dr. Adrian Vasile POPA
Abstract. Coridorul arctic-baltic-pontic ilustrează flancurile NATO şi Rimland-ul strategic al Rusiei, consti-tuindu-se astfel atât într-un potenţial areal de confruntare, cât şi într-un martor al unor poveşti de succes privind soluţionarea conflictelor. Când vine vorba de compararea schemelor de soluţionare a conflictelor – indiferent că luăm ca reper Oceanul Arctic, Marea Baltică sau Marea Neagră – trebuie remarcat faptul că nu poate fi aplicată o reţetă unică şi infailibilă pentru soluţionarea conflictelor la nivel global. Susţinând însă utilitatea abordării comparative, prezenta cercetare propune realizarea unei analize comparative a instrumentelor folosite în politica externă de către Rusia în Arctica Norvegiană, respectiv Marea Neagră, în scopul identificării unor strategii de asigurare a bunei vecinătăţi între membrii şi partenerii NATO localizaţi pe coridorul menţionat şi Rusia. Acest demers are ambiţia de a deschide noi orizonturi de cercetare prin cuplarea beneficiilor analizei de conţinut cu oportunităţile generate de Big Data pentru o mai bună înţelegere, de către factori de decizie din România, a tiparelor şi schemelor de negociere utilizate de Norvegia în relaţia cu Rusia.
Cuvinte cheie: analiză comparativă; Big Data; NATO; Rusia; soluţionarea conflictelor
Nowadays, the security dynamics and conflict resolution in one of NATO’s flanks cannot be studied without taking into account the wider context. For example, a conflict resolution pattern in the Northern Flank might represent a model for the Eastern Flank, while the international jurisprudence generated by an interstate conflict in the Eastern Flank might have a strong influence on the security dynamics in the Southern Flank.
Even though security interdependence can be structured into regionally based ‘clusters’ or ‘security complexes’, the global politics agenda might force smaller countries to act within a complex foreign policy scheme based on balance between deterrence through NATO membership and reassurance through dialogue with the other Great Powers such as Russia or China.
In the Norwegian Arctic and the Black Sea, as elsewhere on NATO’s flanks, it might be noticed both a horizontal escalation of any certain conflict and a ‘contagious’ scheme of conflict resolution as the effects of the military disputes and peace talks may spill over from one region to another within the larger framework of NATO – Russia confrontation. For instance, a Russian-Western military confrontation in the Northern Flank may not necessarily be generated by an escalating bilateral dispute of local origin.
Thus, crises in the Norwegian Arctic may have potentially far-reaching impli-cations for the security situation in the Black Sea, and vice versa. However, it should be understood that the destabilization of one of the two regions does not necessarily have to result in the destabilization of the other region. Much depends on the extent to which the conflicting parties and their allies are willing and succeed in insulating the crisis in question.
Therefore, the prevention of a domino-effect development should be a major priority not only for Romania, but also for all Russia’s western neighbors grouped into NATO members and partners that are obliged under the current circumstance to enhance their cooperation and knowledge sharing.
RUSSIA’S ULTIMATUM FOR A STRATEGIC REALIGNMENT
FROM THE ARCTIC TO THE BLACK SEA
The eastward expansion of NATO from the Arctic Region to the Black Sea has been considered by Russia as an attempt of encirclement and as a result, the subsequent Russian military build-up from the Arctic to the Black Sea coupled with its increasingly confronting rhetoric – comprising allegations of airspace violations, incidents limiting the freedom of navigation or cases of obstruction of the natural resource’s exploitation – were designed as an appropriate response.
Further shrinking of its shores and increasing limitation of its access to the international waters from the Arctic to the Black Sea could not be any more tolerated by Russia which has been approaching, since the end of Cold War, a strategic culture based on the propensity to use force in order to achieve its strategic objectives.
On the one hand, Russian military build-up and belligerent behavior in the Arctic signal its will and capability to reassert its wide-access to the maritime corridors – including the new ones such as the Northern Sea Route emerged as a result of the declination of the Arctic ice cap – and to the adjacent maritime and energy resources.
On the other hand, Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008 and the subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 marked this country’s control of the Black Sea’s shores, including claims for its vast majority of continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As Crimea belongs to Ukraine de iure, but is controlled de facto by Russia, all NATO members and partners follow closely the development of conflict resolution for the Crimean Peninsula.
Furthermore, Russia has developed a thoroughly-planned A2/AD on its western borders, comprising of strategically-placed modern military equipment, including long-range missile and submarines capable of nuclear strikes, from the Arctic Circle (Kola Peninsula) to the Black Sea (Crimea) via the Baltic Sea (Kaliningrad).
The Arctic-Black Sea demarcation line between NATO’s flanks and Russia’s strategic Rimland is a central hotspot for Western – Russian disputes. However, it should also be noted that this North-South axis of continental Europe bordering Russia has also witnessed during the last decade success stories of conflict resolution between both the Arctic and Black Sea coastal states.
