Russia is likely to spy more on Norway’s energy industry, say Norway security police

But the report said sabotage was unlikely.

By Gwladys Fouche, Reuters - February 13, 2023

OSLO — Russia will seek to gather more intelligence about Norway’s oil and gas infrastructure as part of efforts to put pressure on European energy supplies, the Nordic country’s police security agency (PST) said in its annual threat assessment on Monday.

While Russia is “unlikely” to carry out acts of sabotage on Norwegian territory in 2023, this could change if Moscow’s willingness to escalate the conflict with NATO and the West were to increase, PST said.

The assessment of threats against Norway is the first since the start of the war in Ukraine in February last year. Since then the NATO member has become Europe’s largest gas supplier, following a drop in Russian gas flows.

“Norway’s role as an energy supplier to Europe has assumed even greater security policy importance as a result of the war in Ukraine,” PST said in its report.

Moscow would likely prioritize actions such as illegal gathering of intelligence, theft of information, cyber operations or cultivating sources. “These are more probable,” PST Chief Beate Gangaas told Reuters.

Sabotage of Norwegian energy infrastructure was for now deemed “too risky” a step to take for the Russians. “But this could change if they change their view on how willing they are to take risks,” she added.

Oslo has reinforced security at its oil and gas installations following explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines on Sept. 26 and is receiving help from NATO allies to protect them.

“We have seen the emergence of Russian ambitions to exert pressure on European energy security. PST therefore expects that in 2023, Russia will try to gather intelligence about most aspects of Norway’s oil, gas and power sector,” it said.

In October Norway, which shares a border with Russia in the Arctic, put its military on a raised level of alert in response to the war in Ukraine.

PST also expects Russia to be interested in gathering information in Norway about NATO expansion plans to Sweden and Finland, which are neighbors to Norway, and to gather more information about the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

Svalbard is under the sovereignty of Norway but Moscow has a settlement of Russian citizens on the islands under a 1920 treaty.

Additional reporting by Nora Buli.

This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Today and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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