the cold war uh and effectively norway tends to go on autopilot often when when nobody decides to go to war and so that’s one reason but we also have some ideological reasons so this argument that nato was a force for good after the cold war simply spreading democracy and uh so nato expansionism and military interventionism was simply a common good then it should not be feared by russia indeed uh many people actually believe this which might seem absurd but but this was the leading ideology and also you had the norwegian political class also to some extent getting a little bit obsessed about this idea of punching above its weight so we’re a small country of 5 million people yet we stand on the front line as soon as you know there’s any humanitarian intervention around the world or you know stepping up as the leading nato member this was also an obsession by the political class and um also without the increased value of norwegian territory not to go on on a tangent here but uh for example after the cold war there was growing pressure or push from the united states to develop missile defense in which norwegian territory is very important because radar sounded a territory gave huge footprint into russian territory and also the northern seas are important for ship based uh intercepted missiles if you’re gonna intercept russian missiles going north that is across the arctic so again i don’t want to go too far into it but this this was initially at least through the 2000s a key reason why norway also was well began to change its relationship with uh with russia because uh uh when the cold war came to an end or the or at least when the soviet union collapsed the us wanted to revive missile defense plans to undermine russia’s retaliatory capabilities so what this launch is a first strike on russia then a strategic missile defense shield is entities in humble has the purpose of intercepting any retaliatory strikes from russia that would survive in this first strike so effectively it’s giving nuclear weapons uh an offensive enhancing offensive capabilities now it’s worth noting that one month after this collapse of the soviet union in january 92 that’s when bush senior made the state of the union argument where he said now u.s is the leader of the world and he called for developing missile defense then a month later in february 92 you had the so-called wolf of its doctrine being leaked in the strategic well defense paper of the united states arguing that the u.s should assure no rivals will ever challenge it again and in this document it listed missile defense as a key a key weapon and very specifically because it was named that russia was the only country that could destroy the us so so very much it was very clearly aimed against russia and again also in the 1990s you had these major european capitals warning that this would actually cancel the nuclear balance uh with missile defense uh however once missile defense became a nato asset we saw that the opposition to it began to to recede and you know never mind the amount of evidence if you today argue that missile defense is aimed against russia you’re accused of peddling russian propaganda and and there’s also a lot of evidence in the wikileak cables so how the u.s embassy in norway worked towards making the norwegian political class and media change their critical critical rhetoric about missile defense so so all of this was uh well effectively both from from norway’s own position but also the increased value for the americans increasingly made norway more and more important within within nato so today i would say this has only increased now with the growing relevance of the arctic but today this former balance between being a good neighbor and uh and a good ally has been completely abandoned and as you mentioned this traditional base politics of norway as well not having no foreign basis on our country has no now also recently well de facto been abandoned by accepting u.s bases on norwegian soil let us take one more look to norway and especially to the population in norway for me it looks like that the citizens of nowhere are very divided in two in the south in the capital we have the government and they are of course a strong supporters of nato and like this transatlantic cooperation in the north we have the direct border with russia and people are much more connected to russia and related to russia through sports club cultural clubs to trade and work so for me it looks like norway is a little bit divided what do you think people mostly think about these changed policy with foreign troops on norwegian ground do you have any idea uh well it is important to point out that whenever we speak about countries as unitary actors it’s worth noting that within the countries there’s obviously differences now in the north you have [Music] more friendly attitudes towards russia now for many reasons one obviously in filmmaking you know being liberated by the red army during the second world war that that obviously helps but also because it’s in the north where there’s more human contact there’s shared borders and whenever you have more human contact uh this you know demonized version of the adversary it tends to fade away a bit and uh you know more commercial ties as well so there’s uh there’s a lot of reasons why in the north they would not share this i would say russophobia which uh which tends to run a bit rampant down south where the capital is located so we often see that uh yeah in the south the nato narrative tends to to to dominate so uh as i mentioned before this idea that you know russia doesn’t in second world war doesn’t liberate anyone it just reoccupied it never liberates anyone just you know conquerors territory and you know this is what is often peddled in the south or believed in the south because this is where the nato narrative dominates but in the north obviously they’re hard to convince them of this as this was not the norwegian experience we you know we were not poland uh so um there are definitely differences uh yeah across the country um you already talked about the us army strategy and the u.s army interest in norway as territory um and we can imagine that the troops will only increase in in the next years is there also an economic interest in the arctic areas or is it only military interest there well it’s uh quickly becoming more more militarized i know more more economic interests uh but yeah just like what you said with this growing um interest in in norway because this i would point that this has been very gradual over the time over time because uh initially you had you know upgrading of this radar in up invited which is important to get this footprint in russian territory then we saw more more nato exercises in the north closer to russian borders and then we had u.s military access uh well temporary to the strategic