The Norwegian government joined others all over Europe in expelling three Russian diplomats on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said they were conducting themselves “in a manner that didn’t harmonize with their diplomatic status.”
That’s widely viewed as a foreign relations term for suspected espionage. The main reason for declaring the three diplomats “persona non grata” in Norway, however, was the Norwegian government’s disgust with Russia’s increasingly brutal aggression in Ukraine.
“The timing for these expulsions is not accidental,” Huitfeldt told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) during a break from a meeting of all NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday. “They come at a time when the whole world has been shaken by reports of Russian military forces’ attacks on civilians, especially in the city of Bucha outside of Kyiv.”
More reports and horrific photos of death and destruction were emerging from other Ukrainian cities after Russian troops withdrew following heavy losses themselves. Huitfeld said that Russia’s ambassador to Norway was called in to the foreign ministry in Oslo Wednesday to get the message personally about the expulsions.
“We want to send a clear signal,” Huitfeldt told NRK, that Russia’s brutality in Ukraine is unacceptable. It’s now expected that an equal number of Norwegian diplomats will be expelled from Russia, as is normal practice in such situations.
Norway is sending out far fewer diplomats, however, than Denmark, for example, which branded 15 Russians as no longer welcome. Europe as a whole has sent nearly 200 back to Moscow, prompting NRK to suggest that Norway is being more cautious and doesn’t want to cut diplomatic ties to Russia completely. Huitfeldt said more may follow, however, and the government has already won support for the expulsions in Parliament.
“The Conservatives fully support this decision,” Huitfeldt’s predecessor as foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, told NRK. She also backs the government’s coordination with other NATO allies in determining if more expulsions are warranted.