Negotiations schemes appointed by the Arctic and Black Sea coastal states for the peaceful adjustment of their maritime borders and resources within the bilateral negotiations of the last decade – such as the one used by Norway when signing the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty with Russia or the one implemented by Romania and Ukraine as a result of the 2009 ICJ case concerning maritime delimitation in the Black Sea – can represent a wide-ranging source of inspiration for the current Western-Russian disputes from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRENDS IN THE WIDER BLACK SEA REGION
In general terms, the Black Sea security environment has been marked since the end of the Cold War up until 2008 by a constant improve of the status of good neighbourly relations between the coastal states.
The start was not that good as the USSR process of dissolution created various epicentres of conflict – such as Transnistria (Moldovan national territory); South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Georgian national territory) or Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijani / Armenian national territory); all of them being transformed – within months up to few years since their inception – into frozen conflicts enforced by ‘Russian peacekeepers’.
The Black Sea coastal states were negotiating their border delimitation through bilateral diplomatic channels, most of these disputes being settled through a type of bilateral agreement known in legalistic terms as inter se agreement – as an exception, a certain case has involved mediation by a higher authority, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), namely the 2009 ICJ case concerning maritime delimitation in the Black Sea between Romania and Ukraine.
The Romanian-Ukrainian negotiations for their border delimitation started in the first years since the end of Cold War. In 1997, Romania and Ukraine had signed a treaty in which both states reaffirmed their good neighbourly relations and agreed that if no resolution on maritime borders could be reached within two years, either side could seek a final ruling from the ICJ.
Therefore, Romania brought its case to the court in 2004 after unsuccessful direct negotiations with Ukraine. On February 3, 2009, ICJ handed down its verdict, establishing a maritime boundary including the continental shelf and EEZ for Romania and Ukraine – Romania received nearly 80% of the disputed area, rich in oil and gas, this result being considered as just and final by both sides.
The 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine offers good hints in terms of peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes even for cases when the negotiations between conflicting parties seem to reach an apparent standstill. Both Romania and Ukrainian’s determi-nation to accept the ICJ decision no matter of its consequences was a strong signal that both countries were ready to surpass their difficult past and embrace a common future.
The successful application of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine transformed this legal case into a reference example of international jurisprudence for other similar disputes elsewhere on the globe – for instance, for the Norwegian-Russian dispute on the delimitation of the Barents Sea prior to the enactment of the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty.
As a consequence, not only the escalating effects of war potential can transgress from one region to another within the North – South axis of continental Europe bordering Russia, but also the success recipes for peaceful negotiations and war deterrence.
However, since 2008 NATO’s eastward expansion has been clashing with Russian revisionist behaviour at the Black Sea and has resulted in various on-going conflict epicentres in Eastern Europe, adding them to the potential conflict escalation panoply consisting of the above-mentioned historical frozen conflicts.
Such a bilateral dispute is that caused by Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, based on the international customary law of ‘responsibility to protect’, for the support of the so-called Republic of Abkhazia, a Russian statelet located at the Black Sea shores on the Northern part of Georgian national territory. Russia has taken over much of Georgia’s territorial waters at the Black Sea as a result of supporting Abkhazia and further recognizing its so-called independence.
In addition, the twofold outcome of Russian intervention in Ukraine presents a huge risk of conflict escalation. Russia’s annexation of Crimea has not been recognized by the vast majority of the international community, while Russia’s military reinforce-ment of the separatists from the Ukrainian oblasts of Donetsk and Lugansk lead to the War in Donbas. This security equation is further complicated by Russian de facto control of both sides of the Kerch Strait along with conducting specific activities to limit the freedom of navigation for Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
As it could be noticed, the Black Sea coastal states, including Romania, face volatile frontiers with the Russian Federation whose effects, unless skilfully dealt with through diplomatic negotiations, might spill over to the other parts of the Arctic-Black Sea demarcation line between NATO’s flanks and Russia’s strategic Rimland, creating the premises for the emergence of a global military encounter between NATO and Russia.
Therefore, a sine qua non condition for preserving global peace is to include the Kremlin in all negotiations involving the future of the Wider Black Sea Region. The know-how obtained from the recent cases of conflict resolution in the Arctic Region might offer valuable insights for the perspective of conflict settlement in another region.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRENDS IN THE ARCTIC REGION
Comparatively, the Arctic has presented until recent years a two-state condo-minium, Norway and Russia. Their relationship has been characterized by millennial peace and consisted of bilateral dialogue, predictability and cooperation, but also spiced – on several occasions – with mutual suspicion and elevated concern.
This state of affairs might be changing as the Arctic is resuming an important geostrategic role within the NATO – Russia worldwide dispute. The primary driver for the global revitalized interest in the Arctic is the effect of global warming.
Declination of the Arctic ice cap is creating economic opportunities as untapped resources become available – mostly undiscovered oil, natural gas, minerals, but also relocated fish stocks – and new waters become navigable – for instance, shorter shipping routes between Europe and Asia such as the Northern Sea Route. As a consequence, it can be noticed a growing tension in the Arctic generated by the Great Powers’ different perspectives over its maritime delimitation.
