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1945-1989 - Cold War

After WWII Norway continued its strong support of collective solutions, primarily the newly-established UN. Norway's ties to this organization were further strengthened through the choice of the Norwegian Trygve Lie as the UN's first secretary general (1946-53). For a period Norway also sought out the role of bridge-builder, but gave up this attempt as relations between east and west cooled. In 1947-48, influenced by the intensification of the Cold War, the issue of a closer tie to the western powers was again raised. In 1947 Norway resolved to participate in the Marshall Plan. After an attempt to establish a Scandinavian defence alliance foundered around 1948-49, Norway decided to join the Atlantic Treaty.

Membership in NATO was a crossroads in Norwegian history, but also a formalisation and strengthening of its ties with the western powers. The most striking aspect of Norwegian NATO policy during the Cold War was conflicting interests between integration and shielding. On the one hand the Norwegian authorities were strongly Atlantic-orientated. On the other hand they attempted to maintain a certain distance by shielding themselves against some of the implications of NATO co-operation.

Two aspects of integration in the western bloc should be given special attention. On the one hand the USA now became Norway's prime point of reference. NATO virtually became a collective framework for a bilateral American guarantee. Furthermore, military integration was stepped-up considerably within the framework of NATO co-operation and Norway received considerable support through American weapons aid and NATO's infrastructure programme.

On the other hand Norway appeared to be an ally with reservations. The idea was that a détente in the north would help to slow down the arms race between the great powers. The policy of shielding was primarily expressed through the self-imposed limitations of NATO membership. Norway would not open bases for allied forces on Norwegian soil as long as the country was neither attacked nor under threat of attack. Norwegian authorities did not permit the deployment of nuclear weapons on Nor-wegian territory. Allied aircraft and naval vessels were not to be granted access to areas east of longitude 24 degrees east and allied army forces were not permitted to carry out military exercises in Finnmark.

During the Cold War the foreign policy agenda was dominated by defence and security issues. Nevertheless, there were also important developments in other spheres of Norwegian foreign policy, among other things the issues of Nordic and European co-operation. Despite the fact that the Nordic countries had chosen different security policy paths, the Nordic countries joined together in forming the Nordic Council in 1952. This political co-operation led to a comprehensive harmonisation which included the introduction of a Nordic passport union, a common labour market and an integrated policy for air traffic. The entry of the Nordic countries into the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1961, was a powerful stimulus to Nordic trade. Despite a number of setbacks, Nordic co-operation can be characterised as a unique international integration project.

Around 1960, the question of Norwegian membership in the European Comminity (EC) was also put on the agenda. Traditionally, Norway, like Britain, had kept its distance from a cooperative project dominated by the Continental countries. The reason why Norway sought membership in 1962 and again in 1967 was partly that the EC was undergoing a revitalization process but also because Britain and Denmark had started to consider membership. In 1972 the Norwegian government recommended that Norway join the EU. However, in an advisory referendum the same autumn, the nation rejected the government's proposal by a slim majority (53.5%). After this, Norway's relationship with the EC was maintained through a bilateral trade agreement while Norway continued its co-operation with the remaining members of EFTA.

Another important matter for Norway concerned the management of the natural resources on the continental shelf and in the oceans. The implementation of 200-mile economic zones in the 1970s marked a new high point in the interstate race to control the major ocean areas. Norway, a coastal state, thus secured for itself jurisdiction over waters which in extent totalled a good 2,000 000 km2 - five times more than the total area of mainland Norway. This process of drawing up boundaries at sea was relatively unproblematic. The exception was the Soviet-Norwegian delimitation line in the north with a contested stretch of ocean of about 175, 000 km2. In 1978 the Norwegian and Soviet authorities signed the so-called grey zone agreement which regulates fishing in the southern part of the contested waters. Until the issue is solved this agreement is still valid.

The implementation of the 200-mile economic zone gave Norway control over substantial resources of oil and gas. The oil adventure, as it was called, rapidly and in some cases drastically altered Norwegian society through a marked increase in prosperity. At the same time, the oil and gas reserves posed new challenges for the country's foreign policy. One of the issues raised was the position Norway was to take in relation to other oil-producing countries (OPEC) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA). While OPEC membership was not even considered, Norway signed a special agreement with the IEA in 1975. Another question concerned gas exports. In the 1980s the question of who should supply Western Europe with gas became an issue in the Cold War. However, Norway largely succeeded in staying outside this conflict.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:03:19 ZULU