island of yanmayan which is important to intercept russian ships and submarines and only was it last year we had earlier this year you had the accommodation of u.s warships sailing through the bayern sea up in the north for the first time since the 80s so and before that we began hosting u.s troops on the road uh rotating basis this has ended now though or they were asked to withdraw and then recently we had this case now where norway fully abandoned its military-based policy so by granting the u.s several military bases on norwegian soil without ability to inspect them so so so we we we gradually see that this has been this yeah uh process um and what was yes you asked the economics of it yes what i mean is there an interest in economic interest of the us also in the arctic areas yes well definitely because what we discussed so far was the the military interests from the early 90s through the 2000s but um it has been big changes in the arctic uh most importantly the ice is melting and us retreating from the northern coastlines now this is very important because it makes the arctic much more accessible but once it becomes accessible it also has economic gains to be made there and as these economic gains become obvious there’s more attraction if not for geopolitical conflict than at least than for geo-economic conflict so obviously russia has the largest arctic power and it has two major interests in the arctic number one would be energy extraction as the arctic is full of energy resources and this could further elevate russia’s position as an energy superpower something the u.s is not happy about and the second would be that as the arctic is melting and becoming more accessible russia wants to develop a transportation corridor between east asia and europe so this has been called the northern sea route by the russians and it offers a much faster and cheaper mode of transport between asia and and europe so obviously russia seeks investments and partners in this project because they need to develop all this supporting infrastructure however as we know the west is stuck in this sanctions war against russia which you can’t withdraw from so russia therefore looks towards china and uh and the arctic is therefore becoming a central part of this so-called greater eurasian partnership between the chinese and the russians and as we saw in 2008 18 sorry 2018 china released its first white paper on the arctic where it referred to this russia’s northern sea route or the arctic corridor as the polar silk road now this very clearly conceptualized the arctic within this trillion-dollar belt and road initiative which the chinese have to integrate the entire eurasian space and so so not only is there huge economic gains to be made in terms of energy resources and transportation but it’s also within the format of chinese russian cooperation and this also will be the first major maritime corridor in the world that the u.s cannot control and dominate so there’s a lot of at stake here both and the military and the geo-economic aspect so uh so yeah so i would say that for this reason a lot of the conflicts are shifting more towards the economic but as we know military instruments of power can still be used in economic competition and and this is kicard the united states can play if while using that norway as a frontline antarctic let us talk a little bit more about the northern sea route for china especially it is important because they producing all the products were delivered to europe and the northern sea route will shorten down the transportation time for russia you said already it’s important because russia will provide all the infrastructure on this route but also for norway and the countries in scandinavia maybe finland and sweden it would be a very important and interesting project because all ships who are coming through this route will come along the norwegian coast so it should be in important or interesting for norway too or not well it it could be there’s been several of disability studies however not all all the all the ships who come through norway russia also have a murmansk where they can shift into a bimodal format where it’s where this cargo is transitioned to rail for example so uh but but norway uh and and finland has a lot to gain from this project obviously because they would become them key nodes of this uh or the sea route as a key link in this transportation corridor so i think it was the mayor of the shirkness northern town in norway who who stated that they hoped that their town would become the next singapore i think that was the mayor of singapore not sorry the mayor of shirkness but i think this is a bit overblown i don’t think it will become the next singapore but it kind of demonstrates how important it can be to be a key node in an international transportation corridor so i would say there’s a lot of opportunities to be found there but it’s also an area where norwegian and american interests are are separated because for the united states it’s not ideal to have key allies being tied up in a chinese russian transportation network so uh so this is uh yeah much like in other parts of the world and in europe an area where interests are diverging uh so this is one of the problem outsourcing a foreign policy to another country with the assumption that the interests are always the same when we see that there is some divergence um otherwise i from from the feasibility studies i’ve read there’s it seems more likely that finland would take a more prominent role uh in such a corridor if it goes through murmansk and then by land cutting into finland that being said norway obviously could play a key role in this project um are there any discussions in norway at all about these possibilities about the development of this northern silk road well that’s part of the the paradox of these uh of these sanctions that is uh we we joined in on all the sanctions against russia which means that the russia is now you know developing this will develop this with china instead and uh also the broader geostrategic framework russia is now prioritizing its work with china so uh so for so for this reason um we yeah we we tend to uh exclude ourselves from these possibilities and then at the same time once russia works with china instead we look towards this big threat of russian chinese cooperation so it’s uh we push we put ourselves in a very difficult position and i would also add again that the united states and and norway have not the same interest but also not the same positions if we look at how the united states is uh is preparing or currently seeking to confront or undermine this uh this northern uh sea route this arctic route as well as russia’s extraction of energy resources which we could also join in on uh it must be added that the united states uh does not actually hasn’t actually ratified