Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 54

The spy scandal that has rocked relations between Russia and Norway and resulted in diplomats being expelled from each country appeared by yesterday to have run its course. On March 17, Norway’s ambassador to Russia, Per Tresselt, expressed Oslo’s regrets over the decision by Moscow earlier that day to expel two Norwegian diplomats. Tresselt denied that the Norwegians involved were spies and said that there was "absolutely no foundation for the measures that have been taken" against them. He also said that Moscow’s actions — which were taken in retaliation for Norway’s decision last week to declare five Russian diplomats persona non grata — "contribute to a negative and deplorable element" in relations between Moscow and Oslo. (Reuter, AP, March 17; see also Monitor, March 13, 18)

Despite the sharp words from Tresselt, however, it appeared that Norway hoped to put its relations with Russia back on an even keel. Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said in Oslo on March 17 that he still intends to visit Murmansk at the end of March, as planned, and that a visit by Norway’s king, scheduled for May, is also likely to go forward. Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bundevik, meanwhile, suggested on March 18 that his own visit to Russia, originally scheduled for this week but canceled following the outbreak of the spy scandal, could be rescheduled. The Norwegian government was reported also to have indicated its desire to normalize relations with Moscow. (AP, March 17; Itar-Tass, March 18)

Nonetheless, some unseemly commentary was heard from Moscow. During an interview by Russian television on March 17, a senior Russian diplomat accused the Norwegians of having "stage-managed" the original sequence of events that accompanied Oslo’s actions against the five Russian diplomats. Aleksandr Avdeev, a Russian deputy foreign minister who oversees relations with Norway, also insinuated that Norway’s intelligence services had manufactured the spying charges against the Russian diplomats in order to improve their position in Norwegian state budget battles. The Norwegian special services "face redundancies," Avdeev said. "Their budget is being slashed. They need to convince themselves that they are still needed." Avdeev also repeated vague accusations that the actions against Russia had been orchestrated by forces in Norway opposed to Russian-Norwegian cooperation. He further intimated that a "third country" — presumably the United States — was also involved in orchestrating those actions. (ORT, March 17)

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