Commentary: The Nordland Chief of Police warns against threats from Russia and asks the business sector in the north to wake up. That may be appropriate. But if the business sector is asleep, they share a bed with the authorities, public institutions, and local politicians.
In an interview with High North News, Heidi Kløkstad describes security challenges that are lining up in Nordland, Troms, and Finnmark, in Northern Norway.
This is a serious and well-intentioned attempt to disturb a political agenda paralized by cross-political share trading and conflicts of interest.
The business sector in Northern Norway faces a mixture of hybrid threats and direct damages and sabotage to critical infrastructure, according to Kløkstad.
Andøya and Russians
As one of several examples, the Chief of Polige highlights Andøya, where Norway's only space port on the mainland is to open in the beginning of November.
"Andøya is one of the areas in Nordland where we register the biggest increase in Russian tourism, Russian celebrations and memorials, and Russian attempts to buy property," says Heidi Kløkstad.
Has barely rubbed the sleep out of its eyes.
Her analyses largely coincide with the Total Preparedness Commission's June report. The commission concluded that the gravity of the situation demanded national efforts in the form of creating a "national preparedness action zone" in Finnmark and Northern Troms.
The geographical limitation of this action zone can be questioned. The threats listed in the report named "This is serious!" neither start nor end in Northern Tromsø. But that is another debate.
However, if the Chief of Police succeeds in waking up the business sector, they will discover that the government has barely rubbed the sleep out of its eyes. There are few if any, political signs reminiscent of a willingness to put such an action zone on the agenda.
That does not mean that the government has not grasped parts of the threat situation described.
Before the election, the Labor Party and the Center Party launched a "power package" for Finnmark. At its best, it will solve some of the severe challenges Eastern Finnmark faces. This applies to both security of supply and necessary access to electricity.
But instead of welcoming this power package, large parts of the government parties stormed the barricades. Already before the proposal had been presented in its entirety, threats of closing down local party groups and resignations were made.
To put it mildly, this resulted in poor election results for both the Center Party and the Labor Party in parts of Finnmark. Some will undoubtedly argue that the "power package" proposal came at the wrong time and lacked the necessary grounding. That is a correct observation, but it does not deprive the local politicians of an independent political responsibility.
The gravity has not sunk in, even at an institutional level.
An attempt to abdicate responsibility.
In addition to the focus on energy supply, the Total Preparedness Commission is concerned with a critical situation for the health care system in the north. The commission repeatedly emphasizes that health preparedness is crucial to Norway's security in the East and must be given special attention.
The government gave it such attention by allotting NOK 35 million for emergency preparedness at Kirkenes Hospital. But the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority wanted it differently. Despite new money, the institution has put emergency preparedness in Kirkenes at risk. The question of what will happen in Kirkenes has moved back to the investigation stage.
Reminiscent of sabotage
The Nordland Chief of Police is wise to remind the business sector and us citizens about the threats we face from Russia.
But there is little we as individuals or the business sector can do when it comes to the most severe threats, attacks on infrastructure, downsizing of health preparedness, and a lack of robustness around critical societal functions. These are decisive factors for maintaining the north's population and future investments in business and security for the inhabitants.
The Northern Norway Regional Health Authority's meeting with the need for preparedness in Eastern Finnmark looks quite like sabotage.
The lack of willingness to see the "power package" from a national perspective is, at best, an attempt to abdicate responsibility for the development of Eastern Finnmark.
And when the government and the "supporting party" Right are done counting shares, perhaps the action zone for preparedness will be in place.
Meanwhile, the rest of us must do the best we can.