An official of Norway’s Ministry of Local Government, Sven Lamark, said in a public radio interview on March 13 that he was at the center of the Russian-Norwegian spy scandal. Lamark claimed that he had alerted Norwegian officials to attempts by Russian intelligence in 1994 to recruit him as an agent. He then acted as a double agent for some four years — accepting cash for information from his Russian handlers while under surveillance by Norway’s counter-intelligence services. That operation led ultimately to last week’s action against the five Russian diplomats. Lamark, a specialist on the Barents Sea region, said that Moscow was especially interested in acquiring information on NATO, on Norway’s Barents cooperation policy and on the country’s northern oil and gas resources. (Reuter, AP, Swedish radio, March 13) Norway is the only NATO member state that shares a border with Russia.
According to one report, Norwegian authorities were upset with Lamark’s public disclosure of the facts related to the espionage case. The authorities were reportedly also forced to act sooner than they wanted on the case because Lamark had leaked information about his exploits to a Norwegian newspaper, which was about to publish an article about the case. (Reuter, March 13) That fact could explain why Oslo acted only days before the prime minister’s planned trip to Moscow.
It remains unclear at this point whether the spy incident will escalate. Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced last week that it reserved the right to expel Norwegian diplomats in retaliation for Oslo’s actions. As of yesterday, however, it had taken no steps to do so.
Reports, meanwhile, contradicted each other about the intentions of Norwegian authorities. Some held that Oslo had threatened to take further actions against Russian diplomats in the event of retaliatory measures by Moscow. (Itar-Tass, March 15) A Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman, however, yesterday denied such reports. He said it would be "very regrettable if Russia took any steps against Norway," but that Oslo has no plans for additional punitive actions against Russia. (Reuter, March 15) That same message was suggested in a statement released by the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office. It expressed the hope that a visit to Russia by Norwegian King Harald V, scheduled for May, will take place as planned. The statement also said that, while the latest incident undoubtedly constitutes a setback for relations between the two countries, Norway does not intend to abandon its political cooperation with Russia. (Itar-Tass, March 13)
Another Russian Government Shake-Up on the Way?