The Arctic is undoubtedly the highest priority on the Norwegian foreign policy agenda. Norway offers a close attention to its controlled part of the Arctic, known as the Norwegian Arctic, due to this country’s reliance as of now on the economic revenues generated by this area, but also due to the good perspectives for its further exploitation. A focal point is also derived from the fact that parts of the Norwegian Arctic are bordered by Russia.
Norway has traditionally based its foreign policy on a balance between deterrence through NATO membership and reassurance through dialogue with Russia in combi-nation with self-imposed restrictions on allied presence and activity.
Taking into account Russia’s renewed assertion of expanded jurisdiction in the Arctic coupled with its strengthened military presence in the region, Norway is fully-aware nowadays that its neighbour might call for a renewed balance and as a consequence, it uses all sorts of diplomatic tools with Russia for the purpose of deterrence and détente.
In addition, considering the remarkable military asymmetry between Norway and Russia, the Nordic country has recently become a strong advocate for revitalizing NATO’s increased presence on the Northern flank.
In the meantime, Norway and Russia have developed bilateral cooperation both in non-military fields, such as joint efforts to combat illegal fishing in the Barents Sea or common schemes for maritime search and rescue services, and in military-related fields such as exchange of experiences between their Coast Guard and Border Guard personnel and even joint military exercises.
Norway and Russia have also agreed on solving their (almost) last maritime dispute in the Barents Sea in 2010. The Barents Sea Treaty has established a single delimitation line for their EEZ and continental shelf in areas within 200 miles of their coasts and a delimitation line between the Norwegian and Russian continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 miles. Therefore, this treaty resolved most of the long-lasting jurisdictional issues regarding the maritime boundary between the two countries in the Barents Sea, while fostering bilateral mechanisms for dealing with issues of common concern such as exploitation of energy resources and fish stocks.
Still, a possible unresolved jurisdictional issue in the Barents Sea Region remain the status of the waters surrounding the Svalbard Archipelago. The various interpret-tations of the Svalbard Treaty, dating back in 1920, has been the source of a still ongoing political and judicial dispute for generations. The main paradigm of this dispute is that, in line with the modern developments of the Law of the Sea, Norway argues that the Svalbard treaty’s provisions of equal economic access apply only to the islands and their territorial waters and not to the adjacent EEZ meanwhile the contesters claim the Norwegian EEZ should be calculated only from the mainland Norway’s continental shelf while Svalbard should not be included in this calculation as it has its own shelf that generates EEZ to be covered by the Svalbard Treaty.
However, the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty is generally interpreted as strengthening the legal position of Norway towards the waters surrounding the Svalbard Archipelago since Russia agreed to delimit jurisdiction over the shelf between Svalbard and the Russian islands of Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, presumably treating the shelf adjacent to Svalbard as a Norwegian continental shelf.
The 2010 Barents Sea Treaty is widely perceived as a success story of conflict resolution. The positive outcome of the Norwegian – Russian negotiations regarding their maritime delimitation line in the Barents Sea was mainly determined by the two countries’ determination for war deterrence. In addition, the delimitation solution appointed by the two countries was based on the principles of the 1982 LOS Convention and was inspired by similar cases of international jurisprudence such as the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
Therefore, the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty offers valuable hints that might be employed for the purpose of reaching an end to similar disputes elsewhere. Indeed, the negotiation scheme employed to obtain bilateral mechanisms for dealing with issues of common concern, such as exploitation of energy resources and fish stocks, can become a focus of considerable interest not only for those concerned with the wider Arctic, but also for instance, for those attempting to solve the current Black Sea maritime disputes.
USING BIG DATA ANALYSIS FOR A BETTER UNDERSTANDING
OF RUSSIA’S CURRENT FOREIGN POLICY
The general objective for a potential thematic research on conflict resolution could be, for instance, the development of a comparative analysis, using Big Data, between Russia’s current foreign policy in the Norwegian Arctic and the Black Sea for the identification of ways to develop good neighbourly relations between NATO members and partners, on one side; and Russia, on other side.
The potential legal dispute between Romania and Russia for the delimitation of their overlapping EEZs is further discussed as a research design that might reveal new directions in comparative analysis on conflict resolution.
Since March 2014, Russia has started the enforcement of its coastal state jurisdiction in most of the maritime spaces southwest, south, southeast and northeast of Crimea – leaving untouched only the Ukrainian north-western corner of the Black Sea. Indeed, Russian-occupied Crimea’s EEZ overlaps with what remains of Ukraine’s, as well as with the EEZs of Turkey and Romania.
According to the principle that boundaries and territorial regime survive a succession of States – see for example Art. 11 and 12 of the 1978 Vienna Convention – if Crimea were to be annexed lawfully by a third state, then the Black Sea maritime boundary would remain the same. The point as yet has not arisen, the reason being that a lawful succession of States has not occurred up until now for the Crimean Peninsula.
