The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers NATO's planned Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Svalbard in May a provocation. – I actually believe the Russians should rather regard this more positively, Prime Minister Erna Solberg says to High North News.
- This is not new
- What do you think about the Russian reaction to the planned NATO meeting?
- I believe it is an expression for their now reacting to everything, however, we must also remember that we had exactly the same kind of meeting there in 2004. Back then, the NATO parliamentarians who went to Svalbard even got to visit Barentsburg and meet the Russians. Politicians from other countries visiting Svalbard is neither new nor different, Solberg says to High North News.
- I actually believe that the Russians should rather regard this with positive eyes, given that we pull the NATO parliamentarians up north and demonstrate that we manage to cooperate well in the northern region. There is a lot of cooperation between Russians and Norway here, and it makes it a region for more stability and less tension. It is important for not constructing ideas that it is more dangerous up here. I believe the Russians should remember that they did not consider it a problem in 2004, nor is it one today, in reality.
- Except today they may argue that the security policy climate is different today, and keeps a quite cool tone?
- It is a different climate now, though I would argue that the effect of such a meeting, for our part, with bringing NATO parliamentarians to the north, is that they learn more about the region. And with that they also learn a lot about how we can relate to the Russians in a peaceful manner. That is actually a positive stimulus from which many can learn, the Prime Minister says.
- We are NATO's northern spearhead
Solberg, who herself has Chaired the Norwegian organization for the NATO parliamentarians, organized an identical and three-day long meeting in Tromsø in 2012.
The "peaceful North" receives a lot of attention in the government's new High North Strategy, which was launched in Bodø, Norway, earlier today. Solberg comments:
- It is a particular goal for us to say that the Arctic region shall be characterized by a peaceful development. Even though the armed forces are more present and active, both on our side and on the Russian side, we are nevertheless concerned with the fact that we of NATO are to do it. We do not ask many other NATO countries to assist us in this. We say that we are the spearhead of NATO, because it shall remain a peaceful area. It shall not be a militarized area, in that respect, and that is important for us, Solberg says.
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