Svalvard, the piece of Norway where Russia “fishes” and which could be NATO’s “Achilles heel”

Fiction sometimes adventure scenarios that are called utopias, uchronias or quite simply stories that can never happen because they are crazy (delirium of the screenwriters). Who could imagine that a Ukrainian comedian would play a normal man in a series who would end up being the president of the country and that same actor would (in reality) end up being the president of his country and face the Russian invasion of his country? territory?

In the same way,who can imagine russia invading norway given the lack of resources to ensure access to oil and gas exploitation in the region? The latter is told by the series Busy And it hasn’t happened yet…yet. Because reality tells us that the Kremlin warned Norway this week against “blocking the delivery of goods” in the Svalbard archipelago.

3,000 people over twice the area of ​​Belgium

It is an archipelago located in the Arctic Glacial Sea, with twice the area of ​​Belgium and that it is part of the Kingdom of Norway. Although it is a group of islands, only three of them are inhabited: Spitsbergen, Bear Island (Bjørnøya) and Hopen. Here we travel by boat, plane, helicopter or snowmobile: there are no roads.

Russia has been protesting the transport ‘restrictions’ it has faced at the shared border since April

Gateway to the Svalbard World Seed Bank.

Only 3,000 people live here (yes, of more than 40 nationalities). The largest population is Longyearbyen. Home to iconic Arctic species such as beluga whale, polar bear and walrus, if Svalbard is known for anything it’s because the World Seed Bank is located here on the island of Spitsbergen. , near Longyearbyen.

<p>Underground pantry with millions of seeds from thousands of plants around the world.  It was created to safeguard species diversity in the event of a global disaster and is ready to withstand earthquakes or nuclear attacks.</p>
<p>” src=”” data-full-src=” /imagenes/2017/09/27/549090.jpg”/></p>
<p class=We say the news is that Russia has protested against the “unacceptable situation” resulting from the “blockade of the delivery of goods” to Svalbard by the Norwegian authorities. The Russians summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires to Moscow on Wednesday to protest ‘restrictions’ to the Russian transports to the common border which they have been undergoing since April. They assure that Oslo has blocked the passage of “critical goods” for the operation of the Russian consulate in Svalbard.

A 1920 treaty opened the door to Russia

But, how is it possible that if the Svalvard archipelago is Norwegian, the Russians can settle there and can send and receive goods? We are not anywhere, at least not since 1920.

General view of a glacier from the helicopter in which European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere were traveling to carry out a climatological study in Ny Aalesund, Svalbard, Norway.
General view of an arctic glacier.

That year, the Treaty of Svalbard was signed. The document, which was signed by a large number of states, of which there are now 46 (more than 20 from the European Union), recognized Norwegian sovereignty over the archipelago. but the text granted all signatories fair and non-discriminatory access to resources of the waters surrounding Svalbard. This is why so few people live here but of so many nationalities.

Russia has been extracting coal from Barentsburg for years: nearly 400 Russians and Ukrainians from Donbass live there

The problem in the year 2022 of the 21st century is that Russia was one of the signatories to the Svalbard treaty. In application thereof, Russia has been extracting coal from the archipelago’s inhabited islands for years. This is why Moscow was able to accuse Norway of blocking its transit of goods.

Specifically, the Russian presence is evident in the city of Barentsburg. Just under 400 Russians and Ukrainians from Donbass live there. They blow up a coal mine. There, too, still stands a statue from the Soviet era, with the motto “Our goal: Communism”.

<p>Several people observe the solar eclipse from Svalbard (Norway), winter says goodbye with a solar eclipse which will be total in the Faroe Islands (North Atlantic) and in Svalbard (Arctic glacial ocean), two places where the sun disc will be completely hidden by the Moon.  </p>
<p>” src=”” data-full-src=” /imagenes/2015/03/20/216108.jpg” height=”437″/><figcaption id=Several people watch a solar eclipse from Svalbard.Haakon Mosvold / EFE

Norway blocks like Lithuania in Kaliningrad

The Russian Consul in the Arctic Archipelago accuses Norway of having blocked 20 tons of goods, including seven food products and the rest of the spare parts and essential equipment for the winter. The Kremlin ensures that Oslo blocks the goods in application of the European sanctions adopted against Russia for its offensive in Ukraine.

We would face a conflict similar to that of Kaliningrad, this piece of Russia located between Lithuania and Poland (two countries of the EU and NATO), but separated from the rest of Putin’s country. Moscow has threatened Lithuania with a partial blockade of this part of Russia. The Lithuanian authorities have restricted rail traffic on their territory towards Kaliningrad, as part of the sanctions for invading Ukraine.

Russia has been trying to have a say in the management of Svalbard since World War II

Of course, even before this situation and the context of war created by Putin, the Kremlin had already given signs that he wanted a say in the management of Svalbard. They already did after World War II. And since then, Russia has regularly accused Norway of violating certain provisions of the treaty.

Port of Kaliningrad.

For example, any stopover by a Norwegian frigate or a visit by NATO parliamentarians gives rise to a Russian protest. And it is indeed true that the The Treaty of Svalbard establishes that the archipelago is a demilitarized space.

The Arctic is the area around the North Pole of the Earth.  It includes parts of Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Lapland region of Sweden, Norway and Finland, the Svalbard Islands and the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic is divided between Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the region of Lapland (Sweden), Norway and Finland.

Russia says its increased involvement in the region has a historical basis: it has been fishing in these waters since the 16th century. But his interest is another. “The Russians want to avoid a situation where others could use the place for offensive purposes,” says Arild Moe, researcher at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo, in statements to AFP.

Its remoteness from mainland Norway and its special legal status make Svalbard politically and militarily vulnerable to Russian adventurism.”

It therefore seems appropriate to call Svalbard the Achilles heel of NATO. The phrase is from James Wither, a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. This former soldier wrote that the archipelago is “NATO’s Achilles’ heel in the Arctic” because its “remoteness from mainland Norway and its special legal status make it politically and militarily vulnerable to Russian adventurism“. According to him, the danger of a direct military confrontation “is slim”, but Russia could try something to “neutralize NATO”.

Finally, we come full circle by returning to fiction. In the last season of Borgenthe career of Birgitte Nyborg, now Minister of Foreign Affairs, is threatened when the fight for oil in Greenland (a part of the world controlled by Denmark) threatens to turn into an international crisis. And that struggle, in the series, includes China and the United States. But that’s all fiction…for now.

Alvin Nguyen

"Amateur introvert. Pop culture trailblazer. Incurable bacon aficionado."

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