Concerns Svalbard might be among Russia’s next targets after the Ukraine are no longer speculative, as Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin followed up a controversial visit to the archipelago by telling a Russian TV station this week he considers the two areas similar.
“Last year, we had the historical reunification of Sevastopol and the Crimea,” he said in an interview with state-owned Channel One. “This year, we are presenting a new view and new powerful emphasis on the development of the Arctic. Basically, it’s is all about the same.”
Rogozin was banned from Norway and other western countries due to sanctions imposed on him for his role in the Ukraine crisis, but by taking a flight directly from Russia to Svalbard was able to avoid Norway’s entry requirements under terms of the Svalbard Treaty, which allows members of all signature nations to enter without passports or other security checks. But Frode Andersen, head of communications for Norway’s Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday legislation will be submitted to prohibiting sanction individuals from entering the archipelago.
“We will now make the necessary changes in Norwegian legislation so that it would not be possible for people included in sanctions lists to legally stay in Svalbard,” he told Sputnik International.”This will apply to persons from any country that is sanctioned by Norway on the basis of international rules.”
The five nations with claims to Arctic territory are waging an increasingly heated battle over the boundaries of that territory and the right to conduct commercial activity such as oil drilling there, due to estimates a quarter of the world’s remaining oil may be in the far north. But Russia’s actions in recent years has been cited by other countries and international analyists as particularly aggressive, with the country engaging in numerous nuclear-related military exercises during the past year in areas encroaching on other nations.
Analyists have suggested Svalbard may be a prime target for Russian expansion since the country considers the Svalbard Treaty unfairly discriminatory. Russia is investing heavily in science and tourist facilities in the settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden, and this year significantly increased its activities at an ice camp it operates annually lly at roughly 89 degrees north latitude by adding a separate camp for extreme-weather military exercises.
Rogozin, who visited the camp and the North Pole on Saturday and Sunday after a brief visit to Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, was recently named the head of a new commission to oversee Russia’s Arctic policies. He is known as a frequent and provocative social media user, sending Twitter messages during his visit and afterward declaring the Arctic to be Russia’s Mecca and telling Norwegian leaders “it is too late to wave their fists after a fight.”