Nordic Europe has been a zone of stability in postwar Europe. Broad social consensus, economic growth and the development of welfare systems providing the basis for security as well as dignity for the individual, have contributed to a stable equilibrium between state and society. There is no irredentism at work, Finnish territorial concessions to the Soviet Union after the Second World War notwithstanding.

The term "Nordic Europe" denotes a cultural community and a pattern of social organization based on the concept of the welfare state. Norway, Sweden and Denmark constitute the core area, with Finland and Iceland as the peripheral zones. Nevertheless, important differences prevail among the states themselves, for in terms of foreign policy Nordic Europe displays a complex pattern of alignment and nonalignment, reflecting the fact that the Nordic states have chosen different roads to security. However, in decision-making with respect to foreign policy, considerations of regional stability weigh heavily in all the Nordic capitals.

Iceland has no national military establishment. Protection is provided by the American Icelandic Defense Force. Norway and Denmark are founding members of NATO, but they have adhered to certain self-denying ordinances prohibiting the stationing of allied troops and nuclear weapons on their territories in peacetime. Sweden is a traditional nonaligned country aiming for armed neutrality in the event of war. Finland is also nonaligned, but has a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance with the Soviet Union.

This pattern has stabilized over time and become a constituent element in the postwar security order in Europe. It is recognized in all Nordic capitals that decisions amounting to major deviations from the established pattern could alter the calculus in other Nordic countries and the external pressures which influence that calculus. Maintaining the basic features of the established equilibrium has become a central guideline in the foreign policies of all the Nordic states. The situation, of course, is not static. Changes in the external environment will require adjustment and response from the Nordic states. Assessments of the changes may differ, as may the calculation of interest with respect to modulation of the pattern.

The Nordic states are unable to constitute an autarkic defense arrangement. Their area is very large in relation to their populations; the "metropolitan area" of the five Nordic countries is larger than that of France, West Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Portugal combined, while the population is about one-tenth (22.5 million compared to 205 million). A Nordic defense community would be incapable of maintaining the maritime forces needed to protect the distant territories of Greenland, the Faeroes, Jan Mayen and Svalbard. It would occupy a key strategic location from the point of view of the East-West balance in general and the defense of Western Europe in particular, but local stability could presumably only be obtained by a Nordic defense community through accommodation with the Soviet Union, the dominant power in Northern Europe. However, the interplay of the political values and economic interests in Nordic societies would tend to make such an arrangement politically unstable.

The degree of Soviet influence would also be determined, of course, by the countervailing power and presence of Western naval and air power in the region. Increased competition and tensions might ensue. By contrast, the present pattern has resulted in the maintenance of a state of low tension in the northern corner of Europe in spite of the competing strategic interests of the great powers in the region.

Norway alone has a very long coastline of some 2,650 km, not counting fjords and bays. By simple convention the Norwegian coastal areas may be divided into three parts. In the South is the North Sea area; activities here link Norway directly with the European Community, particularly via offshore pipelines to Germany and the United Kingdom. The mid-Norwegian area extends from 62° to 70° north. The high North area is north of 70°. Problems relating to management and jurisdiction in the high North primarily involve relations with the Soviet Union.

The economic zone of continental Norway covers an area of some 875,000 sq. km, or two and a half times the size of continental Norway. If we add the areas covered by the fisheries zones which have been established around the Svalbard archipelago and the island of Jan Mayen, the total Norwegian offshore area is larger than the total land area of the European Community. Such figures indicate the scale of the surveillance and management problems which have to be solved.

Nor are the Nordic countries unimportant in the international economy. The value of their exports is more than one-third that of the United States, more than half that of Japan, and larger than that of the Soviet Union. Their imports from the European Community are more than double those of the Soviet Union and Japan combined.

Norway in many respects occupies the most central strategic position of the Nordic states. This is due in part to developments in military technology, to the constellation of the major powers, and to their military deployments. At the same time, Norway is becoming the country to watch economically because of offshore oil and gas. Finally, Norway has some unsettled problems in her relations with the Soviet Union concerning the delimitation of jurisdictional boundaries in the high North. The overall objective of Norwegian foreign policy at present is to develop a framework for a stable order in the high North based on a balance of power maintained at the lowest possible level of military activity, and a pattern of cooperation which cuts across and reduces the saliency of the military competition. This is the essence of the Norwegian "Nordpolitik" which may become an important element in the broader construction of East-West relations in Europe in the 1980s.

Norway and Finland have often been at opposite ends of the spectrum in debates about the equilibrium in Nordic Europe, sometimes talking at rather than to each other. Stabilizing political relations by developing a broader dialogue between Oslo and Helsinki is an important confidence-building element in the Nordpolitik of the 1980s. It parallels economic stabilization of the region through broadened industrial and energy cooperation, starting with the two states of the Scandinavian peninsula, Norway and Sweden.

The Kola peninsula, due east of the Soviet-Norwegian border in the high North, is a key area for the Soviet defense posture. It is the home-port area for some 65 percent of the Soviet strategic missile-carrying submarines and 60 percent of the nuclear-power submarines in the Soviet arsenal. In addition, the Kola peninsula is an important early-warning and defense area against air attack. Soviet investments in radar installations, ground-to-air missiles and interceptor aircraft are of a high order. The air defense forces in the region include more than 200 interceptors, of which some 100 are stationed on the Kola peninsula, and some 30 ground-to-air missile stations (equipped with SA-2, SA-3 and SA-5 missiles). Finally, the Kola peninsula is the home-port area of the strongest of the four Soviet fleets, the Northern Fleet, which plays a key role in the Soviet Union's global naval power. It comprises some 70 major surface combatants, including a Kiev-class aircraft carrier and some ten Kresta missile cruisers, as well as some 130 attack submarines. Thus the northern regions may also become linked to deployments in support of Soviet interests in distant parts of the world.