In fact, the sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and its adjacent continental shelf and EEZ is military and legally-disputed as of today by Ukraine and Russia, with high repercussion on the national security of the other Black Sea coastal states.
In late 2016, Ukraine took the step to demand international arbitration under the Annex VII of the Law of the Sea Convention; however, Russia claimed that the arbitral tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no jurisdiction in the matter.
It is worth mentioning though that Ukraine has obtained so far a symbolic victory in its international legal dispute with Russia through a newer case brought before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, shortly after the Kerch Strait incident of November 2018. The Tribunal’s provisional decision called for the immediately release of the detained vessels and crewmen and return them to Ukraine – even though the jurisdiction of the Tribunal on this issue has not been recognized by Russia, the spirit of its decision was enforced by Russia, in September 2019, as part of a prisoner exchange with Ukraine.
Ukraine has also attempted to internationalize the conflict by filing, in 2017, a lawsuit against Russia to the ICJ. However, the ICJ can take years to hear cases and although its rulings are final and binding, it has no means of enforcing them. As a consequence, the conflict resolution of the Ukrainian-Russian dispute can only be achieved through the development of direct negotiations.
Crimea remains as of now a territory occupied by the Russian Federation, no peace talks are held on this case and the Kremlin maintains that the peninsula is an integral part of its national territory as a result of ‘the Crimean status referendum’ held on March 16, 2014 – a plebiscite based on a controversial right to self-determination of the people inhabiting the Crimean Peninsula.
Therefore, Russia’s unilateral land grab of the Crimean Peninsula – coupled with the slight chances of the ICJ to restore the pre-2014 legal order at the Black Sea – transformed the delimitation of the Black Sea continental shelf and EEZs into a Gordian knot.
Romania offers remarkable attention to the consequences and perspectives of Russia’s annexation of Crimea not only by virtue of its good neighbourly relations with the other Black Sea states and its strong adherence to the principles of international law that should govern this region, but also as an expression of its strong feeling of solidarity with Ukraine, a member state of both NATO’s Partnership for Peace and EU’s Eastern Partnership.
In addition, Romania is willing a conflict resolution to be obtained for Crimea as soon as possible not only for the sake of limiting the horizontal escalation potential of this conflict taking place in its close vicinity, but also for clarifying its perspectives over the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
Currently, a future dispute can derive from the fact that Romania and Russia do not differentiate between the 2009 gained perimeter and the rest of the sections belonging to their EEZ – in fact, no demarcation exists between the EEZ of newly annexed Crimea – now claimed by Russia -, Ukraine’s remaining EEZ and Romania’s current EEZ.
According to Russia’s unilateral interpretation of international law, based on ‘the Accession Treaty’ of Crimea and Port of Sevastopol into the national territory of the Russian Federation, its claimed continental shelf and EEZ in West of Crimea becomes directly adjacent to the Eastern part of Romania’s EEZ; as a consequence, the 2009 ICJ decision on the former overlapping EEZ dispute between Romanian and Ukraine might not be recognized anymore by the Kremlin.
It is also worth mentioning that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that states have exclusive sovereign rights of exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the EEZ, but only operational rights, as EEZs fall into the legal category of international waters, which does not limit the traffic of other states.
A potential scenario to be considered can be, for example, the following: Russia exercises its law fare against Romania by colliding one of its warships into an offshore platform operated in the maritime strip gained by our country as a result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
This scenario is an exploratory one and is developed on Romania’ concern over Russia’s potential use of law fare to interfere with our country’s plans of further exploiting the Western part of its EEZ that includes the maritime strip gained in 2009. Russia’s repeated aggressions in the Black Sea makes this scenario likely.
In addition, a contributing factor to the feasibility of this scenario is the US and EU potential reluctance to provide support to Romania if our country would answer military to the aggressive Russian behaviour in its EEZ in order to protect the economic entities operating in the maritime strip gained in 2009 – US has not ratified UNCLOS, EU has not developed a clear policy on EEZ; plus the risk of an escalating conflict with Russia on an issue with a blurry status might be a far too high price for both Washington and Brussels.
Furthermore, Romania is unable as of now to militarily protect by its own the explorations in its EEZ due to the unavailability of required capabilities and the risk of a conflict in a territory that might not protected by the Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty or the Art. 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union.
As a consequence, the possible subversive Russian activities in the maritime strip added in 2009 to Romania’s Western part of its EEZ could produce a damaging narrative for Romania’s offshore hydrocarbon perimeters in general, scaring Western energy companies away from the Romanian market and subsequently, putting our country and its allies’ long-term energy security in jeopardy.
In addition, Russian companies would try to fill the vacuum, creating an energy monopoly at the Black Sea that would make the coastal states more dependent on the Russian gas and implicitly, more vulnerable to Russian pressure.
