Would Norway be happier with Finland and Sweden in NATO?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. In the time of Russia-Ukraine conflict how would you in general describe Russia-Norway relations, how much is Norway worried of Russia’s behavior?

2. Does Norway has any interest to get Sweden and Finland to NATO?

Answers:

Paal Hilde, Associate Professor, Centre for Norwegian and European Security, Institute for Defence Studies/Norwegian Defence University College

1.  To answer this question, it is necessary to give a little bit of background. Norway has a short land border (196 km) and a very long maritime border with Russia. The latter in particular has necessitated quite close cooperation in all political climates. Even during the Cold War, there was cooperation on many aspects of mutual interests. One example was cooperation on regulation/management of fisheries in the Barents Sea from the early 1970s. In the post-Cold War period, the Ukraine crisis represents the deepest crisis in relations between the “West” (NATO/EU) and Russia. This also affects Norwegian relations with Russia. While Russia is seemingly keen to maintain “business as usual” in relations, Norway has followed the EU in terms of imposing sanctions, and has like other NATO countries stopped military-to-military relations. Norway has, however, maintained cooperation on the same kind of mutually shared interests as during the Cold War: fishery management, search-and-rescue, oil spill prevention/management, coast guard-to-coast guard relations, the “hotline” between the Norwegian military operational command and its regional Russian counterparts etc. This cooperation seems to continue unhindered and untroubled.

So in short, Norway’s relations with Russia are at a low point due to restrictions imposed by Norway as a reaction to the Ukraine crisis, with remaining relations mainly tied to “necessary” cooperation in order to save lives and protect the natural environment.

How worried is Norway by Russia’s behaviour? While a traditional military threat from Russia is generally considered unlikely in Norway, the is (and has “always” been) a concern that a dispute over for instance fishery management, or a close encounter between military aircraft or vessels, should trigger use of military force by Russia. The fact that Russia in Ukraine again has shown that it is willing to use military force against neighbouring countries, is naturally very worrisome in Norwegian eyes. Norway’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis is traditional in the sense that Norway has strengthened its policy of engaging NATO, and the United States in particular. The aim of this policy is to send a signal to Russia that Norway’s security is guaranteed by NATO.
Again, in short, the Ukraine crisis increased concerns in Norway about Russia, but not led to a major shift in security policy.

2.   From a Norwegian perspective, Swedish and Finish membership in NATO would be very welcome. Amongst other, it would probably ease military cooperation among the Nordic countries, as they would all be covered by the same collective defence clause (Article 5).

Magnus Nordenman, Deputy Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council

1. Russia and Norway had for many years a very productive relationship in the High North, where the two countries cooperated on Arctic environmental protection, search and rescue at sea and so forth.

In the wake of the Ukraine crisis Norway has cancelled those types of interactions. Norway is increasingly concerned about the security situation in the High North, but can hardly be called alarmist. But Norway is taking the new security environment seriously and is spending increasingly more time and effort on security close to home, and is also looking to increase the readiness levels of its forces.

2. Yes, Norway would very much welcome Swedish and Finnish NATO membership. Indeed, Norway has clearly articulated to both countries that they currently fall outside NATO’s collective defense guarantees and that will not change unless they become members.

Oslo is unlikely, however, to try to push Finland and Sweden into making a decision about membership. The Norwegians realize that this would be unhelpful for the domestic NATO debates in Sweden and Finland.

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