Troy J. Bouffard

The Barents Sea has long been a testing ground for cooperation between Russia and Norway. Driven by mutual economic interests, the two states have worked together in previous decades to oversee a shared commercial fishery. More recently, off-shore oil production has become a Russo-Norwegian focus. Emerging petroleum production provides an opportunity to assess environmental stewardship in the region. In particular, this study explores the differences and influences in Norwegian and Russian offshore oil-spill prevention policy in the Barents Sea. The study focuses on how each state’s national and economic strategic objectives translate into domestic policy, and how such influences are reflected in operational mandates and behavior. Principal-agent (a.k.a. agency) theory and case studies provide the framework for this study through a defined view of the contractual relationships between the governments (principals) and industry (agents). Findings indicate that 1) there is no mutual policy for the shared environment, 2) there should be, and 3) divergent issues can be identified and potentially overcome. Additionally, the approach to prevention policy by Russia’s governmental authorities yields concerns regarding operational intent while Norway’s public-sector principles likely instill more confidence in outcomes. As the Barents Region continues to foster a convergence of bilateral (and multilateral) interests, this study helps identify relevant prevention policy decision-making factors while contributing to further understanding and expectations for activities in the Barents Sea.

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