the us necessarily the u.n convention on the law of the sea so the united states therefore does not recognize russia’s but also canada’s arctic maritime carriage territories so for this reason they designate this sea to these countries as as international waters and international waters they will insist on the freedom of navigation which means they will sail their ships through and deny russia but also in canada exclusive rights for these waters um now this is interesting because norway has ratified the us convention below the sea however it seems nonetheless that norway will then because of this new frontline position against russia will become a key partner with the u.s for the u.s to access what it calls international water so there’s there’s some lack of consistency and [Music] this is further being pushed as the united states envisions this role for nato to take a key role as a security organization in arctic uh it would further uh i guess militarize an area which was previously defined mostly by peaceful cooperation so i’m i am i i doubt that norway will play a significant role in this which means our losses to some extent as not following how the world is rapidly changing yes but this small but very important detail that the us not has signed this u.n convention could lead to very dangerous situations in front of the norwegian coast and for some weeks ago we saw already that the british navy ship and the black sea was really close to the crimean coast and the brit said that uh these are international waters crimea or russia said these are our waters so this situation could lead to misunderstandings um and to really dangerous situations directly along than which in coast or not yes and you kind of have to put this into a larger historical context because russian history has largely been a tale about gaining access to being able to modernize getting access to international shipping lanes i mean ever since uh peter the great established st petersburg on the baltic sea in the early 1700s uh russia was kind of without any maritime corridors ever since the invasion of the mongols so for the past 300 years then it’s been a policy by the united kingdom and then the united states to deny russia access to waterways and uh and this has been very open policy um yeah for now 300 years and after the cold war is a policy that i would argue have continued you see nato has expanded up the baltic sea by including baltic states nato is now working very hard towards making the baltic sorry the black sea nato lake which is part of the posturing happening there and it just makes sense also to push harder in to the arctic where russia now looks like it will be the main the main arctic power being able to administer and control the key transportation corridor between east asia and europe so uh so it yeah so there the precedent is there and it it seems very safe to predict that this is an area where the united states but obviously also britain as it seeks uh you know to revive a global role uh russia obviously they’re doing the same not just in the black sea or the arctic they’re also doing the same along the chinese coast as well so this effort to control the waterways is something that will continue and something that will provoke a lot of tensions especially at a time now that russia and china are coming closer together and coordinating their their policies in order to deny the united states this this hegemonic role if you want okay all the countries who have areas in the arctic are connected in the organization of the arctic council there are eight countries i think it’s all the scandinavian countries included denmark because of greenland um it’s iceland it’s russia it’s of course uh canada and the us um the last meeting of the arctic council on the level of foreign ministers was in may this year and all the speeches from the ministers are available online on the website of the arctic council i’ve read some of them and when i read them i get the impression that there are no problems everybody wants the same an environment a stable sustainable area a peaceful arctic so what is this organization about it what kind of things are discussed in the arctic council well the arctic council kind of had a low profile for a while because it wasn’t really an area of geopolitical competition as you mentioned a lot of the focus was uh environmental protection for protecting indigenous people being a format for cooperation between the different arctic powers so while other parts of the world were enrolled in a lot of conflicts arctic cooperation kind of still functioned simply because there wasn’t that many zero some interest and competition and um and uh yeah um was it about two years ago i wrote an article in one of the big bigger papers in norway when i made this argument that this is going to change very quickly that norway’s being cultivated into a front line there and uh and this was criticized us well obviously as russian propaganda but but as we’ve seen now over the last two years there’s been this a big effort to uh yeah to to make the arctic more of an area of competition and you see this also displayed in the arctic council so i think it was in 2019 when you had a u.s secretary of state pompeo who showed up at the arctic to a directory council to make a speech and again it was very much yeah not not consistent with the usual uh discourse which is heather which is this area of absolute gain and cooperation for a common good instead he used it as an opportunity to you know explain that uh you know china and russia or you know belligerent powers they should be confronted and and again very much uh beating their wardrobes in this arctic council which has always had this very low profile not [Music] not really been a venue for geopolitical uh competition and the arctic council is always led by one of the member countries um the last two years it was iceland and now this year in may russia was taking over so russia will lead the council in the next two years do you think there will be much more attention on the atlantic council and maybe also in the press much more propaganda against russia as the leader of this council or what do you think uh there could be i would be yeah be cautious about making predictions of it because uh um like i said the traditional antarctic council has tried to stay away from this kind of a very confrontational language uh the pompeo speech of 2019 i referred to that even took the american nato allies by surprise this was you know very it was not a place a discussion so it’s uh it it it could uh the rhetoric could uh change or the art they can uh it’s hard to say if it will happen now during the or once uh on now that russia’s leading it but but the overall trend as uh economic interest keeps growing in the arctic uh one would make a fair assumption to to expect more um