Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday morning the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was “the most dangerous situation since the fall of the wall”. Solberg said Russia’s violations of international law pose a dilemma for Norway’s ongoing relations with its large and powerful neighbour.
Solberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Russia had violated Ukraine’s sovereignty by going into the Crimera region, and Russia’s response to a group led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now critically important. “Russia must feel pressure internationally to participate, and not attempt to define their own reality as we see they’re largely doing now,” she said. A summit is planned in Brussels on Thursday to discuss sanctions against Russia.
Solberg would not go so far as to cut ties with Russia if it continues to interfere in Ukraine, but said it would affect the countries’ relationship. “Norway will not react with bilateral instruments,” she said. “It is the community that will ensure Ukraine and Russia find good solutions. Some of our agreements have international frameworks, which of course can be affected, but we don’t know today if that will happen.”
She said despite Norway and Russia’s good relations, the legal violations created dilemmas. The government decided on Tuesday no official representatives would attend the Paralympic Games in Sochi on the weekend. Solberg said it would be “untenable” for official representatives to participate, and Norway would exert its influence wherever possible. Solberg remonstrated Russian Prime Minister Dimitrij Medvedev over Russia’s human rights record when they met during the Sochi Olympics last month, before the Ukraine crisis escalated.
“We have built better mechanisms in Europe throughout the 30 years that we’ve had a gradual relaxation after the fall of the wall,” she told NRK. “But there will be strong reactions to such a strong violation of international law.”
The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) leader and former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg supported Solberg’s sharp criticism of Russia in line with other European and NATO countries, and said Norway can balance good cooperation with strong opposition.
“It’s possible,” he told NRK. “We have done that before under more intractable conflicts during the Cold War. That we now have fixed borders gives a new confidence. Our experience is that both Norway and Russia see it’s in their interest to cooperate in the north.”
On Wednesday morning Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov hit out at the western media for supporting the Ukrainian uprising, reported NRK. Lavrov said power was seized illegally and the transitional government is unconstitutional.
It was reported that Russian troops had seized partial control of Ukraine’s missile defense on the Crimean Peninsula. Lavrov claimed he could not withdraw the troops because they are not Russian, and said “Russia wants to avoid a bloodbath in Ukraine, including attacks on its own citizens.”
Lavrov was due to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Wednesday afternoon. America and Germany have proposed Russia pull out of the peninsula, and international observers are stationed in the area to ensure ethnic Russians’ rights in Ukraine are protected.