Reykjavிக்k (VG) Foreign ministers from Russia, Norway, the United States and the five countries around the Arctic are discussing future cooperation, while a large NATO navy travels north across the Norwegian Sea and conducts defense training against missiles from Russia. Especially.
The current meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland clearly shows how hard NATO and Russia stand against each other, while those countries are looking for areas where they can work more closely together.
On Wednesday afternoon, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Norwegian counterpart Eene Eriksen Seride (H) held intensive talks on the deteriorating security policy climate in the High North.
– It is important to update each other about the growth we see in our local areas. We see Russia’s vocabulary tightening against friendly actions in the north and against the security pact between Norway and the United States, Eriksen Serid Reykjavik tells VG.
– This is an unsubstantiated vocabulary, our cooperation with NATO and the United States is well known to Russia and has been at the center of Norway’s defense policy since 1949, he adds.
Russia is leading
On Thursday, Russia will accept the post of chairman of the Arctic Council, which will be the venue for eight foreign ministers to meet in Iceland: Russia, the United States, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
But on the way to Reykjavik, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has issued harsh statements against several countries. He warns that he criticizes the security agreement, a US submarine trip to the Troms and NATO’s withdrawal to the Arctic, which he believes will increase militarization.
– They say stability and forecasting are needed. Lavrov said Monday that if sanctions were predictable, we would not need them, in response to Blingen’s statements to test Russia’s willingness to have a more predictable relationship with Russia.
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Missile defense test
This is part of the political context in which NATO is now expanding its core exercise, “Formidable Shield 21”, from the islands outside Scotland to the Isle of Man.
One stated purpose is to test and demonstrate NATO’s ability to defend against missiles at supersonic speeds. The Norwegian warship “Friedzof Nanson” participates in this exercise.
– Our participation in such exercises is a known result of our NATO members. But unlike the Russians, we are completely open about our military action, says Erickson Serid.
– No military threat from Russia to Norway. But we see them developing new weapons systems. It is natural for NATO to receive training in situations where such weapons can be used. That is the job of NATO. We don’t think that will happen. But we have to be prepared, he says.
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Increased military activity
– But isn’t it true that Russia has more military operations from NATO countries and the United States in the north?
– The United States, but the United Kingdom and the Netherlands provide more training in the North. He says this is a response to Norway’s challenge to NATO to maintain more reserves in the north since 2008.
Erickson Charlotte also recalls how Russia has developed into a military power in recent years:
– We must not forget that this is a response to the fact that Russia has significantly increased its military operations in the north and developed new military capabilities. This is not illegal. But it is a mixture of that and one community, where space for criticism and opposition is narrowing, and Russia is violating international laws such as annexing Crimea and attempting to poison it. It is important to include the whole picture – at the same time we have a good cooperation with common interests, says the Foreign Minister.
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At the Arctic Council, member states will not discuss security policy, but will act with challenges to climate and environment, stability and economic development for people living in the high north.
– In my experience, Russia makes creative use of the Arctic Council. These are areas where good cooperation can be found. My guess is that Russia has put a lot of energy into the preparation for its presidency, says Erickson Serid.
– Is Blinken consulting with Norway before talking to Russia?
– We spend more time with Americans trying to strike a balance between prevention and commitment. We are not just talking about fisheries management generating NOK 10 billion worth for each party every year, we are also talking about the good cooperation we have with Russia in key areas. “We, the neighbors, want to cooperate, but we also make it clear where we are in the security policy,” he said.
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In his first days as president of the United States in January, Joe Biden introduced a suspension of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic to Alaska – saying that other Arctic states would like to do the same in their northern regions.
That proposal was not repeated by the United States in collaboration with the Arctic Council.
– It was mostly a domestic policy initiative and there was a strong disagreement within the United States. I also think they have received some feedback from Arctic countries that this is not a forum to discuss issues like this. America did not bring it with us. Norwegian Foreign Minister says that is not even a topic in today’s meeting with Blingen.
Lavrov announced that he would like to meet with security leaders in the Arctic Council countries and that he would like to cooperate with the Arctic Council. Is that a good idea?
– No, this is not a good idea and I do not enjoy the support I get from the Arctic colleagues I met today. For the most part, the Arctic Council’s value is not part of the security policy debate, says Ericsson Seride VG.