Less than 15 percent of the Soviet strategic missile-carrying submarine (SSBN) fleet is routinely kept on station, making the Kola peninsula particularly important as a strategic base area. About half of the SSBN force is equipped with missiles which cannot reach targets in North America from the Barents Sea. The Soviet submarines with these missiles have to pass into the central Atlantic and in the process cross the anti-submarine warfare barriers which NATO may establish as part of a forward defense of the trans-Atlantic sea lines of communication.

The increased range of the new generation of submarine-launched missiles has resulted in the Barents, the Norwegian and the Greenland Seas acquiring new strategic significance as both transit and patrol areas for the Soviet strategic submarine forces. The Soviet Northern Fleet already includes more than 20 submarines of the Delta class with long-range SS-N-8 and SS-N-18 missiles. The Typhoon class (with SS-NX-20) will strengthen the Soviet option of rearward deployment, including the Polar basin. The monitoring of submarine traffic in the northern regions has thus become an important element in forward U.S. continental defense. At the same time, increases in the range of U.S. submarine-launched missiles reduce American dependence on operating SSBNs in forward sea areas where it is possible for the Soviet Union to deploy considerable numbers of attack submarines. Meanwhile the strategic position of Norway is inextricably linked to the evolution of the central balance, including the structure and emphasis which may emerge from the SALT process aimed at limiting strategic nuclear arms.

The configuration of Soviet deployment and access in the northern region implies a complex pattern of options and constraints. Norwegian, and indeed Nordic, security policy must reflect the implications of that pattern as well as opportunities for structuring Soviet incentives.

In strategic terms the northern region of Europe may be described in terms of two-abutting triangles. The Soviet triangle has its forward point at Murmansk and the small ice-free area adjacent to the Soviet-Norwegian border. Here the Russians have their only naval and air bases with open access to the Atlantic. One side of the triangle extends some 1,200 km southward to a base area around Leningrad, from which another extends some 700 km southeast to the Moscow Military District, and the third runs for some 1,800 km back to Murmansk.

This triangle points toward a Western defense triangle with a baseline of some 950 km extending from Iceland to Scotland and two sides of approximately equal lengths of some 1,700 km reaching respectively across the Norwegian Sea from Iceland to northern Norway and from Scotland up to and along the Norwegian coast to the Troms area.

In discussing strategic problems it is necessary to examine first the physical possibilities. They define to some extent the possible options and the concerns of the powers involved. Such an examination does not, of course, imply any judgment with respect to intentions. A strategic assessment must also include the constraints which circumstances impose. This broad view is particularly important in considering the strategic environment of the European north.

Soviet, as well as NATO, strategic concerns in the northern region presumably focus on the potential conduct of major war operations. Primary among those concerns will be protection of missile-carrying submarine launch zones and transit routes. Another primary concern will be protection against the Norwegian Sea being used for carrier-based strikes against the U.S.S.R. and the penetration and destruction of anti-submarine warfare barriers in the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap and off Northern Norway. The result is a likely Soviet interest in establishing sea control north of the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap in order to prevent NATO naval incursions into the ocean area.

However, any such protection of the Kola peninsula would tend to cut off Norway from seaborne external reinforcements. The task of establishing sea control would require the major portion of the submarines of the Northern Fleet and most of its surface combatants and maritime strike aircraft, the latter of which constitute a major challenge to Western surface traffic. The air component of the Northern Fleet includes some 170 bombers and reconnaissance aircraft of the Badger and Bear types. Soviet Backfire aircraft have flown missions from the Kola peninsula into the Norwegian Sea, but so far they have not been deployed permanently to bases in the Kola region. Cruise-missile submarines north of the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap would presumably constitute a major prop in a Soviet attempt to exercise sea control in the Norwegian Sea.

Soviet control of the Norwegian Sea and its littoral areas would constitute a major threat to Western sea lines of communication linking North America to Western Europe. Moreover, control of Norwegian air bases would be very important in order to mount such a threat. It is arguable, of course, that the fight for control of sea lines of communication would be of primary interest only in the event of a long drawn-out war and that such a contingency does not appear very likely. However, judgments are inherently uncertain and have to encompass a broad range of assumptions concerning the scenario, including the course and speed of possible escalation. It is equally important that the inability to fight a long war could amount to a serious bargaining disadvantage in a crisis and could affect political calculations in a manner harmful to Western interests.

At this point one should emphasize that the Soviet posture in the north strongly inhibits Soviet freedom of action. The concentration of important naval and central war forces in a narrow coastal strip constitutes an obvious element of vulnerability to preemptive strikes, a state of affairs which seems bound to temper incentives to use military force for limited gains in the area. However, those very constraints could constitute incentives for extending control over adjacent territory in the initial phases of a major war.

