The Norwegian Coast Guard (Kystvakten) has, since its formation in 1977, managed a fluctuating relationship with Norway’s eastern neighbour, Russia. As the primary tool for everyday sovereignty enforcement in the maritime, the Coast Guard’s role in Norwegian foreign and security considerations cannot be understated. It is performing a balancing-act between security concerns on the one hand, and shared management of fisheries and environmental concerns on the other hand. There has, however, been limited research on the Norwegian Coast Guard’s role, or even coast guards at large, when managing disputes in the maritime.

With increased focus on resource management and territory in Arctic waters and beyond, as well as Russia’s military resurgence and unpredictability, what role does the Norwegian Coast Guard hold in Norway’s security relations with Russia? Specifically, how did the Coast Guard manage the maritime boundary dispute in the Barents Sea up until 2010, and what role did it play in advancing settlement? Similarly, how does it manage contemporary disputes concerning the Fisheries Protection Zone around Svalbard? Finally, what lessons can be learned from this specific case of maritime dispute management for similar disputes in the South and East China Seas?

This research project aims at grappling with these questions by examining the Norwegian Coast Guard and its management of maritime disputes under the umbrella of contemporary Norway-Russia relations. In turn, this will allow us to highlight relevant dimensions of coast guards and their role in dispute management in general. This can form the basis for lessons that might hold relevance in other parts of the world, most noticeably the South and East China Seas.

Three specific goals guide this project:
i. Providing an analysis of the Norwegian Coast Guard’s role in the larger security relations between Norway and Russia.
Ii. Enhancing our understanding of how the Norwegian Coast Guard have managed, and continue to manage, maritime disputes in the Barents Sea.
Iii. Providing relevant lessons for the role of coast guards in maritime dispute management at large, specifically aimed at the South and East China Seas.

Project period: 2017-2018


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  • Research Professor
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Norwegian Ministry of Defence