The Peaceful Viking Gets Angry

It’s been a long time since the Russian media dubbed Norway’s Prime Minister Yens Stoltenberg the Peaceful Viking. Way back in 2005, Stoltenberg sided with the Russians over the proposed US missile shield in Poland, and seemed willing to negotiate over the tricky issue of Russian development in the ecologically sensitive and economically robust Barents Sea.

But when it comes to Russia, Norway isn’t so peaceful these days. A recent report penned by Stoltenberg’s father, Thorvald (himself a prominent politician), entitled Nordic Cooperation on Foreign and Security Policy, was presented to the Nordic Council in mid-February. It essentially called for a new Nordic alliance to keep a watchful eye over the Arctic, and especially the Russians, whose grand plans for resource extraction in the region have been the subject of much speculation. The report was greeted with enthusiasm by Norway’s neighbors, who will debate its viability at a summit of Nordic foreign ministers in May.

Yesterday, on the heels of news about the near intrusion of two Russian bombers into Canadian airspace in late February, the Canadian press revisited the report, disputing Russia’s rhetorical posturing that such a Nordic “declaration of solidarity” is not, in fact, a harbinger of Arctic militarization.

And last week, another story in the Canadian press broke down the long odds of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, and the challenges posed by Russian posturing:

“The North Pole is considered an international site and isadministered by the International Seabed Authority. But if a countrycan prove its underwater shelf is an extension of its continentalborder, then it can claim an economic zone based on that.

“And that’s what Russia is doing by systematically charting the reachof its Lomonosov underwater shelf. As a spokesman for its Arctic andAntarctic Institute said, ‘It’s like putting a flag on the moon.’

“For Canadians, of course, this is more like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”