Concentration and deployment of naval forces with the aim of executing a preemptive attack on NATO naval forces in the North Atlantic would alert the central front and, in any event, imply enormous problems of coordination, even if the moves were disguised as exercises. Neither NATO nor the Soviet Union maintains permanent naval combat patrols in the Norwegian Sea. This is an important element of reciprocal restraint in a sensitive area. Soviet and Western maritime patrol aircraft maintain surveillance of the sensitive ocean areas off Northern Europe, and their ability to ascertain the absence of feared threats contributes to stability. The fact that Norwegian aircraft are responsible for patrols in the Barents Sea, thereby enabling NATO to avoid American patrols in the immediate vicinity of the Soviet base structure on the Kola peninsula, is another element in a complex but tacit pattern of restraint.

The Norwegian security calculus thus has to be a complex one. It is clearly not in the interest of national security or regional stability to challenge the integrity of the Soviet posture on the Kola peninsula. No allied maneuvers, for example, take place in the county of Finnmark, leaving a distance of some 800 km between the sites of such maneuvers and the Soviet-Norwegian border measured along the only road. The major restraint is, of course, the unilateral policy of not permitting the stationing of foreign troops in Norway as long as the country is not threatened or attacked. A corollary and development of that restraint is the policy of not allowing the deployment or stockpiling of nuclear or chemical weapons.

At the same time it has been an objective of Norwegian defense policy to block any option of limited war against North Norway by raising the force requirements for the adversary to a level where the risks of escalation will appear forbidding. Establishing a high probability of having to fight non-Norwegian forces at an early stage of an attack on Norway is considered particularly important from the point of view of raising the risk level. Norway has attempted to choose postures and arrangements which emphasize defensive intentions, while recognizing, of course, that ambiguities will always remain. Mobilization and transit times involved in the transfer of division-size units from the Leningrad area or the Moscow Military District to the Kola peninsula are on the order of one week and two weeks respectively. Stability depends to some degree on the ability of Norway and NATO to match the rate and volume of a force buildup on the Soviet side, taking into account also the defensive advantages of the geography of Northern Norway.

In this connection we must examine the Soviet pattern of deployment and activity with a view to distinguishing possible elements of restraint. Analysis here is necessarily uncertain, since the Soviet Union, unlike Norway, has not explicitly and authoritatively identified a policy of restraint or the concrete measures that includes. Soviet "signals," by contrast, are vague and uncertain. However, Norway recognizes that the development of a code of behavior incorporating the notion of reciprocal restraint is a conditio sine qua non for the evolution of a stable East-West relationship and for progress in the field of arms control. Consequently, efforts must also be made to distinguish potential elements of restraint on the Soviet side and to encourage Moscow to spell out their shape and content.

Soviet ground forces on the Kola peninsula are limited in size compared to requirements for a major offensive against central portions of North Norway. Their numbers have been fairly stable for two decades, although marginal changes have taken place in connection with the restructuring of Soviet army units. The ground forces on the Kola peninsula consist of two motorized infantry divisions of category B status. In addition there are missile, artillery and air defense support brigades and a marine infantry regiment. No fighter-bomber aircraft are deployed to airbases on the Kola peninsula. The only tactical aircraft (belonging to Frontovaya Aviatsia) are two squadrons of reconnaissance aircraft at the top of the panhandle. The rest of the active airbases are operated by the air defense forces (PVO Strany). Thus it is possible to discern some possible restraints with respect to deployments.

With respect to operations, major Soviet exercises on the Kola peninsula in recent years apparently have not included maneuver forces such as airborne troops and marine infantry units. It also seems that the practice of including the embarkation of motorized infantry units in the exercise pattern has been de-emphasized. These are the elements in the Soviet pattern of exercises which had been causing the most public concern in Norway. It is therefore possible that the rudiments of a pattern of mutual restraint may be emerging. Such a concept is central to the broader notion of Nordpolitik.


Norway joined NATO in order to put its defense in a collective framework. However, Norway recognizes that it is neither feasible nor desirable to establish a military balance indigenous to Northern Europe. The military preponderance of the Soviet Union in Northern Europe is a result of deployments which relate directly to the global equilibrium with the United States in the realm of central war and naval forces. Therefore, an attempt to establish a sub-regional military balance in Northern Europe could amount to a challenge to the Soviet position in the larger calculus. At the same time, Norway does not want to become a victim of the dictates of such a calculus. There is more to international relations than the military safety and competition of the major powers. The pattern of alignment and restraints must reflect also the will of small and medium powers to pursue their national interests and an international order based on the notion of the equality of states.

NATO provides a framework for Norwegian drawing rights on the larger equilibrium in Europe. Linkage to the security structure in Europe at large is a means to preserve a low military posture in Northern Europe. However, that posture has to present credible obstacles to military aggression consistent with the maintenance of a defensive emphasis. Allied reinforcements rather than forward stationing constitute the core of deterrence on NATO's northern flank.

In January 1981 Norway and the United States signed an agreement for the prestocking of certain heavy equipment and for host-nation support of a U.S. marine amphibious brigade as Allied reinforcement to Norway in an emergency. Norwegian authorities decided that the depots would be located in Central rather than North Norway, although on purely military grounds prestocking should, in the view of many observers, have taken place in North Norway.

However, broader considerations entered into the decision. In the ambiguous circumstances of an actual crisis situation, any government might shy away from decisions which promised to rock the boat. Moving U.S. marines into Central Norway could constitute a more credible means of demonstrating resolve with the aim of deterring attack, and involve a smaller escalation potential than a direct move into North Norway. It might therefore lend itself to earlier implementation. It would certainly provide options for redeployments to exposed areas. Therefore the choice implied increased flexibility with respect to alternative contingencies, and enhanced protection for the reinforcements during the vulnerable reception phase. There was also the need to demonstrate defensive intentions vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and to preserve the equilibrium in Northern Europe vis-à -vis the Nordic states.

