Imagine having a neighbor whose aggressive dog breaks into your farm to destroy crops and chase your livestock. What would you do? Would you let it go and warn your neighbor never to let it happen again? Or would you insist that your neighbor pays for everything that was damaged?
Well, Russia was faced with a similar dilemma when 42 runaway reindeers from Norway crossed the border in search of greener pastures. The reindeers had a field day munching on Russian grasslands, and Russia wasn’t going to take it lying low. They wasted no time in asking Norway to cough up $4.4 million as compensation for the destroyed grassland.
Russia and Norway, despite being neighbors, are not best of friends and do not get along as many would have assumed. On August 3, Russia added Norway to its list of unfriendly countries for being hostile to Russian diplomats in the diaspora. So, Russia’s response to the reindeer situation didn’t come as a surprise.
Russia and Norway share a border in the Arctic which is marked by a fence that dates as far back as 1954. The fence ought to have prevented the reindeers from crossing. However, the Norwegian Directorate of Agriculture revealed that the animals were able to exploit some damaged parts of the fence to enter Pasvik Zapovednik, one of Russia’s national parks. This, as it turned out, was a very costly adventure.
In Russia’s claim, the compensation sum can be calculated in two ways, with the first method amounting to $4,700 or 50,000 kroner and the second one resulting in $4.4 million or 4.7 million kroner. The second method is the sum of the number of days the reindeers spent feasting on Russia’s grasslands.
According to Norway’s agriculture authority, 40 of the 42 wandering reindeers have been returned to Norway and slaughtered to prevent a recurrence. They expect the other two back in the country soon.
Norway has also reminded Norwegians, especially the indigenous Sami people known for herding reindeers, of their duty to control these animals. “It is strictly forbidden to cross the border into Russia, for reindeer too,” said the Norwegian Directorate of Agriculture in a statement.
Norway is also taking more concrete steps to avoid a repeat of this incident by repairing the damaged 4.3-mile (7-kilometer) section of the fence. The repairs will cost 3.7 million kroner and should have reached completion by October 1.
Sadly, this occurrence has further strained the relationship between the neighbors. Norway has accused Russia of international law violations. In the words of Ine Eriksen Soreide, Norway’s foreign minister, “This is a clear violation of international law and a breach of our sovereignty. We will not accept any unreasonable demands from Russia. We urge them to respect our rights and interests.”
In response, Russia has said that their request is more a matter of principle than money. “Norway has shown a lack of respect for our national park and our natural resources. We will defend our territory and our environment,” said Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
As of the time of writing this, Russia hadn’t responded to Insider’s requests for comments on the matter.