>> NATO's steady shift in focus toward frozen landscapes like this will reach another milestone this month when it starts large-scale exercises, stretching from Iceland to northern Europe and the Baltic, its biggest in 16 years. This is Norway's Svalbard Archipelago, high above the Arctic Circle. Norway, a NATO member, is pushing this shift because Russia is doing the same on its side of this very cold location.
Reuters' Oslo Bureau Chief, Gwladys Fouche.>> The main concern Norway has is that rising tensions between the West and Russia internationally, including over Syria, could end up spilling over into the Arctic, which is a prime area of concern for Norway. The United States has not a strong focus on the Arctic in recent years, compared with other foreign policy priority.
But US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has recognized that perhaps this has to shift in the time forward.>> Norway has a shared border near Russia's Kola Peninsula, which is where Russia's Northern Fleet is located. Russia's also building new bases and fortifying old ones across the Arctic. This map is only a very rough view of military installations, but NATO and US bases are noticeably spread more thinly.
Norway has more, but it doesn't have any permanent postings of foreign troops. We met Norway's foreign minister in Svalbard.>> The area is increasing in importance for Russia. And we see that they are increasing their exercises. They are increasing also their presence, and also their mobility, most notably.
>> The Nordic countries have very different perspectives on the issue, informed by their history. Norway and Denmark are members of NATO, Sweden is neutral, and Finland used to be a part of Russia in its history and fought a war against Russia. What they have in common is that they are worried that a more assertive Russia could have an impact in their backyard.
>> The Arctic's strategic importance not only applies to its geographic location but, increasingly, its energy sources.