The agreement on prestocking for an allied U.S. marine amphibious brigade in Central Norway enabled Norway to decide on prestocking equipment for an additional Norwegian regimental combat team in North Norway. Thus the combined solution resulted in improved rapid-reinforcement capabilities for both North and Central Norway, and was consistent with the established pattern of combining insurance with reassurance. The net result of the decisions was to increase the options for forward defense within a concept of flexible response. A limited amount of prestocking has also been decided for the U.K. Royal Marines (over-snow vehicles) and for some units of the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable Brigade Group which has been earmarked for reinforcement of Norway.

The most time-urgent needs for reinforcement in an emergency would be fighter aircraft, primarily air defense aircraft, to supplement the 72 Norwegian F-16s. The picture with respect to air reinforcement has been somewhat confused, as few NATO squadrons had airfields in Norway as initial deployment bases, and in most cases only as one of several additional deployment bases. The new rapid-reinforcement plan in NATO presumably will result in greater certainty, more suitable aircraft, and more realistic (but smaller) numbers. A certain amount of prestocking of fuel, ammunition and "yellow gear" at key airfields under the U.S.-Norwegian Colocated Operating Bases agreement will add to the effectiveness of allied conventional air reinforcement.

The Norwegian government has emphasized that it has decided on limited and precise measures designed to meet the novel circumstances of the 1980s. The arrangements are limited rather than open-ended in scope, and they do not signal any change in the structure of the Norwegian defense posture. Their implementation should constitute a plausible solution to the Norwegian defense problem in the decade ahead. Maintaining NATO control and preventing enemy control of Norway is an important element in the defense of Central Europe. The latter depends to a considerable degree on NATO's ability to protect the Atlantic sea lines of communication. Norwegian airfields and the coastal areas which permit naval dispersion are critical to that task. Hence, the measured arrangements for allied reinforcements, in the Norwegian view, contribute to general stability in Europe as well as to specific maintenance of the equilibrium in Northern Europe.

The basic point is that Norway has insisted on emphasizing the defensive nature of allied intentions through the specific configuration and scope of the measures involved for earmarking, prestocking and host-nation support. Similarly, plans for air reinforcement should emphasize specific Norwegian defense requirements and stress defensive aspects. A prudent trade-off between considerations relating to allied insurance and reassurance vis-à-vis her neighbors is another key component in Norwegian Nordpolitik.

The decisions on prestocking caused a major controversy in Norwegian society, with public opinion sharply divided. This was the first time that the broad consensus which has traditionally prevailed with respect to the basic features of Norwegian security policy was broken. It is likely that the controversy was exacerbated by the fact that it followed closely in the wake of the proposal of 1977-78 for NATO to deploy the so-called neutron bomb-a proposal that was, of course, deferred-and the NATO decision of 1979 for the modernization of theater nuclear forces.

While in substance prestocking would add to conventional defense options and tend to raise the nuclear threshold, an impression was created that the arrangement was part of a pattern leading to increased risks of nuclear warfare in Europe. The manner in which U.S. nuclear doctrine was presented through Presidential Directive 59 in the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign added to the concerns. The opinion polls taken after the signing of the agreement on prestocking indicate that 56 percent are in favor of the prestocking of allied equipment while 40 percent oppose it. The government has been picking up support.


The series of controversies over security issues in part reflects and in part has stimulated broad concerns in Norway over the nuclear arms race and the role of nuclear weapons in the defense of Europe. The concern is broadly based and includes particularly large segments of the parties in the center-right, center and center-left of the political spectrum, as well as important sections of the Norwegian clergy. Women and young people have been especially active in the broad coalitions which have been spun.

Some may find it paradoxical that nuclear weapons should become a salient political issue in a country which has decided that nuclear weapons are not to be deployed or stationed on its soil. Originally, in the early 1960s, Norwegian authorities tried to preserve some options by insisting that the restrictions only apply in peacetime. However, subsequent decisions not to make contingent arrangements for the transfer of nuclear weapons in crises or in war have resulted in Norwegian defenses encompassing only conventional forces.

The long-term program of the Norwegian government and the party platform for the ruling Labor Party for the next parliamentary period stipulate that Norway will work for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area as part of the efforts to reduce nuclear weapons in a broader European context. That formulation identifies a general policy thrust rather than a concrete program. It is sufficiently permissive to allow for diplomatic flexibility. In some sense the very term "nuclear-weapon-free zone" may be misleading, as it conveys connotations from the 1950s and 1960s which are not relevant to the conditions of the 1980s. A "no-deployment zone" would probably have been the most appropriate label at the present time in view of the restrictions which are likely to be included in any arms control agreement limiting long-range theater nuclear weapons (LRTNF) in Europe-a subject on which the United States and the U.S.S.R. are to start negotiations this year. It is, of course, possible that subsequent East-West negotiations might encompass rules and constraints with respect to employment which could then apply pari passu in a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area. The concept of such a zone is not a static one. It could be developed over time in the context of broader East-West arrangements.

The Norwegian concept is targeted on the nuclear weapon issues of the 1980s. It is not a reiteration of earlier proposals for an isolated and limited zone to be established in Nordic Europe. Rather it is a concept which links the security environment in Nordic Europe to the security order in Europe at large. It reflects a policy of coupling rather than decoupling.

