Sunday, November 06, 2022

Life (sort of) imitates art: Russian provocations in Norway

The 2015 Norwegian television series "Occupied" has what will strike viewers today as an upside down premise. In the fictional series Russia invades Norway on behalf of the European Union to restore oil and gas production shut down by Norway's new environmentally conscious government. Despite its odd premise, I found the series to be a gripping drama when I watched it a few years ago.

At that time the real Russian government was outraged by the suggestion that Russia would ever have any designs on Norwegian sovereignty. In a statement the Russian government said: "It is certainly regretful that in the year when the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War is celebrated, the series’s creators decided to scare Norwegian viewers with a non-existing threat from the East in the worst Cold War traditions."

Fast forward to today and there is plenty for Norwegians to worry about. As the largest supplier of natural gas to an energy-starved Europe, the Norwegians now consider themselves a prime target for Russian sabotage of the country's oil and gas infrastructure as drones presumed to be Russian visit Norwegian offshore production platforms.

This comes in the wake of explosions which severed two large natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany called Nord Stream 1 and 2. Germany was being pressured by the United States to refuse Russian gas from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline long before the Russia-Ukraine conflict erupted. After the conflict started, the German government announced that it would not issue a permit for the pipeline to operate.

Though that decision did not affect deliveries through Nord Stream 1, problems quickly arose as each side accused the other of taking actions that reduced deliveries through Nord Stream 1. With both Nord Stream pipelines now apparently damaged beyond repair as Russia and NATO accuse each other of bombing the pipelines (see here and here), Germany will no longer be able to change its mind about Russian gas.

Enter the Norwegians who have long supplied natural gas to Europe. The small Norwegian population uses comparatively little of the oil and gas the country produces. So, most of its production is exported and most of that goes to Europe, particularly natural gas. In 2021 Norway provided 23 percent of the gas supply of the European Union and the United Kingdom combined. That percentage is now higher as Norway boosted production in the wake of the decline of Russian gas exports to Europe. And, of course, as Russia's percentage of European consumption declined, Norway's shot up, although we won't know exactly how much until recent deliveries are compiled.

But Norwegian boosts in production cannot make up for the loss of such a large amount of gas from Russia in such a short time. Russian supplies previously provided 40 percent of EU consumption according the International Energy Agency.  So, Europe faces a difficult winter without access to Russian gas except for that which is still being imported through southern Europe via the Turk Stream pipeline.

Now that Russia has lost almost all its leverage against Europe with regard to natural gas supplies, Europe is bracing for what it believes will be a war against its infrastructure to further cripple the continent and force it and Ukraine—which is now almost wholly dependent on NATO countries for weapons and economic support—to the bargaining table to accept terms favorable to Russia.

An initial Russian salvo in the infrastructure war inside NATO may have been the sabotage of communications cables critical to the operation of German trains in October which widely disrupted train travel around the country. Recently, drones of unknown origin were spotted buzzing offshore production platforms along the Norwegian coast. Airports, an oil refinery and a gas terminal were closed in response. Police arrested seven Russian nationals transporting or flying drones over Norwegian territory. One researcher thinks that the Russians are announcing that the Russian military can get to Norwegian infrastructure any time it wants. The lights on some drones were on and this may mean that the Russians wanted the drones to be spotted, the researcher said.

In Ukraine meanwhile, Russia is demonstrating what destroying infrastructure can do. By taking out key electrical infrastructure and water systems, the Russian military has denied much of Ukraine electricity and drinking water. Without electricity Ukrainians not only lose the ability to light their homes and businesses, but also the ability to pump motor fuel, start natural gas furnaces and stoves electrically, and pump water and sewage.

If the Russian military continues to succeed at destroying such infrastructure, this will likely create a vast humanitarian and refugee crisis as Ukrainians unable to get sufficient water or heat are forced to leave the country just to survive through the winter.

Right now the Ukrainian military is unable to reach far inside Russia to destroy its infrastructure in retaliation. And, of course, if NATO were to provide such a capability to Ukraine or join the war and conduct such strikes itself, the Russian government has said it would not rule out nuclear retaliation.

With the Russian military stuck in a conflict that both Ukraine and NATO say will not end until Russian soldiers retreat back behind the pre-conflict borders, the Russian war on infrastructure seems designed to create such a dangerous and horrific situation that all sides will seek a settlement as fears of nuclear war rise.

My personal view is that Russia has consistently underestimated the resolve of Ukraine and NATO just as Ukraine and NATO have underestimated the resolve of Russia. That suggests further escalation and an increased likelihood of a miscalculation leading to a nuclear exchange.

Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Resilience, Common Dreams, Naked Capitalism, Le Monde Diplomatique,, OilVoice, TalkMarkets,, Business Insider and many other places. He is the author of an oil-themed novel entitled Prelude and has a widely followed blog called Resource Insights. He can be contacted at


Anonymous said...

В Україні проводять відключення електроенергії на 4 години/добу. Але це мало відображається на житті людей. З водою все добре, були тимчасові не зручності, однак зараз все добре.
Нажаль, Курт, Ви не розумієте менталітет українців. Ми і без НАТО будемо продовжувати боротись. ''Воля або смерть!''
І, Ви не розумієте менталітету росіян. У них рабський менталітет, вони будуть терпіти, помирати на чужій землі, але як би вони не жалілися на владу Путіна, вони ніколи не влаштують революцію (на відміну) від того ж Ірану, Шрі-Ланки і так далі.
Українці понад усе цінують свободу, волю, незалежність, і свою землю, яка з давніх часів годувала і одягала їх.
Не рахуючи міст, кожен провінційний українець живе за рахунок клаптика землі, який їх годує, має власне господарство, пасіку, худобу. А надлишки реалізує державі чи на ярмарку.
В кожного свій колодязь, піч та запас дров, та продукції в погребі чи льосі є ручний інструмент і особливих проблем виживання без електрики немає. Багато жителів міст мають сільські будинки - дачі, які в крайньому випадку зможуть врятувати їх зимою.
Наша стійкість вища ніж в Європі а наша культура взаємодопомоги та обміну (рядових жителів), може викликати заздрість у пересічного жителя США, до прикладу.
Читайте слова великого кобзаря Т.Г. Шевченка: ''Борітеся - поборете, вам Бог помагає з вами правда, з вами слава і воля святая!!!''
Допоможіть нам побороти цю поки що 'двоголову' гідру, ми вже відрубали їй одну голову, відрубаймо ж і другу, бо скоро на місці першої виростуть сто.

