The World Today for June 08, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Far North Face Off

NORWAY

Norwegian officials recently warned their citizens to avoid Hvaldimir, a beluga whale that swims around the coast wearing a harness that can mount cameras. As CNN explained, the officials suspect that the Russian military trained the cute white cetacean to act as a spy.

“The harness had a mount suited for an action camera and the words Equipment St Petersburg printed on the plastic clasps,” wrote the Guardian.

Hvaldimir first appeared in 2019. But the creature’s recent reappearance is a reminder that NATO-member Norway, which shares a border with Russia in its far north, is on the frontlines in the pseudo-Cold War that has developed between the West and Russia since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine last year.

Norway traditionally doesn’t necessarily have bad relations with Russia, argued an analysis in NEWSinENGLISH.no, an English-language, Oslo-based news website that covers Norway. Soviet troops liberated Norway from the Nazis in World War II. More recently, international sanctions against Russia have harmed Norwegian companies that work closely with Russian customers, for example.

Now, however, Norway is firmly with its NATO allies. The capital of Oslo recently welcomed the biggest vessel in the United States Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, as part of military exercises, reported Al Jazeera. Russian leaders were not pleased, calling it an “illogical and harmful” provocation in a period of heightened tensions.

The country is also giving Ukraine $7 billion in aid over the next five years, noted Reuters. The generosity seems fitting. An oil-producing country, Norway has benefitted mightily from oil prices that have been skyrocketing because of the war. Norwegian officials, incidentally, have also been inspecting all their pipelines to make sure sabotage doesn’t undermine their exports in the way that an explosion in Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline harmed its supply chain network.

Russia is pushing back. Russian authorities, for example, helped organize a Russian military-style parade in Norway’s far north to celebrate May 9, a Russian holiday marking the end of World War II, the Barents Observer wrote. A Russian mining company is the main employer in the area, and many of the residents are Russian as well as Ukrainian. The parade included a helicopter, snowmobiles, and a Russian consul general.

The tensions inherent in the geopolitical situation have come to a head in the case of Andrei Medvedev, a former fighter in the Russian mercenary Wagner Group. As the New York Times explained, Medvedev has sought asylum in Norway and is giving intelligence to Norwegian authorities. But he has also admitted to killing Ukrainians in war. Norwegian officials aren’t sure whether they should keep and use him, or turn him over to folks in Kyiv.

They, like Norway itself, are in a tricky position.

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