The special position of the Nordic states with respect to the deployment of nuclear weapons is an established feature of the security system in Europe. That feature should, in the Norwegian view, not remain a static one, but rather constitute a platform for the further construction of a more viable security system in Europe based on notions of reciprocal reduction and restraint. For the Nordic states, reciprocity is obtainable only within the broader framework of general agreements on reduction and restraints with respect to the whole of Europe.

The nuclear threat against the Nordic area consists of both Soviet short-range nuclear systems deployed in the Kola and Baltic areas, and long-range systems, such as the SS-20, which are deployed deep in the Soviet Union to the west as well as to the east of the Urals. A possible LRTNF limitation agreement might include, inter alia, both restricted deployment zones and no-deployment zones. The Nordic area might be identified as a no-deployment zone in such a context. Any viable agreement would presumably also have to incorporate provisions prohibiting circumvention of the primary constraints resulting from forward deployment of shorter range weapons. Nordic Europe has a strong interest in such non-circumvention provisions.

Thus the Norwegian concept for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area is not an alternative to LRTNF negotiations, but an attempt to link Nordic Europe to the process and outcome of those negotiations. Furthermore, the shape and content of the restrictions applying in such a zone could be further augmented and developed within the context of possible agreements on nuclear arms control in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks or a future Conference on European Disarmament.

While the precise configuration of the restrictions which would apply within a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Nordic Europe has been left deliberately vague in order to preserve diplomatic flexibility, the Norwegian government has defined explicitly some of the key conditions. Thus, Norway would not enter into any commitment which would alter her obligations and participation in NATO and its defense arrangements. It should be noted again in this connection that Norway does not allow the stationing, deployment or stockpiling of nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil. Norwegian forces are not trained in the use of nuclear weapons; there are no special munition sites, and no special nuclear custodial units are stationed in Norway, which has no program of cooperation agreements with the United States in the nuclear weapons area. Norway, of course, has ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Limited Test Ban Treaty, and cooperates actively in the safeguards program of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nor does Norway envisage from the nuclear weapon states special guarantee arrangements specifically tied to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Nordic Europe. Such an agreement could in actual practice concede to the Soviet Union a kind of droit de regard with respect to security policy in general and cooperation with the United States in particular. Rather, Norway envisages a strengthening of the general system of guarantees to non-nuclear weapon states under the NPT regime. Nor does Norway envisage entering into bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union concerning the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The direct inclusion of Soviet territory is not envisaged in a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area. Such a constriction would tend to provide a structure for Soviet dominance in Northern Europe due to the weight of Soviet power. However, Soviet weapons in the Kola and Baltic areas as well as in more distant regions should be included as part of an overall East-West agreement.

Soviet President Brezhnev has already indicated a willingness to take certain unspecified measures on the Kola peninsula to reciprocate for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area. It has been speculated that measures might include the dismantling of SS-5 missiles. However, that type of missile is being dismantled anyway in the U.S.S.R. as part of the SS-20 modernization program, and Norway does not favor a sub-regional negotiation over weapon systems which belong in the LRTNF basket.

The proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free zone has served to structure and channel prevailing concerns, and it has provided an occasion for reiterating and emphasizing the basic contexts and linkages of Norwegian security policy. Nordpolitik incorporates the notion that Norwegian security is inextricably linked to the broader security order in Europe. There is no hiding the fact, of course, that there are contending views with respect to the modalities and contexts for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Nordic area, but the government has made its position clear.

A proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Nordic Europe alone was originally presented by Soviet Premier Bulganin in 1957. During the 1960s and 1970s the idea was proposed by the Finnish President, Urho Kekkonen. Both the Bulganin and the Kekkonen proposals envisaged a separate and isolated arrangement in Nordic Europe, and were rejected by the other Nordic states. The Norwegian government has reiterated its opposition to such schemes, which it considers unbalanced and wanting in reciprocity from the Soviet Union, the only country to deploy and station nuclear weapons in Northern Europe.


While the region of the high North has become increasingly important strategically, its importance has also grown from the point of view of resource management. It contains some of the most significant fisheries in the world, and is generally thought to have rich potential in terms of petroleum resources.

Technology has made modern fishing so effective that strong needs have arisen to regulate activity in order to protect stocks. Such regulation requires international cooperation between the coastal states and the relevant distant-water fishing states. In the Barents Sea they include primarily Norway, the Soviet Union and the European Community. But technological developments not only create needs for regulation; they also create novel problems of distribution, as coastal populations face the danger of being deprived of their traditional source of livelihood. Consequently, it has become important for Norway to secure preferential access for her coastal population to the fishing resources off the coast, particularly in North Norway.

The new dimensions which the Law of the Sea acquired with the emergence and adoption of such concepts as the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone have created a new legal framework of particular importance to the European high North. Developing a coherent approach to the triple problem of aligning considerations of international security, resource management and the constitution of a new legal framework in the sensitive region of the high North has become a major element of Norway's Nordpolitik.

In recent years Soviet-Norwegian relations have to a considerable degree revolved around competing interests with respect to the pattern of jurisdiction in the northern areas. No agreement has been reached on the delineation of jurisdictional boundaries on the continental shelf in the Barents Sea. Nor do the two countries see eye to eye with respect to the legal status of the offshore areas around the Svalbard archipelago. While these disputes are being argued in the categories and currency of international law, the real issue at stake may be the pattern of influence which is to prevail in the northern areas in the years to come. The Soviet position in the eyes of some observers implies a kind of condominium, with the great power as the bigger partner. The Norwegian vision is that of a pattern of separate and clearly drawn jurisdictions. It has been suggested that the Soviet model can be advanced by keeping open the issues of jurisdiction and pushing for joint management schemes, while the Norwegian one depends on explicit resolution of the jurisdictional issues.

