”Through more than two decades, the Barents cooperation contributed to developing dialogue, trust, and interaction in the North. It helped create an atmosphere for solving important questions about Norway and Russia, including the agreement on the maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea which resulted in the 2010 agreement.”
That is said by Øyvind Nordsletten, who has extensive experience within Norwegian Russia diplomacy as both ambassador in Moscow and Consulate General in Murmansk.[…]
”In addition, the cooperation in the Barents region has always been about something more than building bridges between Norway and Russia especially. It has also been about connecting northern provinces in several countries closer together, with the inclusion of Finland and Sweden as ’core countries’. Cooperation between Nordic countries has gained extra inspiration and input through the Barents cooperation,” says the retired diplomat.
On the 11th of January 1993, the Kirkenes Declaration – the Barents cooperation’s foundation document – was adopted by Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the EU commission.
Through this new framework for interaction, bridges were to be built over dividing lines in the militarized north – aiming for stability, peace, and joint projects.
Currently, three decades later, some believe that the cooperation in the Barents region has been a failure – with reference to Russia’s authoritarian approach towards its civil society, its warfare against Ukraine, and its stings against the West.
However, the understanding of the Barents cooperation as a successful format still holds up. The long-standing collaboration – both between states, regional units, and people – has been fruitful in ways that do not fade away because of the war, Sverre Jervell also believes. […]
The Russian MFA Andrei Kozyrev’s journey before signing the Kirkenes Declaration:
”On his way to Kirkenes, Kozyrev conducted a remarkable detour. On the 9th of January 1993, he visited the Northern Fleet in Murmansk and Severomorsk. To the officer corps, he emphasized that the notion of a world split in two had expired. Russia had no constant enemies, he stated, only constant interests. These interests would best be promoted in cooperation and partnership with the outside world. He said it was in exactly this regard that the Russian delegation, with participation from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts, traveled to the Barents cooperation’s founding conference in Kirkenes. As if to highlight that the military differences of the Cold War were over, Kozyrev visited the Norwegian Air Force’s station in Bodø the day after. Here he presented a copy of the Soviet fighter plane MIG-15 to the National Norwegian Aviation Museum.” […]
A central point for some of the critics who believe that the Barents cooperation has failed, is that it has not contributed to the democratization of Russia. This view also meets resistance from the diplomats.
”System change in Russia has not been the aim of the Barents cooperation. No basis can be found for this in any official statements. If Stoltenberg had believed this to be an aim in 1993, it would be politically impossible for the Russians to participate in this project,” says Jervell. ”Per contra, the aim was to establish cooperation between countries with different governance systems and traditions. Läs artikel