more rivalry but also for the information war to to continue to intensify more propaganda more accusations and unfortunately a lot of what the arctic council does which is this building of trust and yeah scientific work uh environmental work all of this might uh suffer if this is the case when we talk about the northern sea route of course russia and china are the countries are most interested in that and so that will not be maybe a big discussion in the arctic council um military questions are not discussed or security questions in the arctic are not discussed in the um in the arctic council um so there are not so much topics they can talk about maybe this is not so an important organization no but again it comes in the context of wider changes in the world so as mentioned before russian china now increasingly cooperating what they refer to as the greater eurasian partnership now part of this part of this project well it has many layers they’re looking towards developing anything from strategic industries new transportation corridors and financial instruments but within the trans within the transportation sphere uh this arctic order falls within a larger project and as we’ve seen over the last years now the first united states dismissed a lot of these infrastructure projects transportation corridors as being something temporary that would flop but now that the chinese are i put trillions of dollars in it to rewire the the transportation infrastructure of the eurasian continent we see that the u.s is stepping up and becoming more and more vocal in its efforts to to to stop it or slow it down and set up alternatives so obviously for the chinese they pushed very hard this uh this transportation network throughout eurasia so some going south through the middle east going through central asia going through russia connecting itself closer with europe the russians are doing the same now also east-west but they’re also going north-south from you know russia iran and india but uh a key project in this entire trillion-dollar effort over re-wiring or restructuring eurasia has been this uh arctic corridor russia is very attractive because um at times it can play second fiddle to the chinese due to the different economic sizes but in this area this is russian territory it’s russian waters uh here it’s uh it’s a opportunity for russia to to play at least an equal role and uh and and it’s obviously top of the list of areas where the united states can try to confront russia and china under this claim of you know freedom of navigation into what it calls international water so i think as this as this efforts to push back against the greater eurasian partnership i think there will be probably this will be expressed to a greater extent in the arctic council but it will also be an area where we see that european and american interests might not coincide that much anymore so it will be interesting to see if the europeans will follow the americans you know in confronting projects which the europeans could actually benefit from um so in the end we are coming to the question of the start again what can we do in norway and how we should react um in cooperation with our biggest neighbor russia and of course as a nato ally um we are standing a little bit in the middle and if we don’t have an own policy and no own ideas uh what we want then it will be very difficult for norway um in this world so what do you think what should norway do well the interest of norway is not to you know do the biddings of either the united states or russia of course it’s great to have relationship with both u.s and russia but norway should not you know pursue what’s necessarily russian interest instead the point of departure should be what is in norway’s interest so where is our security interest where’s our economic interests and in terms of security this uh you know building up to or converting norway into this front line against russia is obviously not in our interest and also economically this idea of connections with russia but also china in order to cement our partnerships with americans also not necessarily in our interests so i think the point of departure should be for norway to clearly define what are the norwegian interests and thereafter uh look towards how based on this we can cooperate with the americans how we can cooperate with the russians and others it seems like we’re starting at a at the wrong end we’re effectively saying no all our interests are tied up with united states which means we’re now outsourcing a lot of foreign policy and whenever u.s and norwegian interest actually becomes divergent uh we will effectively ignore norwegian interest and just work as a vessel for the united states and i think this is a uh yeah not not an ideal position to take for for any country so again the point of departure any discussion should be first defining what are norway’s national interests and then use this as a foundation for developing a policy instead of going on this you know nato first policy always and i think what we will find if we take such an approach is that norway’s national interest will best be defined by restoring this balance we have before be a good ally to nato members but also be a good neighbor towards the russians if we can get our way back into this position i think it would be much better both for the norwegian security as well as our economic interests as you say we have managed it in the whole cold war time to be a part between east and west we have had good relationships to our nato partners and good relationships um to russia um so we have managed it in many years but but now it looks like that we have no idea how what we want what we really want and what it’s good for our development in our country yes no it’s uh i think norway we like the idea of being a bridge between the west and the russia however we have to be honest what has been occurring over the past especially the last 30 years and that’s been we’ve been developing more and more as a wall as a frontline i think this is a very unfortunate development which is not in the norwegian interests and so again if there’s a way back to this restoring this balance between a good ally and good neighbor that was a sound policy which has unfortunately has been abandoned and yeah we could pay a price for this as as the power in the world keeps shifting okay glenn thank you i think we have got an overview of this topic it is very important and we will see what will happen in the future um so thank you for today and thank you for watching and please subscribe our channel and we’ll see you soon again with a new video thank you glenn and goodbye [Music] you
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Arctic Rivalry: Is Norway becoming an American frontline against Russia in the Arctic?

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