The dilemma has been sharpened by pressures from domestic fishing interests to establish management regimes in order to promote preservation as well as distribution of the catch in their favor. Management of the fish stocks requires Soviet-Norwegian cooperation since they constitute so-called joint stocks migrating through areas of both Norwegian and Soviet jurisdiction as well as through disputed areas. The most important example is the arctic cod, which spawns along the coast of North Norway but spends a great part of its life cycle as a juvenile in the Barents Sea, including the Soviet zone. Efficient management of such joint stocks requires that the adjacent coastal states establish some cooperative system of joint management, and that they agree on the measures needed for the operation of such a system. Joint management may in some circumstances be more easily exploited to advance condominium arrangements than to resolve clear jurisdictional disputes.

Norwegian strategy has focused on separating the short-term management issues from the long-term jurisdictional ones. That separation has had to be accomplished in such a manner as to minimize the prejudicial impact of any interim management arrangement on the long-term settlement of the jurisdictional issue. In part this has been done by constructing interim arrangements on the basis of criteria relating to management rather than principles for the delimitation of boundaries. In part Norwegian policy has tried to mobilize diplomatic support through regular, advertised consultations on problems in the northern areas with the United States and Great Britain.

Finally, Norway has played a leading and visible role in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III) and is thereby putting herself in the position of generating international support for the principles with respect to jurisdictional delineation which she has specifically argued for the northern areas.

Norway and the Soviet Union have been negotiating about the line of delimitation between their respective continental shelves in the Barents Sea since 1970. Both countries agree that the solution must be based on the Geneva Continental Shelf Convention of 1958 (to which both countries are party), according to which boundaries of the continental shelf between adjacent and opposite states shall be determined by agreement between such states. In the absence of such agreement the boundary line shall be the median line or the line of equidistance, unless "special circumstances" justify another boundary.

During the negotiations, Norway has expressed her view that the area in question does not encompass such special circumstances as to call for a boundary different from the median line. The Soviet Union, however, has maintained that special circumstances indicate a different solution, and that that solution should be based on the so-called sector line. This means that in the Soviet view the boundary should follow a straight north-south line toward the North Pole except for certain adjustments around the Svalbard archipelago. The special circumstances claimed by the Soviet Union include such factors as economic and security interests-criteria which favor the larger party. Norway prefers criteria which point toward equal terms.

A solution in accordance with the Soviet view would result in the boundary being drawn far west of the median line. (The disputed area between the median line and the sector line amounts to roughly 155,000 sq. km, which is equivalent to the area covered by the Norwegian continental shelf in the North Sea.) The Norwegian government has publicly stated its readiness to contribute to a compromise solution through negotiations. However, the Soviet position has remained virtually inflexible. In part, that inflexibility may reflect uncertainties with respect to the value of the areas to be distributed (no oil drilling has taken place in the disputed area, but the geological indications are favorable). In part, it may also reflect fears of creeping jurisdiction leading to closure of the economic zone to the detriment of free navigation. The Soviet Union has a strong interest in ensuring free naval passage between the Barents and the Norwegian Seas. However, Norway as a major maritime nation shares the Soviet interest in freedom of navigation and would be unlikely to weaken that principle.

For the time being there is no urgency, as exploitation of the petroleum resources in the Barents Sea still lies in the future. Since Norway has only recently opened the large continental shelf off Central and Northern Norway for exploratory drilling, she can afford to postpone exploration of the disputed area. The Soviet time schedule may be less relaxed. In the meantime Norway has emphasized the need for both parties to refrain from any actions in the disputed area that would require coastal state jurisdiction-and that includes exploratory drilling-until the issue is resolved by agreement.

Norway believes that, following the establishment of 200-mile economic zones, states should aim for comprehensive agreements creating coinciding boundaries for the continental shelf and the water column within the 200-mile limit. However, since Norway and the Soviet Union were unable to agree on the continental shelf boundary and since the task of regulating fisheries in the Barents Sea was becoming an urgent one, Norway decided to separate the functional issues of regulation from the question of jurisdictional delimitation. Thus, Norway proposed a temporary fishing agreement for the disputed area.

Care had to be taken not to prejudice the long-term jurisdictional delimitation by a temporary regulatory arrangement. The arrangement was to be limited to the ocean areas inside 200 miles from the baseline, as neither of the two coastal states has the right to extend its jurisdiction over the water column beyond the 200-mile limit. The so-called grey zone agreement was concluded in January 1978, and has been extended three times for one-year periods. The agreement caused considerable political controversy in Norway-not the content of the agreement but the definition of the area to which it applies, for the "grey zone" is not congruent with the disputed area. It includes an area west of the sector line as well as another area east of the median line, the former of which is significantly larger than the latter.

In the debate about possible prejudicial effects on the delimitation talks, it was frequently forgotten that the balance of the "grey zone" agreement has to be assessed on the basis of fisheries policy and not in terms of jurisdictional delimitation. Hence, distribution of the catch and fishing grounds is more important than the distribution of the total area of the "grey zone" relative to the median line. In addition, regulation of the fishing activities has to be considered in connection with the migrating patterns of the fish. Norwegian interests would not be served by a regime which would increase the Russian harvest of juvenile fish in the eastern portions of the Barents Sea.

