Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic
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Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Edited by Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland

The Arctic has again become one of the leading issues on the international foreign policy agenda, in a manner unseen since the Cold War. Drawing on the perspectives of geo-politics and international law, this Handbook offers fresh insights and perspectives on the most pressing issues, grouped under the headings of political ascendancy, climate and environmental issues, resources and energy, and the response and policies of affected countries.
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Chapter 23: Norway’s approach to the Arctic: policies and discourse

Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen


Arctic affairs are an integral part of Norway’s foreign policy. The strength of this component in Norwegian foreign policy has varied over time, as has its profile and formal designation. In general, the term ‘Arctic’ is rarely used in Norwegian foreign policy discourse, and then often referring to something further off in either time (like polar explorations before the Second World War) or space (outside Norway’s immediate sphere of interest, such as the North Pole area or the American Arctic). ‘The North’ (in Norwegian: nord) or ‘the northern regions’ (in Norwegian: nordomradene) have been the preferred terms for describing practical foreign politics in the European Arctic. In practice, Norway’s northern foreign policy is mainly about relations with other states in the Barents Sea region (see Figure 23.1). Of particular importance are relations with Russia. This chapter discusses the evolvement of contemporary Norwegian High North policies, with particular emphasis on the first decade of the twenty-first century. In the first part of the chapter, we argue that these policies consist of layers from different time periods, ranging from the Cold War with its East–West tensions, to the immediate post-Cold War years when new institutional partnerships were established between Norway and Russia in the High North, and the years from around 2005, characterized by functional and geographical dispersion of Norwegian High North politics. In the second part of the chapter, we analyse Norwegian public discourse on the High North.

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