Kurt Cobb said...

A Ukrainian who has become a frequent commenter provides some insight into why the Ukrainians have surprised the Russian military with their resilience. Here is a Google Translate translation of the above comment:

In Ukraine, there is a power outage for 4 hours/day. But this has little impact on people's lives. Everything is fine with the water, there were temporary inconveniences, but now everything is fine.

Unfortunately, Kurt, you do not understand the mentality of Ukrainians. We will continue to fight even without NATO. ''Freedom or death!''

And, you do not understand the mentality of Russians. They have a slave mentality, they will suffer, die on a foreign land, but no matter how much they complain about the power of Putin, they will never organize a revolution (unlike) the same Iran, Sri Lanka and so on.
Above all, Ukrainians value freedom, will, independence, and their land, which has fed and clothed them since ancient times.

Not counting cities, every provincial Ukrainian lives off a piece of land that feeds them, has his own farm, apiary, and livestock. And the surplus is sold to the state or at the fair.

Everyone has their own well, stove, and stock of firewood, and products in the cellar or shed, there is a hand tool, and there are no special problems of survival without electricity. Many city dwellers have country houses - dachas, which will be able to save them in the winter as a last resort.

Our stability is higher than in Europe, and our culture of mutual aid and exchange (of ordinary citizens) can cause envy in the average resident of the USA, for example.
Read the words of the great kobzar T.G. Shevchenko: "Fight - you will win, God helps you, truth is with you, glory is with you, and the Holy Will is with you!!!"

Help us defeat this so far "two-headed" hydra, we have already cut off one of its heads, let's cut off the second, because soon a hundred will grow in place of the first.

Anonymous said...

Дякую за переклад.
Дуже поважаю, Вас, за простоту і цікавий виклад інформації.
Додам про 'гідру', що це ті екзистенціальні і реальні загрози 'свободі' і 'демократії', які в тому числі виходять від MAGA і інших популістів, та автократів.

Kurt Cobb said...

Google translation of above comment:

Thanks for the translation.

I really respect you for the simplicity and interesting presentation of information.

I will add about "hydra" that these are the existential and real threats to "freedom" and "democracy" which, among other things, come from MAGA and other populists and autocrats.

Don19 said...

Russia can never be trusted in any peace agreement so it's pointless trying to negotiate with them.

All talk of a negotiated settlement is pointless.

Putin doesn't even care about his own people - he simply likes killing for killings sake.

SomeoneInAsia said...

Why is it always Russia that is in the wrong? Isn't Dear Uncle Sam in fact far more blameworthy?

Here's what Chris Hedges had to say about how the US brought us all to the present state of affairs:

"The West has been baiting Moscow for decades... First, they broke promises not to expand NATO beyond the borders of a unified Germany. Then they broke promises not to “permanently station substantial combat forces” in the new NATO member countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Then they broke promises not to station missile systems along Russia’s border. Then they broke promises not to interfere in the internal affairs of border states such as Ukraine, orchestrating the 2014 coup that ousted the elected government of Victor Yanukovich, replacing it with an anti-Russian -— fascist aligned -— government, which, in turn, led to an 8-year-long civil war, as the Russian populated regions in the east sought independence from Kiev. They armed Ukraine with NATO weapons and trained 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers after the coup. Then they recruited neutral Finland and Sweden into NATO. Now the U.S. is being asked to send advanced long-range missile systems to Ukraine, which Russia says would make the U.S. “a direct party to the conflict.” But blinded by hubris and lacking any understanding of geopolitics, they push us, like the hapless generals in the Austro-Hungarian empire, towards catastrophe."

Read all about it here:

All things said, it just doesn't look like Uncle Sam cares much about his own people either. He continues leading the world towards a Hades called resource depletion. He made up a nonexistent pandemic to frighten everyone into accepting a 'vaccine' which actually poisons people. And now he's trying hard to provoke Russia into lighting a fuse that will engulf our world in a nuclear conflagration.

I love America. I sure do.

Don19 said...

Russia is a very dangerous state run by thugs.

Countries fear Russia and welcomed NATO expansion.

NATO has not invaded Russia to kill innocent civilians.

Left alone I have no doubt at all that Putin would invade the Balkan states and then try and grab back all countries that were formerly part of the Eastern bloc

Anonymous said...

As Russia keeps destroying Ukrainain infrastructure, the demands for more money from the West will escalate as well refugee flows as Europe enters an uncertain and cold winter. I can't help but think the onus to come to an arrangement will be borne by Ukraine and its western allies. The Washington Post telegraphed the US administration's strong hint to Ukraine to begin to think about negotiating as Ukraine fatigue sets in. This impetus can only get stronger as the war grinds on.

Radu Diaconu said...

To All
That is a monumental LIE and rotten piece of russian agitprop.
We, the East Europeans, embrace NATO and EU membership whole heartily. Period. There is no alternative and Rusia was, is and will be FOREVER our GENETICAL and HISTORIC FOE, AN ETERNAL EVIL!!