Norway and the Soviet Union do agree that the provisions of the temporary fisheries agreement shall not prejudice the position of either party in the negotiations on the boundary, and an explicit statement to that effect is included in the agreement. Nor does the agreement envisage any kind of joint enforcement. It constitutes a practical solution to a specific problem. Furthermore, it provides a useful building block for expanded cooperation between Norway and the Soviet Union in fields which are not part of the East-West conflict, but which may over time mitigate the consequences of that conflict for relations between the two neighboring states.

The Svalbard archipelago occupies a key position in the changing environment of the European high North. It has an important strategic location, defining together with North Norway the gateway between the Barents and the Norwegian Seas. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 conferred upon Norway the sovereignty over the islands, at the same time giving certain rights to all parties to the Treaty (41 in all). All nationals of the contracting parties have the right to carry out maritime, industrial, mining and commercial operations on the basis of absolute equality. Such activities are, however, "subject to local laws and conditions," but in exercising its regulatory powers Norway may not discriminate between the nationals of the parties to the Treaty. Furthermore, the Treaty explicitly prohibits the establishment of naval bases or fortifications on the islands, which must not be used "for warlike purposes." Norway has the responsibility of ensuring adherence to this provision. At present, only one Soviet and one Norwegian mining company conduct permanent activity in the archipelago. The Soviet Union maintains a settlement twice the size of the Norwegian one, though that ratio may change as a result of a new Norwegian mining project.

The Svalbard Treaty then explicitly stipulates that all activities in the archipelago must be conducted subject to local laws and regulations, which are established by Norway as the sovereign power. Even if there had been no such explicit provisions in the Treaty, the regulatory power of the Norwegian government would flow from the sovereignty over the islands which the Treaty conferred upon Norway. However, a certain difference of view between Norway and the Soviet Union has arisen with regard to the scope of the authority of Norway as the sovereign power. Specific disputes involve the validity of certain Norwegian regulations concerning radio communication, environmental protection and helicopter operations. The Soviet Union has advanced the view that the right of Norway to regulate the manner in which activities on Svalbard should be conducted is subject to prior Soviet agreement on the content of the regulations. This position points in the direction of claiming special privileges for Soviet nationals.

Such a position is unacceptable to Norway. Norway recognizes, however, that all operators on Svalbard have an interest in familiarizing themselves with draft regulations and in being able to submit comments. Hence, a hearing procedure has been instituted. That procedure does not amount to consultations at the state-to-state level. Final decisions are a Norwegian sovereign responsibility.

Until now no drilling for oil has taken place on the continental shelf in the Svalbard area. The likelihood of such drilling in the future raises the issue of the juridical status of the shelf area. Norway believes that the Svalbard Treaty, with its provisions on non-discrimination, does not apply beyond the territory of Svalbard proper, including the territorial sea of four miles. (The Norwegian shelf in the Barents Sea extends from the coast of North Norway up to and beyond Svalbard.) The major Western powers have reserved their position concerning the Norwegian legal position, without indicating that they necessarily oppose it. The Soviet Union, as early as 1970, took explicit exception to the Norwegian view and declared that Svalbard has a separate shelf to which the Svalbard Treaty regime must apply.

In the Norwegian view, stability and a state of low tension would be best served by general adoption of Norway's position. Norway, as the sovereign coastal state, must be able to fully regulate exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons. The Svalbard Treaty and the associated mining code provide for a regime based on non-discrimination. They are poorly suited for regulating offshore activities. Competitive exploitation under the favorable tax conditions which apply on Svalbard could result in a volume and pattern of activity which might generate tensions and uncertainty in an area of great significance to the management of the central strategic balance.

While Norway believes it has the right to establish a full economic zone in the Svalbard area, such a move could raise prematurely the outstanding legal issues. Therefore, Norway once more has chosen to separate the issue of fisheries regulation from that of jurisdictional delimitation. In 1977 Norway established a non-discriminatory 200-mile fisheries protection zone around Svalbard. The non-discrimination feature was possible because there was no need to secure preferential access for fishermen from the coastal states, and because it postponed resolution of the controversies with regard to the applicability of the Svalbard Treaty. No problems ensued with regard to the fisheries protection zone being recognized by the Western powers. However, the Soviet government refused to recognize the legal validity of the zone, although no element in the Norwegian regulations for fishery protection contravenes the Svalbard Treaty, which in the Soviet view applies to the area in question.

We see then that the long-term political task of shaping the pattern of jurisdiction and influence in the northern area comes into conflict with the more immediate task of regulating access to vulnerable protein resources. In the future, exploitation of hydrocarbons may well add to the problem.

Thus, the complexities of resource management, jurisdictional delimitation and strategic interests in the high North involve relations among Norway, other Nordic states and the European Community, as well as relations with the Soviet Union. The overall task amounts to preserving stability and balance in the area. Willingness to exercise mutual restraint, to separate the issues, and to seek equitable compromise are necessary aspects of a constructive Nordpolitik. It is equally important to preserve a coherent vision of the framework within which adjustments and adaptations to altered circumstances can take place.


With the exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea area, Norway has become an oil-producing country and a net exporter of petroleum products. The present level of production is six times greater than the domestic consumption. It will reach a level of some 60 million tons of oil equivalents per year by the mid-1980s. All oil and gas from Norwegian fields are produced in the North Sea area.

