Approaching the North: Norwegian and Russian Foreign Policy Discourses on the European Arctic

Polar Research, Vol 29, 2010, pp. 439-450.

The  aim of this article is to identify Norwegian and Russian official foreign policy discourses on the European Arctic, and how perceived challenges are understood, framed and presented by the governments in their respective countries. The article makes use of discourse analysis to grasp how the Norwegian “High North” strategy is framed by the Norwegian government and, likewise, how the Russian approach to the European Arctic is framed by the Russian government. The empirical foundation is a study of primary texts such as white papers, official reports, speeches and strategies. We find that the Norwegian approach to the High North features in a powerful official discourse resulting from a robust and broad domestic discursive mobilization. The Russian approach is that of an increasingly assertive nation for which the zero-sum game and relative gains seem to be the main rationale, judging by the official discourse. The Russian approach is not as coherent or based on a broad discursive mobilization as in Norway’s case. We identify energy, security, the economy and the environment as key discursive nodal points that the foreign policy discourses of the two countries evolve around: we find that both countries regard the European Arctic’s potential as a future energy province to be the region’s most prominent aspect. The discourses show that energy is regarded to be of vital national interest, but the countries have differing perceptions on international cooperation. However, as the countries have some important common frames of references, a favourable climate for extended future cooperation could be further developed.



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