The sun peeked out just as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s jet landed safely on Norwegian soil Monday morning. Crown Prince Haakon was the first to wish Medvedev welcome, as his two-day state visit got underway. It’s Norway’s first state visit from a Russian president in 16 years.
After nearly two weeks of flight disruptions caused by Iceland’s volcano, Medvedev’s flight actually landed a few minutes ahead of schedule. Officials in charge of all the practicalities around the important if largely ceremonial visit could heave an audible sigh of relief.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway’s ambassador to Russia and Russia’s ambassador to Norway were also part of the official welcoming committe as Medvedev and his wife Svetlana stepped off the plane and down to the red carpet that had just been rolled out. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) carried live coverage that was scheduled to continue all day long.
Security arrangements weren’t nearly as massive as when US President Barack Obama visited Oslo in December. Formalities were clearly in place, but the entire tone of the state visit seemed more relaxed.
Medvedev is traveling with a large delegation of government and business leaders and faced a busy day of courtesy calls and diplomatic duties, ending with a speech at a large business seminar late in the afternoon. On Monday evening he was to be guest of honor at a state banquet at the Royal Palace.
Political observers have said Medvedev’s visit is more important for Norway than in it is for Russia, but others note that Medvedev is also eager to present a friendly face towards Russia’s Nordic neighbor and that he views Norway as a good ally. He’s keen to modernize Russia and has a special interest in energy and resource issues in both Norway’s and Russia’s far north.
Medvedev is doing a lot of traveling as Russia’s president, as both he and Russia’s foreign ministry mount a major offensive to boost Russia’s image in the world. He’ll head on to Denmark when his Norwegian state visit concludes late Tuesday.
The Russian president was all smiles as he arrived in Norway and then drove off in a 24-car motorcade into Oslo, heading for far more elaborate welcoming ceremonies at the Royal Palace downtown.