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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Julie Wilhelmsen and Kristian Gjerde (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)

Arctic Interaction: The Changing Mode of Norwegian-Russian Relations

The standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine has already hampered co-operation across a range of issues. Could it also effect state interaction in an area and between two countries that have been defined primarily by a culture of compromise or cooperation? This paper investigates changes in Norwegian-Russian interaction patterns in the Arctic by scrutinizing official expressions, exchanges and policy-initiatives on both sides in the period from 2012 to 2016. It establishes what kind of policy mode, ‘realist’, ‘institutionalist’, or ‘diplomatic management’, that has characterized these countries’ official discourse on the Arctic in this period and how changes in policy mode affects interaction between them. Now that security concerns again take centre stage in relations with Russia, has Norway pursued a balance of policies undertaken in the realist mode with those in the diplomatic management mode like it did during the Cold War? What effect has Norway’s (changing) policies in this period had on Russia’s policies toward Norway? Similarly, through which modes have Russia pursued its policies toward Norway in these years and has this affected Norway’s policies toward Russia? We set off from the theoretical premise that states are not pre-constituted political entities, but constantly in the making. State identities are profoundly relational and continuously reproduced through social interaction. Admittedly, the identities of states and the foreign policies these identities elicit are enduring. Russia for example, has a big power identity and accordingly it often views and acts in the world by projecting power and as if any win for other states is a loss for itself. But Russian identity as well as well as Russia’s foreign policy orientation also changes. While a domestic negotiation process on the identity of the state may elicit such change, we hold that also international interaction; the way other states identify Russia and the policies they pursue towards Russia play into and shape Russia’s policy orientation.