Russian threats to the maritime delimitation line in the Barents Sea should be taken seriously says researcher
Russia's Federal Assembly will investigate the scrapping of the maritime delimitation treaty with Norway. This should not be interpreted as an empty threat, Nupi researcher Julie Wilhelmsen states.
The maritime delimitation treaty between Norway and Russia was signed in 2010 and a border line was established between the two countries in the Barents Sea.
According to the Russian state news agency RIA, the president of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, wants the Federal Assembly to consider scrapping the treaty.
“Chairman of the committee Leonid Eduardovich Slutsky is here with us. Let us ask him to look into this matter and then inform the members," Volodin said.
Deputy member of the Federal Assembly Mikhail Matveev noted in the Duma that the treaty has not been positive for Russia.
“We allocated 175,000 square kilometres of the Barents Sea to Norway. Today we see how Norway prevents food supplies from arriving to our settlements in Svalbard,” he said according to RIA.
Nupi researcher and Russia expert Julie Wilhelmsen tells NTB that there is every possible reason to take this type of threat seriously, especially given the recent Russian pattern of action.
“This is first and foremost a kind of threat. But if we are to reason based on the pattern the Russian authorities have operated with in recent years, it is often the case that such threats are actually followed up,” she says.
Wilhelmsen interprets the Russian proposal as another sign that Russia increasingly sees Norway as part of the collective West, rather than an independent pragmatic actor.
This is because Norway has introduced extensive sanctions against Russia on an equal footing with the rest of NATO and the West.
“Actions on the Norwegian side are not interpreted positively, they are only interpreted as small components in a larger western hostile offensive against Russia,” Wilhelmsen says.
The Treaty between Norway and Russia concerning maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean was signed in Murmansk on 15 September 2010 and ratified by both countries at Akershus Castle on 7 June 2011 after 40 years of negotiations.
The agreement was signed by Norway's then Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (now Prime Minister) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It entered into force on 7 July 2011.
It clarifies the border relationship between Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
The agreement also contains provisions that ensure the continuation of the extensive and positive cooperation between Norwegian-Russian fisheries, as well as agreements on the cooperation and utilisation of possible cross-border petroleum deposits in these sea areas.
Quarrel about Svalbard
The announcement that the Duma will investigate termination of the maritime delimitation treaty comes a few days after Russia ended up in a quarrel with Norway over the transport of food and cargo to Russian miners in Barentsburg.
Last Wednesday, Russia accused Norway of violating the Svalbard Treaty in connection with this, something Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt rejected.
According to Tass, Mikhail Matvejev from the Communist Party referred to this conflict when he talked about the dividing line in the Duma.
“At the time, the agreement was justified on the grounds that it would have a positive impact on international security, good neighbourliness and friendship. Today we see how Norway prevents the sending of food and cargo to our settlements on Svalbard,” Matvejev said.
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Wilhelmsen believes Russia is trying to play up to the states that have traditionally had a more balanced line against Russia.
“They want to push where they think there is something to win. This is a way of putting pressure on Støre's government to slow down the continued line of punishing Russia for the war of aggression against Ukraine along all dimensions,” the researcher says.
She says it would be a great symbolic defeat if the maritime delimitation treaty were to end.
“It would be very sad. The agreement symbolises all that Norway has achieved in cooperation with Russia since the Cold War. It also symbolises equality in the relationship between Norway and Russia, and was a great diplomatic victory. If there is something that creates peace in world politics, it is clarified borders,” says Wilhelmsen.
Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.