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Security in the Arctic – a Norwegian perspective

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Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends, good morning.

It is an honour for me to address such a distinguished audience.

Please allow me to start by thanking the organisers for putting the Arctic on the agenda in this impressive way.

Just like Iceland, Norway is situated in the northernmost part of Europe.

The geography, values and political systems that the Nordic countries share influence the way we think about security.

It influences the way we develop our security and defence policy.

Our goal is to keep our region stable, secure and safe.

Arctic security is about maintaining the Arctic as an area of stability, predictability and international co-operation.

One important factor is that the legal framework is in place.

The Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides an integrated and predictable international legal framework for the sea areas, with a firm basis in the UN.

The treaty on maritime delimitation between Russia and Norway from 2010, is a good example of the practical application of the Law of the Sea.

In the Arctic, there is binding and effective international cooperation that promotes the sound management of resources.

Moreover, new rules are being developed to meet new needs, within the framework of international law.

For example, the eight Arctic states have signed binding agreements on search and rescue cooperation,
and on Arctic marine oil pollution preparedness and response.

Furthermore, there are well functioning institutions for the Arctic countries to discuss the opportunities – and the challenges - in the region.

The Arctic Council is the most important arena for discussing Arctic issues of common interest.

The Arctic Council is engaged in a broad range of issues concerning the Arctic.

This has increased our knowledge about the circumpolar world and it has put decision makers in a better position to ensure sustainable management of the Arctic.

The Arctic Council has been strengthened through the establishment of a permanent secretariat in Tromsø.

This reflects the fact that the Arctic Council has become more politically relevant.

It has also become more economically relevant.

We support the increased focus on commercial activities, and welcome the establishment of the Arctic Economic Council.

A changing Arctic is opening up new economic opportunities.

There is increasing interest towards the arctic.

But, there is no race for the Arctic.

Yes, we are seeing an increase in commercial activity, trade and technological innovation in the Arctic.

This development is not compatible with aggression or bitter rivalry.

On the contrary, it is conducive to peace, prosperity and security.

Arctic states serve their own best interest by pursuing their interests in accordance with international law.

And it is perhaps helpful that the oil and gas resources in the Arctic are thought to be mainly found in areas that are already under national jurisdiction.

Norway’s primary goal is to make good use of the economic opportunities that are arising.

This implies that due consideration must be given to the protection of the fragile environment,
and the sustainable management of natural resources.

The Arctic region has a lot to offer and the economic potential is huge.

Mainly due to natural resources – fish, marine resources, hydrocarbons and minerals.

But also with increasing tourism. Lonely Planet recently ranged North Norway in fifth place in its list of the best regions to visit for next year.

The Norwegian Government pursues an ambitious policy for oil and gas development in the Norwegian Arctic.

There have been petroleum activities in the Norwegian Arctic for decades.

We have taken a step-wise approach, opening up new areas when industry has proven that it has the competence and technology to tackle the challenges.

Prudent resource management in this region is creating positive social and economic spin-off effects.

And is also contributing to energy security for Europe.

Responsible science-based management of fish stocks is a key Norwegian objective.

Regional cooperation is essential, and a good example is the Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission.

Due to this cooperation, which has emphasised research, regulation and enforcement, stocks in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea are among the best managed in the world.

This clearly shows how economic interests in the region are best served through cooperation across borders.

Norway and Russia have a long tradition of cooperation.

In 2010 Norway and Russia finally concluded an agreement on maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean, after 40 years of extensive negotiations.

Clearly defined borders are conducive to cooperation.

However, Russia’s violations of international law in Ukraine have affected also our relations.

Russia’s actions are in clear breach of international law and a challenge to the foundation for a peaceful co existence between the countries of Europe.

Respect for International Law is not only the basis for our security, but also for development of democracy and welfare.

Thus, it is absolutely necessary to react to Russia's actions.

It is essential that the international community stands together in its reactions to Russia's violations of international law.

Norway has implemented the same restrictive measures, sanctions, against Russia as the EU.

We have done so, not only because we need to stand together, but because we have concluded that the sanctions are the right and necessary response to Russia’s actions when diplomatic measures did not lead to changes in Russian policy.

In response to Russia’s unacceptable actions, Norway has suspended its military cooperation with Russia and postponed a number of political contacts.

At the same time, our shared geography and border makes it necessary to work together on a number of issues.

Issues like search and rescue, managing shared fish stocks, environmental protection, nuclear safety, maritime safety, as well as Coast Guard and Border Guard activities, and people-to-people cooperation across the border.

Russia is a major player in the Arctic.

The main goals set out in Russia’s Arctic strategy are to use the Arctic as a resource base,
to protect its ecosystems, make use of the improving conditions for maritime transport through the Northern Sea Route, and to ensure that it remains a zone of peace and cooperation.

Russia maintains a substantial military presence in the Arctic, which is concentrated in the Northern Fleet.

Furthermore, Russia’s military investment programme will increase capabilities, including in the Arctic.

Given their demonstrated willingness to use military means to achieve political goals, this is concerning to many.

However, the ongoing modernisation of the Russian armed forces should also be seen in light of the period of low defence spending and reduced activity after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Political and military developments in Russia are and will continue to be important factors in Norwegian security and defence policy.

And Norway continues to follow Russian activities closely.

Security policy in the Arctic needs to be based on a modern and comprehensive understanding of security policy.

This includes territorial, ecological, economic, social and political dimensions.

A cooperative approach remains important to Norway.

At the same time, security policy – in the traditional sense – also needs to be a part of the mix.

Tensions in the Arctic have been low for the last two decades.

Despite a difficult security situation in Europe, it is in Norway’s – and the other Arctic countries’ – national interest to keep tensions in the Arctic low.

With this in view, we have a strong and predictable military presence in the region. We have focused on increasing our operational capacity, security presence and visibility.

And we expect other Arctic states to do the same.

Five of the Arctic countries are founding members of NATO.

The Alliance contributes to stability and predictability in the region.

A key priority for NATO in this regard is maintaining situational awareness.

To conclude:

From a global perspective,

we should emphasize the uniqueness of the Arctic, the peace and stability, the international cooperation
and the institutional and legal fundamental frameworks that exist.

Trade, cooperation and respect for international law lead to prosperity and security, in the Arctic as elsewhere.

The Arctic must also in the future remain an area of peace, stability, predictability and international co-operation.

This should be our common goal and aspiration.


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