Difficulties in supplying compatriots in the archipelago are pushing Moscow to take forceful steps
Oslo rejected Moscow's application for the passage of goods for Russian settlements on Svalbard through the only Storskog checkpoint on the Russian- Norwegian border. Thus, now there are about 20 tons of Russian goods at the checkpoint. In Russia, they said that by their actions Norway violates the Svalbard Treaty of 1920. The actions of the Norwegian authorities and the prospects for the development of the situation were assessed by the expert.
Photo: Global Look Press
Moscow and Oslo conduct joint economic activities in the Svalbard archipelago. Typically, goods from the Russian Federation destined for the Russian mining village of Barentsburg with a population of about 500 people are delivered from Murmansk to the city of Tromsø through the only Storskog checkpoint on the border between the countries. Every ten days, a single cargo ship transports produce to the islands.
In April, Norway decided to close the checkpoint for the passage of trucks from the Russian Federation, and also banned Russian ships from entering Norwegian ports. An exception is made for fishing vessels.
Earlier it became known that the Norwegian authorities still refused to allow Russian cargo to Svalbard. This was reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the kingdom. The department stressed that the Russian Embassy asked to pass 20 tons of food for the residents of Barentsburg.
Against this background, Vice Speaker of the Council of Federations Konstantin Kosachev accused Oslo of violating the Svalbard Treaty of 1920. The treaty established Norwegian sovereignty over this territory, and the participating states, including Russia, were given the right to exploit the territorial waters of the archipelago and its natural resources.
Moreover, in 1947, the Norwegian Parliament recognized that that the USSR is a country that, along with them, has special economic interests in Svalbard. In 1991, these rights were transferred to Russia.
Andrey Klishas, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation, for his part, said that the refusal to let Russian cargo to Svalbard “casts doubt on Oslo's sovereignty over the archipelago.” He pointed out that the Russians staying there should be provided with everything necessary. Also, the authorities of the Russian Federation must guarantee their safety.
Klishas said that in modern conditions, sovereignty is not only “the ability and right to exercise the fullness of state power in a certain territory”, but also “the right and ability to guarantee and protect the rights of its citizens.”
At the same time, the general Russian Consul Sergey Gushchev assured that the situation in Svalbard remains normal for the time being. However, Moscow will still ask for permission to supply goods for humanitarian purposes.
Checkpoint “Storskog” Photo: en.wikipedia.org
“Norway is not just violating the provisions of the 1920 treaty,” Andrey Baklanov, deputy chairman of the Association of Russian Diplomats, comments to MK. – In this case, we are also talking about a very understandable and significant humanitarian aspect – about supplying almost 500 people. Therefore, putting forward some things related to sanctions in the current situation looks absolutely far-fetched and absurd. And here, of course, we cannot but be embarrassed by the fact that it fits into the mechanism of actions of the West and, in particular, NATO countries in the northern direction.
Now Russia has two alternatives in the issue of the Arctic region in connection with warming and an increase in the number of ships passing there: either we will follow the path of cooperation between countries, or the Western states will strive to maximally politicize the northern region and create an atmosphere of militarization there.
According to the expert, the current incident really fits into the general logic of the West to create a situation of increased politicization, obstruction against Russia, its citizens and courts. For Moscow, this is actually a very serious signal.
“Preserving Russia's presence in Svalbard is a matter of principle,” Andrey Baklanov continues. – Now the Western countries are trying to squeeze some of our opportunities in the northern region. The question is raised about the legitimacy of many decisions. They are still legitimate in relation to the extension of our sovereignty in the territory of the North, which extends far beyond the border of the economic zone.
There is indeed a very complex political struggle going on here with elements of pressure on the Russian Federation. Therefore, on no issue should we be allowed to step on our heels and squeeze our economic and humanitarian interests in the northern region. If necessary, we will respond to what is happening, including rather harshly.”
The diplomat stressed that the situation is completely unique, so it is difficult to talk about retaliatory measures from Moscow.
“Here except that there may be measures to unblock this particular situation,” Andrey Baklanov added. “The negotiation process will begin now. If it does not lead to anything, Russia will have to take tougher, perhaps even forceful steps in order to ensure the life and health of our citizens. They may consist in the fact that the Russian military will deliver the appropriate humanitarian cargo so that our miners can feed themselves.”