The Western world is united in its sanctions against Russia. Cohesion provides power and strength both from within and without. With one exception, Norway has made all EU sanctions applicable Norwegian law. Because we stand with Europe. Because we stand together against Russia. Because the whole point is that this must hurt Putin.
The question now is whether Norway will ban port calls from Russian ships. It can also affect us in the short and long term.
Can we allow solidarity with Ukraine and the West to suddenly give way? Can we jump out of the community just because we fear for ourselves?
On the other hand, we undeniably have a different relationship with Russia than any other country. We can not be late like anything else right now.
The dilemmas are obvious. Time is short.
Norway pursues extensive cooperation with Russia in the north. It is about fishing activities, joint art management of the cod stock, search and rescue services.
This is what the government is trying to avoid being hit or paralyzed by sanctions.
The fish stock will spawn, swim and contribute to value creation for generations. In the foreseeable future, of course, there will be no normalized relationship with Moscow. It is nevertheless a hope that the fisheries cooperation will not be thrown over the boat for several decades.
Fisheries cooperation is not just about the fishing industry itself. The species management is also about research collaboration and art mapping of fish, birds and other conditions that are important for the survival of the fish stock.
Search and rescue cooperation can, put at the forefront, handle the lives of individuals. Norway will probably fear the possible consequences of a scenario where a Russian life at sea cannot be saved because Norwegian ports are closed, or the rescue service moves out. Or put Norwegian seafarers in a situation where rescue can be more difficult.
At the same time, even a country with common interests, responsibilities, sea areas and national borders must realize that the sanctions have major consequences.
Many will say that now is not the time to fear Russian anger. It’s time to speak out as strongly as possible, without fear of consequences.
Nevertheless, in order to understate, it is a valid argument that a country like Norway must at all times think long-term in our relationship with Russia. There is also security policy. Even in a new era for Europe and something that in the foreseeable future is a totally changed bilateral relationship between neighboring states.
This complex picture means that the government’s port sanction decision takes time. Time is not necessarily an eternal resource in politics.
The government has recently received increasing criticism from both the Liberal Party’s Guri Melby and the Conservatives’ Erna Solberg and Ine Eriksen Søreide. All three fear Norway could become, or be perceived as, a free port for Russian ships if the sanctions are delayed.
The UK adopted port sanctions in early March. EU from mid-April. The Norwegian authorities have had time to discuss and define how such regulations can be introduced into Norwegian law.
The opposition’s impatience has increased after Easter, most recently when the Prime Minister reported to the Storting on the Ukraine war this week.
Støre then stated that Norway will …
– Join us in the EU decision to close ports for Russian vessels. (…) We spend time thoroughly reviewing how we design and implement the port ban in Norway.
He mentioned Svalbard, search and rescue and fisheries management as special topics Norway is going through.
This must be understood as the government working to find delimitations, exceptions and legal definitions – possibly as deviations from EU regulations.
Are EU definitions and exceptions good enough for Norway? Do we have to define exceptions from port connection for Russian ships differently based on type of ship or geography?
The EU’s fisheries exemption is already significant, maybe that’s enough. the management of Svalbard is naturally special Norwegian.
There must be room for maneuver where effective sanctions and Norwegian interests can meet.
If the government has needed time to make these border crossings, it can justify the use of time within reasonable limits.
The Norwegian authorities have handled all other sanctions against Russia in a way that has followed up the EU framework and served Norwegian interests. We have never been at the forefront of implementing the sanctions, but also never last. The fact that the Petroleum Fund had investments in Russia has been resolved. The fact that closing Norwegian airspace to Russian flights must also be suitable for Svalbard, where there is significant Russian activity, has been dealt with.
On an independent basis, Norway did not want to ban the state-run Russian media RT and Sputnik, with reference to the constitutional freedom of expression clause.
Norway has no interest in becoming a free port for floating Russian interests. But the road there goes through troubled waters.