In the near future, America has become energy independent and withdraws from the global stage, weary of engaging in nation-building, failed wars, and foreign entanglements. Norway embarks on a massive clean-energy initiative by building Thorium reactors, the Green party hoping that their positive example sets the stage for the rest of the world to divest from fossil fuels and follow in their footsteps to halt climate change.
To this end, Norway also halts oil exports to the rest of the European Union. But the prime minister, Jasper Berg, is stymied when the European Union collaborates with the Russians to use terror tactics to coerce Norway into renewing energy exports. The Russian military moves in, seizing Norwegian off-shore oil rigs in a dangerous fait accompli. Norway blinks first and halts a special operations mission to recapture their gas and oil platforms.
With the rest of Europe desperate for oil and America holding fast to isolationist policies, Norway finds itself occupied by Russian military and paramilitary forces in a form of so-called hybrid warfare that uses a combination of unconventional warfare, coercive diplomacy, and outright terrorist tactics.
This is the plot of “Occupied,” a Norwegian television drama recently brought to American audiences on Netflix. Considering current trends in American politics and Russia’s gangland attempts to secure post-Soviet space in countries like Ukraine and Georgia, this fictional narrative isn’t as farfetched as it may appear at first glance.
Frighteningly, this isn’t simply my opinion, but is a potential future envisioned by the U.S. National Intelligence Council in Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. In regards to American energy dependence, the report states the following:
With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come. increased oil production from difficult-to-access oil deposits would result in a substantial reduction in the Us net trade balance and faster economic expansion. Global spare capacity may exceed over 8 million barrels, at which point OPEC would lose price control and crude oil prices would collapse, causing a major negative impact on oil-export economies.
Although energy independence is a positive development, and would allow America to stop propping up autocratic regimes we need to keep stable to maintain access to their oil fields, this independence may also lead to less American influence in certain parts of the world. Jan Kalicki also writes in his recent book, Energy and Security, that:
Energy security has eluded generations of Americans, even as every president since Richard Nixon has warned of the dangers of dependency on foreign oil. But the discovery of energy resources in North America is a game changer. Today, the United States is on the verge of vaulting from being a net importer to being a net exporter of oil and natural gas by 2030— or even earlier. This quest— to borrow Daniel Yergin’s term— for an energy solution will have enormous economic, environmental, and geopolitical implications for the United States and the world. More than 100 years ago, when he was the president of Princeton, Woodrow Wilson said, “We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction.” In 2013, our nation is at a similar crossroads— and the new energy landscape positions America to lead.
Global Trends 2030 predicts four possible visions for what the world may look like in the near future. One of them is America withdrawing from the international arena: “Without completely disengaging, the U.S. no longer tries to play ‘global policeman’ on every security threat. Many of the energy producers suffer from declining energy prices, failing to diversify their economies in time, and are threatened by internal conflicts.”
In “Occupied,” America throws the democratically elected government of Norway to the wolves. Once the Russians are in Norway, they are not leaving no matter what efforts the government takes to appease and acquiesce to the wishes of Moscow. As Zbigniew Brzezinski testified to Congress over a year ago in regards to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, Putin is actively seeking to prevent former Soviet states in Eastern Europe from creating a Western identity.
To this end, he has actively sought to destabilize Ukraine politically and economically. In his testimony to the armed services committee, Dr. Brzezinski points out that we should deploy some “tripwire” contingency forces to Latvia and Estonia—small numbers of NATO troops so that if Russia thinks about invading these countries, they will know that they will face NATO as a result. Henry Kissinger writes in his book “World Order” that, “Having downgraded its military capacities, Europe has little scope to respond when universal norms are flouted.”
Without NATO engagement, with significant American support, Europe will be cast adrift and left to the infernal machinations of a Russia trying to drive internal nationalistic sentiments to distract their citizens from the very serious economic crisis they are facing. As the National Security Council report states, “A collapse or sudden retreat of U.S. power probably would result in an extended period of global anarchy; no leading power would be likely to replace the United states as guarantor of the international order.”
As the fictional scenario in “Occupied” unfolds, the Norwegian government is further undermined by Russia as paramilitary forces skulk through the streets, Russian forces take control of the oil industry, and spies and infiltrators slip across the border to check any attempt Norway might make to defend itself from foreign aggression. Boxed in politically and diplomatically, the Norwegian prime minister seeks refuge in the American embassy. His welcome by the U.S. ambassador is not exactly warm, as America does not want to upset Russia. Again, the Global Trends 2030 reports points out that in this potential scenario, “The U.S. is beginning to ally with authoritarian states to try to restore some order because of growing non-state threats.”
Prime Minister Jasper Berg finds himself ostracized and abandoned by the international community, his appeasement of Russia has failed (at one point he tells a member of his party that Russia interpreted his dedication to democratic humanist values as cowardice), diplomatic efforts have failed, and the Russians have no intention to withdraw from Norway no matter what the case. As “Occupied” ends, the Norwegian military kidnaps Berg and flies him out to a base where an army general asks him if he is ready to fight for his country. War is now inevitable, a war the Norwegians know they will lose against the Russian military.
As a television show, “Occupied” is an expression of some very deep-seated fears countries like Norway, Finland, and Sweden have about Russian aggression, which has been further aggravated by Russian submarines off their coasts, their military expansion in the arctic, and long-simmering regional security dynamics. “Occupied” also asks the viewer to question themselves about whether or not occupation and war could have been avoided in the first place.
Norway is a civilization nation, but not all of their neighbors are so nice. Socialist liberal democracies in Europe like to complain about American influence and military adventures. Some of these criticisms are well founded, as we often leave our allies in the lurch and embark on ill-conceived conflicts, but much of the world will miss America when we are no longer the backstop for international order.