All the gas produced on the Norwegian continental shelf is exported to the European Community countries, and some 70 percent of the oil goes to Western Europe (the balance is going mainly to the United States). Norway will remain a marginal producer from the point of view of global supplies. The present production is but 0.6 percent of total world production. However, a marginal producer can play an important role in ensuring steady flows. The Norwegian government has established 90 million tons of oil equivalents per year as a target defining a moderate level of production which will constitute a measurable contribution in European terms. According to present estimates, that level of production will be reached by the early 1990s.

It is estimated that by the 1980s Norway will supply some five to seven percent of the oil requirements of the European Community area and ten to 20 percent of its gas requirements. Established reserves indicate potentialities for Norway becoming a very large gas supplier in the 1990s. Uncertainties prevail, however, with respect to the structure of prospective fields of production and the installation of infrastructure for bringing the production on stream to the European markets. Lead times are considerable. Since the North Sea shelf has tied Norway closely to the European Community, doubtless the strategic importance of Norway to the rest of Europe in economic as well as in military terms will increase in the decades ahead.

An annual production level of some 70 to 90 million tons of oil equivalents will account for some 20 to 25 percent of the Norwegian gross national product and a 40 to 45 percent share of Norway's export earnings. Domestically the increased revenues will be directed toward investment rather than increased consumption. Norwegian industry is in need of modernization and restructuring in order to maintain a high wage level and international competitiveness. Thus industrial cooperation agreements tied to agreements on energy supplies constitute an important mechanism in Norway's relations with Sweden and the European Community. Following reduction of her foreign debt, Norway will become a capital-exporting country as well.

Exploratory drilling for oil started in 1980 on the Central Norwegian shelf and in the northern areas. The results are promising but not conclusive. In view of the lead times involved, production from the northern fields cannot come on stream until the early 1990s. The international oil companies have played a decisive role in the development of petroleum fields on the Norwegian shelf, and they will continue to play an important role. But a certain "Norwegianization" will take place with respect to the participation of Norwegian companies in exploration and production on the whole Norwegian shelf, in the supply of goods and services on the shelf, and in the development of downstream activities such as refining, the petrochemical industry and marketing.

As the hunt for petroleum moves into the high North, Norway will confront the task of regulating another area of activity with a view to preserving the state of low tension in the security field while at the same time exploiting offshore resources in order to differentiate and strengthen the economy of the entire Northern Cap area (including the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland) and providing a better basis for maintaining a pattern of relatively scattered settlement throughout the area. These settlements are also important from the point of view of national security.

Offshore drilling constitutes a new frontier of human activity. In the high North it will be established in a sensitive area. In order to extend the traditional emphasis on reassurance with respect to potential military threats, it may be useful to consider an international convention declaring that offshore petroleum installations shall not be used for military purposes. In general terms such a convention would fit into the pattern established by the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer-Space Treaty and the Seabed Treaty, of excluding the frontiers of human activity from the military competition. Verification should be based on international rather than reciprocal arrangements in order to avoid specific pressures for droits de regard with respect to energy or security policies concluded on a bilateral basis.


The Federal Republic of Germany, through an imaginative Ostpolitik, played an important role in the evolution of the political order in Europe during a critical period. Norway confronts the challenge of formulating an equally imaginative Nordpolitik, and the preceding analysis has suggested some of its themes and elements.

There are strong structural similarities between the German and the Norwegian tasks and approaches. The building blocks include ground rules for a modus vivendi and practical measures of cooperation. The condition of low tension in the North constitutes the established modus vivendi which has to be strengthened by a broader pattern of mutual restraint in order to cope with the processes of change.

Norway and the Soviet Union are in a position to broaden cooperation in several areas in addition to the core area of fisheries. Increased activity at sea will increase the need for cooperation in search and rescue operations. Similarly, the task of protecting the northern ocean environment against pollution from on- and offshore activities is a shared one between the two coastal states on the Barents Sea. Norway has moved in to the vanguard of modern technology for offshore operations in northern waters, and such operations could presumably constitute an interesting area for industrial cooperation with the Soviet Union. Expanded cooperation in such fields could well broaden the interplay between Norway and the Soviet Union so as to reduce the sharpness of conflicts in the security policy fields. It could also provide cushions for preventing their opposing interests in the security field from dominating their entire relationship.

The conditions for a credible Nordpolitik include the extension of a viable balance of power to the northern region. Such extension presupposes vital Norwegian ties to the Western maritime nations and to the security order in Europe at large through NATO. However, the military balance should be constituted at the lowest possible level of military force in order to weaken the role of military power in the relationship between large and small powers. In the same vein the Norwegian perspective encompasses support and promotion of arms control schemes and legal principles to uphold and strengthen the concept of the equality of states, as well as the development of confidence-building measures to reduce the role of military force and the political shadows cast by the military activity of neighboring great powers. With respect to the construction of new management regimes for the northern ocean areas, solutions should be avoided which involve unilateral advantages or which could develop into a condominium.

It will remain a primary objective for Norwegian foreign and security policy to prevent and ameliorate conflicts which could result in intensified competition and tension in the northern area. Such objectives are also consistent with broader European interests. Practical cooperation with respect to environmental protection, search and rescue operations, resource management, industrial engineering and research could generate cooperation across the East-West divide, thus strengthening détente and protecting against inflexibility on both sides.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • Johan Jørgen Holst is State Secretary for the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and between 1976 and 1979 served as State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense. Prior to entering government in 1976 Mr. Holst had been Director of Research at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
  • More By Johan J. Holst