Nordisk Østforum, Vol 32, 2018, pp. 1-20
After the annexation of Crimea, Moscow’s relationship to the western world deteriorated dramatically. This was also true for the bilateral relationship between Russia and Norway. In this article, Norwegian perceptions of its eastern neighbor are discussed. Though clearly biased against Moscow, Norwegian politicians were simultaneously adamant in their emphasis on good neighborly relations with Russia and a will to protect areas of collaboration from spillover effects. This duality, it is argued, reflects a long-standing tradition in Norwegian Russia policies of balancing opposing elements. Though Norwegian media and policy makers were predominantly willing to perform this balancing act, the article also points to examples of unsubstantiated allegations made against “Russia” or “Russian actors”. Originating from marginal outlets, such stories were accommodated by Norwegian mainstream media, which thereby contributed to creating a skewed – or at the very least uncorroborated – image of Russian intentions. From January 2017 onwards, the Russian embassy in Oslo engaged in the public debate. The embassy’s contributions were unusual, more by virtue of their undiplomatic tone than by their political content. Despite current tensions, the author argues that the Norwegian-Russian bilateral relationship is now closer to a historical norm than at any point since the collapse of the Soviet Union.