Newsletter: A Nerve-Wracking Week is Over

Unloading of Norht Stream 2 pipe modules weighing 24 tons. Photo: Axel Schmidt / North Stream 2. Photo by: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt

“Will WW3 break out now?” my daughter asked me in the car on our way to school the other day. The various social media platforms that she as well as billions of young people all over the world follow closely every day are flooded with videos, images and so-called “tik-toks” with the hashtag #WW3.

We are, of course, talking about the USA’s fatal attack on Iranian general Qasem Soleimani as well as Iran’s revenge, a missile attack on two Iraqi bases.

Many of us held our breaths while waiting for President Donald Trump’s reaction, only to give a sigh of relief when the speech he gave was remarkably diplomatic and void of threats of military repercussions.

Nevertheless, we can safely say that we came close to a major armed conflict this week. Dangerously so.

The US President did at least manage to escape impeachment headlines for the past week.

China “wins” in the Arctic
Even though Iran stole the headlines this week, there is little doubt that China’s arriving in the Arctic is also high on the agenda of the American administration.
In a news analysis this week, it is argued that the USA has every reason in the world to worry about China in the Arctic, however, perhaps not for the reasons they think.

From a strategic point of view, the USA is facing an opponent who is much more disciplined and adaptable, and who has a very efficient approach to “winning” in the Arctic. The USA, however, continues to believe that pure military power will “scare off the predators”.

Russia’s climate plan
In Russia, a plan has finally been adopted for how to adjust the economy and society to climate changes and through that contribute to reaching the goals of the Paris Accord.

However, the plan also focuses on the advantages of global warming. For instance, there will be a reduction in energy consumption related to heating, as well as better conditions for transporting goods.

Ambitious goals for the Northern Sea Route
This begs mentioning the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which received its share of bad press in 2019 when the NSR became a target of major logistic companies and brands that publicly declared their intentions to not use it.

However, that does not appear to have any bearing on the Russian ambitions for the NSR. A brand new infrastructure plan says that Russia will increase traffic along the NSR with 90 million tons by 2030.

Putin’s paradox
We will stay in Russia. In the article “Putin’s Geopolitical Paradox”, we take a closer look at how domestic pressure juxtaposes the Arctic policy against the idea of a Russian national identity. The Arctic constitutes a special part of Russian identity and Putin has tried to highlight it for the past two decades. Yet the ideas and narratives he has used to sell this vision to the Russian population are increasingly conflicting with his approach to development in the region.

Speaking of which; in five years, Russian exports of natural gas to Western Europe has increased by 40 percent. The new gas pipeline North Stream 2 will lead to its increasing even more over the coming years. Critics now fear that Moscow will have too much influence over European energy policies.

50 new years of Norwegian oil
Back in Norway, the first chapter of 50 new years of Norwegian oil history were written when the oil field Johan Castberg was officially opened. The day before the grand opening, Equinor (formerly: Statoil) launched its plan about emission-free operations on the Norwegian shelf by 2030.

Both news received a rather mixed welcome.

Parachute politics
The other day, we also received news from the Norwegian government about the new High North whitepaper that is due later this year. Without any news, that is. At High North News, we have reported about both the work in progress as well as the basic outlines of the whitepaper on several occasions throughout 2019.

The timing of the news from the government surprises our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm, who in his Friday op-ed writes: “We know that it is coming, however, we know next to nothing about the political process leading up to it. Thus, we know very little about how well anchored the whitepaper will be, politically as well as geographically.”

Holm introduces the concept “parachute politics”:

Parachute politics does not sound as nice, though it can easily be the outcome if the policy is not solidly anchored. Fortunately, autumn is still a long way away and perhaps the news release the other day is primarily a reminder to its sender, the government and its website

On Monday, six representatives from the government will come to Stormen Library in Bodø to present the work so far.

We are expanding the team
Finally, I want to take the opportunity to introduce our new journalist Hilde-Gunn Bye and welcome her onboard the HNN team.

Hilde-Gunn has an exciting background. She has served in the Norwegian Coast Guard and holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Denver, Colorado, where she wrote her master’s thesis about “National interests and security policies in the Arctic region among Arctic states”.

With that, the first proper work week of 2019 has come to an end and we wish you all the best for the weekend!

Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News