Promise of oil lures Soviets and Chinese to Norway's front door

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Norway is again being wooed by the Soviet Union, in addition to receiving court from a new suitor -- China. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko recently invited Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund to Moscow for the first time in 13 years. And Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua is visiting Oslo June 12 to 15 on his Scandinavian and West German swing.

In his travels Huang Hua is reminding the Scandinavians that their countries have an important strategic role in the world -- and that there are no conflicts between China and Scandinavia. He is warning everyone who will listen against being duped by a phony Soviet peace offensive. And especially in Norway, he will be welcoming offers of offshore-oil technology and know-how.

Mr. Gromyko, too, is smiling at the Norwegians after several months of tension following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He had hoped, according to diplomatic sources in Oslo, that his Norwegian counterpart's visit could take place soon -- before the Olympics, which Norway is boycotting. The Norwegians -- who by protocol should play host rather than guest to the Soviet foreign minister this time around -- set the date of the visit for this coming fall instead.

Recommended: 4 new foreign mysteries to scare you this Halloween

The Soviet invitation marks a return to the carrot rather than the stick in dealings with its Nordic neighbor.

In February and March the Russians were protesting both the periodic NATO exercises in Norway and an alleged Norwegian military buildup along the 125-mile Norwegian-Soviet border. They also objected to Norway's program for weapons prepositioning, claiming it was a departure from Oslo's policy of not stationing foreign (NATO) troops in Norway in peacetime.

The Norwegians rejected all the charges.They said their 400 token troops on the Soviet border had not been augmented. The NATO exercises, they noted, are held regularly in Norway since it is a member of NATO.

The prestocking, they said, was an ongoing program -- a modest response to the massive Soviet buildup over the past decade and a half of air, naval, and ground forces in the Kola Peninsula. It was not a reaction to Afghanistan, however, they contended, and it was certainly not a step toward stationing of NATO peacetime forces in Norway.

An easing of tensions came in April, when Moscow ended its propaganda campaign against Norway and offered to reopen the Barents Sea border talks, which had been stalled for three years. The Soviet invitation to the Norwegian foreign minister at the end of May confirmed a return to more cordial relations.

Diplomatic sources expect that the Barents Sea dividing line between Norwegian and Soviet waters and continental shelf will be the main topic of Mr. Frydenlund's talks in Moscow. There is some hope in Oslo that the strong incentive of oil might now make Moscow more eager to reach a settlement than it has in the past.

Huge oil finds in Norway's North and Norwegian seas have raised hopes of finding extensive hydrocarbons pools in the Barents Sea as well. Seabed mining rights (along with unspoken strategic issues) are at the heart of the Barents Sea dispute.

Norway would like to see the border drawn on a line equidistant between Norway and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would like to see the border skirt the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago but then run straight north- south. The disputed area covers about 60,000 square miles.

A provisional fishing agreement has been in operation for this "gray zone" for two years, but this has not helped forward the basic negotiations. In 1978 the Soviet Union, in one of its cycles of intimidation, reminded Norway of its claims by firing missiles into the disputed area.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...