The Barents Sea Conflict: Russia and Norway Competing Over Fossil Fuel Riches in the Arctic

By Niklas Witte
2013, Vol. 5 No. 09 | pg. 5/5 |

The Negotiation Process

The final element of Ghauri's negotiation framework analyses the different negotiation stages. Moe et. al. (2011) note that due to political and environmental sensitivity, a large part of the historic negotiation, particularly pre 2000, but largely up to the very end of the negotiations has been kept secret and is not very well documented. This also explains why the final agreement in 2010 came as a surprise to both, public and experts, alike.

This makes it impossible to asses both the pre- and face-to-face negotiation process based on reliable data sources. The limited insights we have are based on provisional agreements established throughout the negotiation and the final agreement between both nations. Elferink (1993) argues that 'the nature of a provisional arrangement may influence the willingness of states to make concessions in the final negotiations.' Meaning that once one nation starts making concessions, this may be seen as weakness and influence the overall outcome of the final agreement. As such Norway turned down a cooperation agreement for exploring petroleum resources by the in 1988, because they felt it would have required too many concessions on their part (Elferink, 1993). Similar attempts throughout the negotiation stipulate a driven process.

The final treaty divides the Barents Sea in almost equal parts, which is a success for Norway, since original demands by were for 75% ownership on the Russian side. It also calls for Norwegian support of the Russian Oil exploration, explaining why Russia was willing to make concession on the territorial claims. Moe et. al. (2011) provide a variety of suggestions as to why Russia finally made concessions to reach a final arrangement. Some suggestions are of a resource perspective, but they also argue that in the wake of increasing international attention on this conflict, Russia wanted to be 'seen as a constructive international actor.' Moe et. al. (2011) eventually conclude that it was Russia's drive to 'clear up territorial disputes' in order to 'improve Russia's image as a rule abiding player in the international arena' which has led to the concessions and eventual conclusion of the conflict.


The Barents Sea treaty and above explanations provide evidence for my hypothesis regarding the influence of international third party coalitions and media attention on the final negotiation outcome. The agreement also supports the argument for as a significant moderator, especially since Russia's drive to reach an agreement, growing interest in building relationships, the extended time horizon as well as the sudden conclusion of the conflict can all be justified by the national culture argument. The dependency between the parties has also notably been affected by culture; further research into causal mechanisms regarding this issue would be useful. Ott's (2011) bargaining scenarios, although developed for business negotiations have proved valid in this geopolitical negotiation scenario. We have seen that even though Ghauri's framework was not designed and tested to assess this kind of negotiation, once extended by the use of various other frameworks it has provided valuable insight to the discussion.

It remains to be seen if the Barents Sea agreement lasts into the future and cooperation can be sustained, but recent efforts by both countries in cooperatively exploring petroleum resources in the Barents Sea region seem to indicate a stable relationship (Bradbury, 2012; Carstens, 2012; Oil & Gas Journal, 2012).


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