Whereas ordinary Norwegians identified Vladimir Putin as the single largest threat to world peace, analysts pointed out that the dangers potentially posed by China are much more serious, given its growing role as an economic superpower.
As many as 38 percent of Norwegians see Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as the greatest threat to world peace, a survey carried out by pollster Ipsos conducted for the newspaper Dagbladet concluded.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was second with 25 percent, followed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
US President Joe Biden missed the podium with 4 percent.
Another 7 percent said none of them are a threat, whereas the remaining 7 percent were undecided.
The Director of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Iver B. Neumann, is not surprised by the findings, listing three reasons for Norwegians’ fear of Russia.
“Firstly, we have had close contact with a threat from Russia for the most part of a century. People are vigilant about Russia. Secondly, it is much closer to us than both China, North Korea, and the US. Thirdly, Russia constantly uses military force as theatre”, Neumann said.
Yet, Russia, according to Neumann, is neither a global power, nor a superpower, but a “small player in the world”, with “only” 145 million inhabitants and “an economy the size of Spain”.
By contrast, China with a manpower of 1.2 billion people and an economy bound to surpass even the US in a relatively short time, is an upcoming challenge for world peace and the potentially big threat, according to the director.
“China is the power that will change things, and it has been clear for the last 15 to 20 years”, Neumann said. “I would have thought that people had woken up to a greater extent”, he added.
Asia researcher Stein Tønnesson at the Department of Peace Research also focused on China.
“It is the deteriorating relationship between China and the US, and Biden and Xi Jinping, that is most critical”, the researcher said, pointing out a possible conflict in Taiwan as the trigger for a global war.
Unlike neighbouring Sweden, which over the centuries has fought countless wars with Russia over northern territories and general influence, Norway has never waged a war against its vast Eastern neighbour.
However, Norwegian-Russian relations, bolstered by hundreds of years of cooperation dating back to the Viking Age and subsequent Pomor trade, have been strained by reciprocal spying accusations and military buildups.
Norwegian media and public culture tend to portray Russia in an increasingly negative light, with emphasis on perceived wrongdoings, fictitious threats, and Cold War-era rhetoric. A prime example is the fictional political thriller “Occupied” in which Norway faces an invasion from Russia and which totally goes against history, as it was the Red Army that liberated northern Norway from Nazi occupation in the late stages of World War II.