For Norway, this "split the difference" compromise agreement signifies a major breakthrough in desecuritizing relations with Russia.
Political attention in Moscow to building a consortium for developing the giant Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea has been inconsistent. Norway remains fully and sincerely committed to strengthening the alliance, as indicated by the deployment of more than 400 troops to the NATO operation in Afghanistan and more recently by its participation in the NATO-led enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya. Norway was distinctly unenthusiastic about the divisive plan for NATO enlargement toward Georgia and Ukraine and is strongly in favor of advancing the "reset" in NATO-Russia relations generated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's participation in the 2010 Lisbon NATO summit. Norway also attaches little importance to building a European missile defense system and seeks to defuse this potentially explosive issue. Each time disagreements over engaging or containing Russia arise inside the alliance -- as, for instance, in early 2010 in the course of debates over the new Strategic Concept -- Norway finds itself in an uncomfortable position. It doesn't want to be seen as a Russia-protagonist. But now that Poland has opted for a rapprochement with Russia and the Baltic trio has received new security reassurances, Norway hopes for greater unity within the alliance in building a stable partnership with Russia.