Moscow and Oslo looked to get bilateral relations back on track this week as King Harald V of Norway and his wife, Queen Sonja, began a five-day visit to Russia that includes stops in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk. The visit, the first by a Norwegian King to Russia since 1905, follows a tumultuous period this past March when a decision by Oslo to declare five Russian diplomats persona non grata–on charges of espionage–led Moscow to respond in kind and to expel two Norwegian diplomats from Russia. (See the Monitor, March 13, March 18) Despite a series of acrimonious exchanges and the cancellation of a visit to Russia by Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik at the time, the two countries chose to put the incident behind them and to work toward restoring friendly relations. With that goal in mind, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek traveled to Murmansk in late March and the commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet, Admiral Oleg Yerofeev, paid a visit to Norway earlier this month.
The current visit by the Norwegian royal couple began on May 25 with a state dinner in the Kremlin hosted by President Boris Yeltsin. The Russian president said during the dinner that relations between the two countries are on the rise, but complained that trade and economic ties should become more dynamic. Yeltsin also used the dinner to underscore the Kremlin’s now familiar theme–the need to build a “Greater Europe.” Doing so should, he said, “should provide security for all countries on the continent.” (Russian agencies, May 25) For roughly a year now, Russian leaders have called for both greater integration between Russia and Europe and a diminished role on the continent for the United States.
QUESTION MARKS OVER YELTSIN PROPOSAL.