Newsletter: Military Presence and Sanctions in the North

U.S. Marines lander to Osprey-fly på Royal Navys HMS Prince of Wales i Norskehavet under øvelsen Cold Response 2022 i mars. (Foto: Lance Cpl. Elias Pimentel/US Navy)
U.S. Marines land on Osprey aircraft on Royal Navy's HMS Prince of Wales in the Norwegian Sea during the Cold Response 2022 exercise in March. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Elias Pimentel / US Navy)

Dear High North News reader! The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to leave a mark on the High North, and potential scenarios and consequences are constantly discussed.

Two months in to the war in Ukraine, Lieutenant-Colonel and Researcher at the Norwegian Defense University College Tormod Heier warns against a Russia under pressure in a potential conflict: 

A critical situation in the Baltic Sea can force Russia to expand its defense zone in the North to also include Svalbard and parts of Finnmark”, Heier says.

In Finnmark, the police chief points to clear weaknesses near Norway’s border to Russia: 

Without a strong civilian footprint there is nothing for us to protect”, says the police chief of Norway’s second-largest and northernmost police district. 

And the presence of NATO is clear in the North. 

The British Navy’s nuclear submarine HMS Ambush is currently docked at Grøtsund port outside Tromsø, Norway following its operating in Norwegian waters for the past month. It claims to be familiarizing itself with Norwegian facilities for submarines in the Arctic. 


On Friday, the Norwegian government decided to follow the EU and shut the borders for Russian goods transport and Russian vessels. However, Russian fishing vessels are exempt from the sanctions, nor are the sanctions to apply to Svalbard. (Norwegian only) 

Western sanctions against Russia are actively discussed in many forums and University of Tromsø Professor Tore Henriksen says to High North News that Norway still will allow the Russian community in Svalbard to receive necessary supplies. 

It will also allow the out-shipping of coal in order to not violate the obligations of the Svalbard Treaty.” 

In this week’s commentary, our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm writes that he, as a northerner, appreciates Norway’s not immediately following suit after every EU decision. 

“Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is accused of dragging his feet when it comes to sanctions against Russia. Our ports are not shut for Russian fishing vessels fast enough, and weapon supplies from Norway to Ukraine arrive too little and too late. There may be good reasons for that. As a northerner, I appreciate time to think – even when Europe is on fire”, Holm writes.

Terror and tourism

In Bodø, Norway, the theme of the week has been terror, which was the emphasis of Øvelse Nord 2022, the largest North Norwegian preparedness exercise. 

The Head of Øvelse Nord says such exercises are necessary because coordination between municipalities during crises has not been good enough. (Norwegian only) 

The war undoubtedly leaves its mark on the news, also in the High North, yet work in research and business is still ongoing. Fortunately. Do read this op-ed about tourism and protection in Svalbard. 

This weekend, we are entering the month of May and brighter days. 

Wishing you all the best for the weekend,

Trine Jonassen News Editor

This newsletter was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.