Jonas Gahr Støre: 'Arctic energy supply is replacing the Cold War agenda'

From a lecture by Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, given at the London School of Economics
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The Independent Online

Let me share with you our reading of developments in our immediate neighbourhood - the High North, a central theme of Norway's foreign policy in the years to come.

The High North literally means the area beyond the top of most maps of Europe. Weather reports on European TV put a cap on Europe at around the 60th parallel, thus only including the three Nordic capitals of Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki, but not much more.

When we pass the 70th parallel, when we pass the Arctic Circle, we enter the vast Barents region. One third of mainland Norway lies north of the circle. Norwegian jurisdiction in the Arctic and Barents Seas covers an area six times the size of mainland Norway, that is almost the size of the entire European Union.

For decades, this was a frozen region, literally and politically. This is where Norway and Russia meet, on land and in the Barents Sea. During the Cold War, it was the area where East met West, where Nato met the Warsaw Pact, where the balance of power relied on the number of intercontinental missiles and the operating scope of strategic and tactical submarines.

The military scenarios of confrontation and invasion are now collecting dust. The strategic position of the area is shifting from a military security perspective to a perspective more marked by energy security and sustainable resource management.

The Barents Sea contains vast natural resources - renewable and non-renewable. It is Europe's largest fish pond. The Barents Sea will also become an important source of energy supply to Europe and North America. Perhaps as much as a quarter of the world's undiscovered petroleum reserves may be located in the Arctic. Politically this is a stable region. In the years to come, Britain, continental Europe and the United States may well be looking to the High North for additional supplies of oil and gas.

Thus the issue of energy supply from the Arctic region is replacing the old Cold War agenda of military balances. Herein lies a set of challenges and opportunities for Norway, Russia and Europe and the United States.

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