Despite Norway’s suspension of military cooperation with Russia in 2014, a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel has made an official visit to Arkhangelsk. The vessel carried a military delegation led by Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde, who heads the Norwegian Joint Headquarters.
During this visit, Norwegian officials spoke with the FSB’s Border Guard Service (the Russian Coast Guard is integrated into the FSB), discussing bilateral cooperation between the two organizations for 2016. The Norwegian delegation has said that such cooperation is important because of shared interest in resource development and is necessary to ensure safe economic practices, coupled with such collaboration helping to promote predictability in regional security.
Norway and Russia have had regular visits since 1994. The continuation of theses visits bode well for cooperation in the Arctic, given the sanctions currently in place. It is important to note that search and rescue as well as environmental response have not been suspended as all eight Arctic nations have signed the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, which entered into force in January 2013. This ensures the legal continuation of search and rescue despite strained relations elsewhere.
What a visit like this symbolizes is a willingness to work together, something Russia has said since military cooperation was ended. Russian Press Secretary at the Embassy to Norway, Petr Svirin was quoted as saying “for us, everything is as before and nothing has changed and we are open and ready to work as before.” Norway has remained pragmatic about the continued cooperation with Russia, with things like this visit and the funding of buoys through the Andreeva Bay. This suggests the core values of the Arctic Council remain strong: regional cooperation in the Arctic despite issues between nations elsewhere in the world.
As the Arctic holds a key role in Russia’s domestic and foreign policy, the Kremlin seems to value continued cooperation in the region quite highly. Moscow has repeatedly stated its willingness to work with other nations in the Arctic and some have responded to that. Continued cooperation there can only benefit all parties interested in the Arctic and can serve as a springboard for an overall improvement of relations between those countries.