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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Foreign spies target the Arctic

Norwegian and Danish authorities are reporting increased spying activity in their Arctic areas. Foreign countries are anxious to secure themselves a position in the region, with new travel routes and access to natural resources at stake.

Norway’s military has frigates and coast guard vessels on patrol in the Arctic. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that foreign spies are using established and new methods to illegally gain information on developments in the Barents and other Arctic areas, much of which is Norwegian territory. A growing number of international players in the area has also led to the boom in spying against the two Scandinavian countries.

“I can confirm that we, like our Danish sister organization, are seeing increased intelligence gathering in this area,” Martin Bernsen of Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) told Aftenposten. “We see that certain countries are actively trying to gain a foothold in the far north.”

Jacob Scharf, head of the Danish intelligence agency PET (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste), told Danish newspaper Berlingske that there was a “marked” increase in spying activity directed at the Arctic areas recently. For Denmark, that includes especially the coastal areas around Greenland, while Norway’s Arctic territory extends from the Norwegian Sea to the Barents and north of Svalbard.

In May, a Finnish professor was convicted of spying against Denmark after helping Russian intelligence, and he told a Danish paper that he, among other things, had worked with Arctic analyses.

Norway’s PST has already stated in its own evaluations of threats against Norway this year that “in the years to come, we expect a stronger intelligence-gathering focus against Norwegian political processes, especially those tied to the Northern Areas and Svalbard.”

Bernsen of PST told Aftenposten that Norway, with its geographic location, energy resources and high technology, is “an especially attractive target” for spying.

Kristine Beitland of the business security council Næringslivets Sikkerhetsråd agreed. Norwegian research and development is particularly vulnerable to foreign spies, she said, with those tied to oil, gas and maritime interests especially active.

China and the European Union are also pressing for influence over developments in the Arctic, not least those involving new transport routes emerging as a result of melting ice and energy resources. Several other states have also made demands for territory.

Norway has a fleet of frigates and other military vessels on patrol in the Arctic and operative headquarters located in the northern city of Bodø. A new research vessel has been ordered for intelligence purposes and a new fleet of helicopters is also due for delivery. The other four countries bordering the areas north of the Arctic Circle (Canada, the US, Denmark and Russia) are also reportedly boosting patrols and military presence in the area.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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