I attended a fascinating lunch the other day. The audience comprised a number of senior folks and founders from companies covering all industries and many geographies.
After we all introduced ourselves there was then a discussion, under Chatham House Rule*, that ranged from the frictions between the USA and China, China and Taiwan, the Ukraine and Russia, the migrant crisis and more. But one thing caught my ear, because of my long involvement in the Nordic community, which is how many millions of dollars Norway has made in profit from the Russian special military operation in the Ukraine.
As soon as I got back to my desk I had to Google this, as it’s not something I had heard much about before. What transpired is a shocking case of Norway making money out of others challenges. This is highlighted by High North News, and alleges that Russian ships transport gas to Europe via Honningsvåg. Honningsvåg is literally in the middle of nowhere in the Barents sea. When the Russian ships arrive, they are reassigned names and insurances via the insurance company Skuld, based in Oslo.
In other words, when they leave Honningsvåg, they are legitimate because the ships are no longer Russian but Norwegian. They can now deliver gas to Europe without sanctions.
It's interesting as I tweeted the other day that the war is costing Russia just 3% of their GDP, according to The Economist but, based on this question: is that figure accurate?
Europe depends upon Russia for gas. Some of you may remember that those very same gas lines were attacked last year. Who blew up the Nord Stream gasline? The Russians? The UK? Ukrainians? Who cares? The fact is Europe is getting gas via Norway through a suspicious process of subterfuge, if all this is true.
Whichever way you look, it has benefited Russia, who are now making a killing shipping gas to Europe via Norway. It’s for these reasons I’ve always claimed that sanctions don’t work. Someone always finds a way around the system.
It’s funny that I use that line as I just watched a TV show about sexual harassment at work, and the advisor to the victim says: “if you are being harassed and the system doesn’t help you, then you to go around the system”. What she ends up doing is a sting, where she tells the guy’s wife that there’s a free massage for her as a present from her husband at the local hotel at 12:15. When the wife turns up, the husband is there having sex with his mistress.
Drop the mic.
So, I wonder how we can work around the system, whereby Europe and America say they are sanctioning Russia over their actions in the Ukraine but, in reality, they’re not? Maybe we need to tell Joe Biden to fly into Honningsvåg with Rishi Sunak – or is that Rashid Sanook? – and Volodymyr Zelenskiy the next time a Russian ship arrives there with gas?
I’m a pedant and hate it when people say a meeting is under Chatham House Rules. There is no plural. There is just one rule:
Under the Chatham House Rule, anyone who comes to a meeting is free to use information from the discussion, but is not allowed to reveal who made any particular comment. It is designed to increase openness of discussion.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...