A potential hypothesis to be tested can be the following: If Russia does not reach a legal consensus with Ukraine on the delimitation of the continental shelf and the EEZ adjacent to the Crimean Peninsula as it did with Norway in the Barents Sea, then Romania should be prepared for a potential diplomatic dispute with Russia over the latter’s non-recognition of the 2009 ICJ decision.
The aforementioned hypothesis might lead to the following primary research question: What might happen to the Eastern part of Romania’s EEZ if Russia does not reach a legal consensus with Ukraine on the delimitation of the continental shelf and the EEZ adjacent to the Crimean Peninsula and also does not recognize the result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine?
For a better understanding of this complex issue as well as for strengthening Romania’s resilience against a legal dispute with Russia on the potential overlapping EEZ, secondary research questions might arise, such as: What can Romania learn from the enactment and implementation of the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty for developing a cooperative approach with Russia on the potential overlapping EEZ?
Two specific studies can be discussed:
Study on the diplomatic negotiations leading to the enactment of the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty and this treaty’s further implementation with the purpose of clarifying Romania’s perspectives over the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ decision.
This study could aim to extract patterns and schemes of negotiation with Russia used by Norway in the signing and implementation of the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty with the purpose of elaborating a set of recommendations for Romania’s decision-makers in terms of developing a cooperative approach with Russia on the delimitation and resource sharing within the newly-emerged overlapping sections of their EEZs as a result of the annexation of Crimea.
As the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty was rather the visible result of intense, long-lasting and behind closed doors negotiations between Norwegian and Russian policymakers, this study could discuss the above-mentioned diplomatic negotiations and the treaty’s further implementation from an academic point of view. It could be a policy-oriented study aimed to be useful to Romania’s decision-makers in case of Russia’s interference with our country’s plans of exploiting the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
From a legalistic point of view, the Barents Sea Treaty might offer valuable hints for the Romanian decision-makers expecting a diplomatic clash with Russia on the exploitation of the maritime strip gained in 2009, at least in terms of:
Delimitating the EEZs
As a result of having ratified the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty, Norway and Russia ended an almost half-century long dispute concerning the delimitation of their maritime borders in the Barents Sea – the single notable exception that could still remain on this type of bilateral agenda could be the rarely-disputed status of the waters surrounding the Svalbard Archipelago.
The Barents Treaty establishes a single delimitation line for the Norway and Russia’ EEZs and continental shelf in areas within 200 miles of their coasts and a delimitation line between the two countries’ continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 miles.
On the contrary, Romania and Russia do not differentiate between our country’s gained perimeter as a result of the 2009 ICJ decision and the Eastern part of the EEZ generated by the continental shelf of the Crimean Peninsula.
Exploiting offshore resources
The 2010 Barents Sea Treaty also represents a valuable model of offshore resource sharing. Indeed, this treaty incorporates two annexes on offshore resource issues, one dedicated to fisheries matters and the other to trans-boundary hydrocarbon deposits.
This treaty enables legal mechanisms for the peaceful exploitation of offshore resources that include both rights and obligations for the parties, encouraging them to cooperate rather compete for resources.
On the contrary, while in Ukraine’s view the 2009 delimitation agreement with Romania is still in force, Russia might contest nowadays the ICJ ruling as it considers itself the rightful owner of the natural resources in the 200-nautical-mile zone outside Crimea. As a consequence, by nationalizing the Crimean peninsula’s offshore resources and entrusting national companies with their management, Russia not only jeopardized Ukraine’s maritime prospects, but also affected Romania’s prospects of exploiting the offshore resources located in the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ decision.
It is worth mentioning that the Romanian estimates for the seabed of the disputed maritime strip are ranging from 70 to 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas and from 12 to 15 million tonnes of petrol. Romania is willing to exploit these resources with the help of Western partners; however, due to its controversial offshore legislation and volatile security situation, Romania’s plans to become a regional energy hub – a status generated in an important degree by the potential exploitation of the offshore resources located under the seabed of the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ decision – are currently at standstill.
The general scheme of comparison, used within the analysis conducted between the Norwegian-Russian dispute on the delimitation and exploitation of the Barents Sea and the Romanian-Russian dispute on the delimitation and exploitation of the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ decision, could encompass the following research items:
Development of negotiations;
Perspectives over the outcome of negotiations.
In line with this assumption, the methodology that could be used to accomplish this specific objective may consist of a software-based content analysis doubled by a focus group conducted with experts from Norway and Romania.
Using Big Data analysis is very promising as the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty was reached mostly as a result of behind closed doors negotiations between Norwegian and Russian policymakers. Therefore, it is useful to couple the benefits of content analysis with the opportunities offered by specialized software for a better understan-ding of the patterns and schemes of negotiations used by Norway, so as to extract them for the benefit of Romanian decision-makers.
The time horizon of the advanced search performed on Google Scholar could be set as the period 2007-2011, i.e. the period between the agreement on the revision of Varangerfjord Agreement when Norway and Russia managed to update a small part of their maritime borders from the Barents Sea and the moment when the ratification documents over the Barents Sea Treaty were exchanged in Oslo.
