Lavrov launches charm campaign in Norway

Lavrov said the EU could do the same with Belarus as done it the past with Turkey. [EPA-EFE / EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA]

Russia is searching for closer security cooperation with Norway, even if NATO is not a friend of Russia, said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his visit to Tromsø in northern Norway. According to him, “continued consultations” between ministries of defence are on the agenda.

Preceding the bi-annual summit of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council on Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister held a first meeting with Norway’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Annike Huitfeldt. Lavrov had many kind words for his hosts in a press conference shown live by the news agency Ruptly, and later reported by the Barents Observer.

According to him, Russia and Norway and their people living just next to each other share a sense of mutual respect. He also referred to the Norwegians as “very pragmatic”, thanked the country for remembering the Russian efforts in the Second World War and invited his counterpart to visit Russia.

Comments about NATO were in sharp contrast, perhaps mirroring the simultaneous visit of the North Atlantic Council to Finland and Sweden. Relations with NATO, Lavrov described as non-existent since “they have decided that they don’t want to be friendly”.

The reasoning behind the Russian charm offensive to Norway may stem from geopolitics and the opening of the Northeast Passage, a trade route which Russia hopes to open for year-round use by 2024.

After that, some 80 million tons of cargo should be transported along the route. Russia is also currently building five new nuclear icebreakers to secure operations, including gas and oil drillings and their flow to markets.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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