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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Norway’s premier wants long-term plans for Ukraine — and eventual talks with Russia

Norway’s prime minister, Jonas Gahr Store, at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

By Erika Solomon and Steven Erlanger

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store called on his European allies to devise a long-term strategy for handling the Ukraine war and for maintaining dialogue with Moscow.

A NATO country that shares a 122-mile border with Russia, Norway has a particularly delicate role in navigating Europe’s largest land war since World War II. In the wake of sanctions on Russian fossil fuels, the Nordic nation has become the main provider of gas to its neighbors, particularly Germany, Europe’s economic engine. But Norway has also maintained contact with Moscow over strategic interests in the Arctic.

In an interview with The New York Times on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Store said Western allies would most likely need to eventually negotiate with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, echoing a point made by French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

“You cannot simply deal with the world in a way that takes a pair of scissors and cut out of the map everything you don’t like,” Store said. “Russia is, from a landmass point of view, the largest country on the planet. It is a big neighbor, a number of neighbors. And I want to see a future Europe where all countries, small and big, including Russia, can live in peace and security.”

Norway maintains a pragmatic relationship with Moscow, keeping lines of communication open and remaining committed to negotiating issues of common interest, such as fish stocks.

Norway does not have a policy of military nonalignment, as its neighbors Sweden and Finland once had. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden decided to join NATO, seeing the organization as the best safe harbor in a changed world.

Even as Norway has warned that it is now a prime target of Russian espionage — particularly in regard to critical infrastructure, such as underwater cables and pipelines — Oslo recently renewed its agreement with Moscow for managing Arctic cod, one of the world’s most valuable fish stocks.

Store criticized Europe for not having a longer-term view of the conflict.

“It’s important that, as this war is raging, and we don’t see the endpoint, we should start reflecting on what the Europe postwar will look like,” he said.

Norway has begun to carve out a long-term approach, he said, pointing to parliamentary approval this past week of a five-year fund for Ukraine that will provide more than $1 billion worth of military and civilian funding to Kyiv annually.

“The important thing is not the sum of money. It’s the five years. And it stretches beyond the next parliamentary elections,” he said.

Store said the new fund would be built in part off the enormous profits Norway’s state-owned oil company made on increased oil and gas sales to Europe. Norway has become the biggest provider of gas to Germany, Europe’s largest economy, as Berlin has weaned itself off a dependency on Russian gas.

“Norway’s contribution to Europe has been to uphold gas exports and to increase them,” he said.

Pointing to Norway’s critical role for European energy supplies amid increasing concerns over Russian sabotage, he said he was expecting NATO to announce a plan, called for by Oslo and Berlin, to protect underwater infrastructure at its next meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.

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