Once the raw data are extracted, they will be filtered and optimized before being analyzed with a specialized software on content analysis, i.e. Meaning Cloud. Once this process is ended, those interested could notice patterns and tendencies on various aspects contained within the Norwegian-Russian negotiations over the delimitation of their maritime borders at the Barents Sea.
The validity of these results could be verified in a focus group conducted with experts from Norway and Romania. As the Barents Sea Treaty was rather an outcome of behind closed door negotiations, personal interaction with the Norwegian experts would be desirable and therefore a field trip to Norway might be considered.
Researchers could expect the following outcome: the identification of patterns and schemes of negotiations with Russia used by Norway in the signing process of the Barents Sea Treaty for the purpose of elaborating recommendations to Romania’s decision-makers in terms of developing a cooperative approach with Russia on the delimitation and exploitation of the maritime strip gained as a result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
Study on the Norwegian experience in implementing the Svalbard Treaty after the annexation of Crimea for the strengthening of Romania’s resilience against Russia’s law fare at the Black Sea
For the strengthening of Romania’s resilience against potential legal disputes with Russia in the context of becoming de facto maritime neighbours, those interested could extract know-how from cases occurred since the annexation of Crimea when Norway was challenged by Russia on the application of the Svalbard Treaty.
Being generated in the context of the overall peace talks after WWI, the Svalbard Treaty is an example of quid pro quo as it accords Norway sovereignty over the Svalbard archipelago in exchange for free access and equal rights to economic activities by other signatories, while maintaining the area demilitarized.
Despite it has been widely perceived that the 2010 Barents Sea Treaty put an end also to the Norwegian-Russian dispute on the waters surrounding the Svalbard Archipelago as Russia accepted that the shelf adjacent to Svalbard is a Norwegian continental shelf, the things got worse as a result of Norway’s decision to join the Allies in terms of sanctioning Russia on the annexation of Crimea.
Norwegian interpretation of the Svalbard Treaty is strictly textual as it only states that other countries’ rights apply in the Svalbard Archipelago’s territorial waters which extend to 12 nautical miles (at the time of its signing the international jurispru-dence did not comprise modern maritime delimitations such a EEZ or continental shelf) and as a consequence, the waters outside the 12 nautical mile zone, but within EEZ (200 nautical miles) are waters where Norway can limit the rights of any third party. It addition, Norway considers the 200-nautical mile zone, shelf and seabed surrounding Svalbard Archipelago to be an area not covered by the 1920 treaty, and sets its own rules there.
However, Russia’s has heavily criticized Norway since its decision to join the Allies in terms of sanctions on the grounds of the restrictions imposed by Oslo as part of its law-enforcement in and around the Svalbard Archipelago: i.e. the ban on the use of helicopters that created the premises for a Norwegian transport monopoly on Svalbard; the establishment of a fish protection zone nearby the archipelago which is regulated solely by Norway; the artificial expansion of protected ecosystem to limit economic activities on Svalbard; or Norwegian unilateral exploitation of the waters assumed to belong to the Svalbard continental shelf.
It is worth mentioning that the Svalbard Treaty has withstood the World War II and the Cold War, while currently including parties as deeply opposed on global politics as the US and North Korea, based on Norway’s skilful diplomatic game to maintain untouched Svalbard’s demilitarized status for more than a century since its signing despite its valuable strategic location and several third-party calls to revise it.
Therefore, it might be clear for everyone that the current Russian-Norwegian dispute is over the archipelago’s strategic potential in a conflict scenario between Russia and NATO. As a consequence, the Svalbard Archipelago can be classified nowadays along with the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea as the most likely scenes for a naval confrontation.
In the meantime, the sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula is legally-disputed as of today. Most of the international community considers the Crimean Peninsula as an integral part of the Ukrainian national territory, while Russia claims that a legal transfer of the territory has taken place and as a consequence, it exercises its full-sovereignty over the peninsula.
For Romania, the current blurry status of sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula is not only a challenge in terms of developing good governance and security at the Black Sea, but also a potential direct threat for its borders as Russia’s claimed conti-nental shelf and EEZ in West of Crimea overlaps an area assigned to the Eastern part of Romania’s EEZ as a result of the 2009 ICJ case Romania v. Ukraine.
In addition, our country is worried by Russia’s current use of Crimea inter allia as leverage for controlling the trade and navigation in a vast part of the Black Sea maritime space. Apart from decreasing its bilateral trade with Ukraine as a result of this country’s loss of commercial goods and trade infrastructure from Crimea, Romania is also facing an unequal competition with Russia in terms of supplying energy to Europe as the Crimean Peninsula could be used as a support pillar for Russia’s future energy routes to Europe that will probably circumvent our country. Furthermore, Romania does not neglect the potential transformation of the Port of Sevastopol into, among others, smugglers’ haven of choice at the Black Sea, with high repercussion on the security of the region.
