Commentary, 3/4, 2003

Published Dec 12, 2003
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Power Structure
The Iraqi war has been dominating the news for months before it actually started. European heads of states have been discussing UN resolutions and twisting each other’s words, all wanting to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, but no one wanting to be perceived as a bad guy. They all know as elected officials they are directly depending on how they are perceived by their voters - unlike Saddam Hussein.

In Europe Germany and France have been the staunchest opponents to war, while UK’s Tony Blair has advocated the need to fight Saddam Hussein. Norway’s long established foreign policy prevented us from participating actively in the war, together with USA, without a clear UN resolution. It was a difficult question, as an equally long established tradition within our foreign policy is to follow the US.

The massive international demonstrations against war, and the accusations of going to war over oil, is understandable given that Iraq is a major oil supplier historically and probably for the future. But at least this war is about much more than oil.

It is about more than oil to a much larger degree than for instance Angola, where diamonds and oil have fuelled the differing parties of the war for decades. Oil means power.

The poor Public Relations work done by the Bush administration helps fuel a perception that the Iraq war is all about oil. Especially when Bush, in the heat of the fight, awards major future Iraq contracts to Vice President Cheney’s old company Halliburton.

Public Relations are increasingly important also within the oil & gas industry, and are being dealt with in an ever more professional way by oil companies. Public opinion is increasingly worrying about the conditions of the people in the country of origin of all commodities, including oil and gas. For the foreseeable future no one is going to stop buying oil! But any supplier who can deliver oil and gas from a stable, democratic society will be a winner in the long run.

Russia is developing in that direction – and it has oil and gas reserves of an impressive scale!
USA ended up as the only superpower after the cold war. But with its enormous energy reserves Russia might have the strongest card for the future!

Norsk Hydro’s Eivind Reiten is one of the professionals who have understood this, positioning his company to take advantages of future developments within this huge country. While foreign companies struggled, and many lost, in the first years of post-communism Russia, the future looks much brighter for Norway’s close neighbor. And thereby also for many Norwegian companies.

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