Not ultimately, despite being comparable with the Svalbard Archipelago in terms of geostrategic importance, Crimea has been heavily militarized since its annexation, Russia transforming it into a military stronghold and a veritable platform of power-projection at global level. For the worse, the Russian thoroughly-planned A2/AD in Crimea coupled with the arbitrary interpretation of the Montreux Convention – aimed to interdict the access of non-coastal NATO war vessels to the Black Sea – may transform this maritime space into a ‘Russian lake’, prejudicing in particular the national interests of the other coastal states and threatening as a whole the Black Sea security environment.
Therefore, the Norwegian experience in dealing with Russians in the post-annexation of Crimea era is highly important for the strengthening of Romania’s resilience against potential legal disputes with Russia taking into account that our country has a section of its EEZ that overlaps with that of Russia and the Kremlin has the potential and capacity, for instance, to prevent energy exploitation; to force the withdrawal of Romanian companies and their partners operating offshore; to block the trade flow from the Danube to the Black Sea; to attack the Romanian capabilities in the EEZ; or to launch attacks from the Crimean soil and surrounding waters on the Romanian shores.
In line with this assumption, the methodology that could be used first to accomplish this specific objective might consist of Big Data analysis of multiple exploratory case studies when Norway was challenged by Russia on the application of the Svalbard Treaty after the former decided to join its allies in terms of sanctioning the latter on the annexation of Crimea; second, the obtained results could be validated in a focus group conducted with experts from Norway and Romania.
The aim of this academic endeavour is to extract from the ‘Norwegian experience’ a set of measures for increasing Romania’s resilience against potential legal disputes with Russia in the context of becoming de facto maritime neighbours.
The reason for choosing the case study method resides in the fact that both Romania and Norway are NATO members and by contributing to the increase of Romania’s geostrategic profile, Norway could also strengthen NATO’s much-needed defense capacity considering the aggressive projection of Russian strategic interests at the Black Sea. The case study is the most appropriate method when we want a complete and in-depth investigation of a subject, but also of the context in which it takes place. Thus, crises in the Norwegian Arctic may have potentially far-reaching implications for the security situation in the Black Sea.
The selection of the case studies could be based on a thorough literature review of the issues raised by Russia on Norway’s way of implementing the Svalbard Treaty and the latter’s reactions for the period March 2014 – March 2021 (since the annexation of Crimea and subsequent Norway’s application of sanctions against Russia till the current year).
As the aforementioned raised issues and reactions are related to international law and Russia’s game in this sense is to portray Norway as contributing to an anti-Russian campaign led by NATO, the consulted literature could be in English and French – NATO’s two official languages – and could be authored only by researchers from Russia / Norway / their allies.
Afterwards, a list of 20 or so disputes / events / allegations and reactions could be selected, each of them being assigned 5 keywords – for instance, the event ‘Dmitry Rogozin’s 2015 surprise visit to Barentsburg despite he was figuring on the Norwegian and European Union’s list of sanctioned people not allowed to enter their territories’ will be assigned the keywords ‘visit Rogozin 2015 Barentsburg sanctions’ – and searched using Big Data engines such as Google Scholar. On the basis of most available data on a case / most results obtained in Google Scholar, 3-5 case studies could be selected and further analysed in order to identify directions / patterns / schemes of negotiations with Russia used by Norway, since the annexation of Crimea, when challenged on the application of the Svalbard Treaty.
The selected case studies are exploratory in the sense that the author does not formulate hypothesis to be tested prior to conducting the study, but aims to extract directions, patterns or schemes used by Norway when challenged by Russia in the post-annexation of Crimea era. However, not all of them are necessarily valid for Romania. Therefore, their validity must be verified in a focus group conducted with experts from Norway and Romania.
Researchers could expect the following outcome: the identification of directions, patterns or schemes of negotiations with Russia used by Norway, since the annexation of Crimea, when challenged on the application of the Svalbard Treaty which are also useful for increasing Romania’s resilience against potential legal disputes with Russia.
There are many scientific studies that approach themes related to conflict resolution in a unidirectional manner, namely at regional level, this being the case either for the Norwegian Arctic or for the Black Sea. For example, Scott Stephenson writes about confronting borders solely in the Arctic1 meanwhile Kristian Atland follows the same theme but solely for the Black Sea2.
In addition, same unidirectional manner of research is also applied at local level as James Wither is portraying Svalbard as NATO’s Arctic ‘Achilles Heel’3 or Lev Abalkin and Ridvan Urcosta are labelling Crimea as Russia’s stronghold in the Black Sea4.
That being said, all here-mentioned research papers are excellent readings; it is worth saying that most of them use in some specific cases interferences from one NATO flank or one specific place to another in order to justify the arguments, however their main stance remains either at local or regional level and therefore these papers do not involve an inter-flank systematic analysis.
This happens also in articles focusing on very sensitive subjects of foreign policy that might emanate a potential political stance, such as Alexander Khrolenko’s or Amund Trellevik’s writings on the same case from a different national perspective5, where the avoidance of a systematic comparative analysis might be explained by the general tendency of isolating a conflict for the purpose of limiting its horizontal escalation.
However, there are only few studies that compare within a bi- or multidirectio-nal framework the security dynamics between NATO’s Northern and Eastern Flank. For example, Kristian Atlant and Ilhor Kabanenko conducted a comparative study on the security situation between the Black, Baltic and Barents Sea Regions6, meanwhile Andrew Cottey edited a volume comprising writings on the various formats of sub-regional cooperation from the Barents to the Black Sea7. They are excellent readings, but none of these mentioned studies offers a great coverage to the conflict resolution models existent both in Norwegian Arctic and the Black Sea.
Last but not least, there are even fewer studies that compare within a bi- or multilateral framework the interference of conflict or conflict resolution between NATO’s Northern and Eastern Flank.
On the one hand, Savannah Vlasman conducted a comparative analysis of the potential of war escalation in Svalbard based on the Crimean scenario8, but this study considers only one side of the coin, namely the perspective of Russia’s annexation of Svalbard on the way it did with Crimea.
On the other hand, The Fridtjof Nansen Institute is implementing various projects aiming to improve our understanding of specific disputes in changing regions and to apply these findings to improve our general understanding of governance over maritime space and maritime resources. For instance, an ongoing project called “Challenges to Ocean Governance: Regional Disputes, Global Consequences?” combines international relations and international law – in an interdisciplinary approach – to examine disputes and conflict resolutions within three maritime domains: the Arctic Ocean; the Black Sea; and the East China Sea.
I am confident that my readers are aware that it is a chimera to believe that they could obtain a unique and infallible recipe for conflict resolution that can be applied anywhere on the globe. Each dispute has its own roots, stakes, paths, but also discussants. Therefore, my illustrative brief guide for comparative analysis on conflict resolution might not be the most prescriptive, but it is certainly a call to exploit the incredible benefits of Big Data analysis in research aimed at a better understanding of the West-Russia confrontation from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
Abalkin L. & Urcosta, R. Crimea: Russia’s stronghold in the Black Sea, European Council of Foreign Relations, Essay series, September 2016;
Atland, K. Redrawing borders, reshaping orders: Russia’s quest for dominance in the Black Sea region, European Security, Vol. 30(2), 2021;
Atlant K. & Kabanenko, I. Russia and its Western Neighbours: A Comparative Study of the Security Situation in the Black, Baltic and Barents Sea Regions, Europe-Asia Studies, December 2019;
Cottey, A. (ed), Subregional Cooperation in the New Europe, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999;
Fukuyama, F. The End of History and the Last Man, New York, Free Press, 1992;
Khrolenko, A. Why NATO is targeting Svalbard, RIA Novosti, 3 march 2020, online, https://ria.ru/2017 0420/1492680013.html (accessed 14.05.2021);
Mearsheimer, J. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, 2001;
Sousa, R. The context of conflict resolution – international relations and the study of peace and conflict, Working Paper No. 164, CeSA, 2018;
Stephenson S., Confronting Borders in the Arctic, Journal of Borderlands Studies, Vol. 33(2), 2018;
Trellevik, A. Russia Has Always Challenged Norway on Svalbard. This Time, Parts of Its Criticism is Different, High North News, 10 february 2020, online, https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/russia-has-always-challenged-norway-svalbard-time-parts-its-criticism-different (accessed 14.05.2021);
Vlasman, S. The Coldest War: Svalbard’s Risk of Russian Annexation, Harvard University, 2019;
Wither, J. Svalbard, the RUSI Journal, Vol. 163(5), 2018;
1 Scott Stephenson, Confronting Borders in the Arctic, Journal of Borderlands Studies, Vol. 33(2), 2018;
2 Kristian Atland, Redrawing borders, reshaping orders: Russia’s quest for dominance in the Black Sea region, European Security, Vol. 30(2), 2021;
3 James Wither, Svalbard, the RUSI Journal, Vol. 163(5), 2018;
4 Lev Abalkin and Ridvan Urcosta, Crimea: Russia’s stronghold in the Black Sea, European Council of Foreign Relations, Essay series, September 2016;
5 Alexander Khrolenko, Why NATO is targeting Svalbard, RIA Novosti, 3 march 2020, online, https://ria.ru/ 20170420/1492680013.html (accessed 14.05.2021);
Amund Trellevik, Russia Has Always Challenged Norway on Svalbard. This Time, Parts of Its Criticism is Different, High North News, 10 february 2020, online, https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/russia-has-always-challenged-norway-svalbard-time-parts-its-criticism-different (accessed 14.05.2021);
6 Kristian Atlant and Ilhor Kabanenko, Russia and its Western Neighbours: A Comparative Study of the Security Situation in the Black, Baltic and Barents Sea Regions, Europe-Asia Studies, December 2019;
7 Andrew Cottey (ed), Subregional Cooperation in the New Europe, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999;
8 Savannah Vlasman, The Coldest War: Svalbard’s Risk of Russian Annexation, Harvard University, 2019;