American Secretary of Defense Mattis continued his meetings with foreign defense officials on Thursday, this time meeting with Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide at the Pentagon. Mattis used the meeting as an opportunity to praise the longstanding defense partnership the United States has maintained with Norway, and to reaffirm the two nations’ mutual commitment to the defense of one another.

“Your country is recognized as a front-line member of the coalition to defeat ISIS—our boys serving alongside each other down there—and we appreciate the contributions of your special operations forces and your training team. We’re keenly aware of what you’re doing,” Mattis said.

Among the celebrated partnerships discussed in their meeting were NATO operations that saw participants from U.S. and Norwegian militaries, as well as the opportunity Norway continues to provide to the United States Marine Corps to conduct rotational cold-weather training in Norway. The training allows U.S. Marines the opportunity to harden their cold-weather skills while increasing the interoperability of U.S. and Norwegian forces.

“Norway, from our perspective on this side of the Atlantic, is an essential NATO ally with invaluable expertise in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, and we want to thank you for sharing that expertise with us, and for supporting the U.S. Marine Corps cold-weather training taking place today in Norway,” Mattis told Søreide.

The Arctic has become a region of increasing concern, as a shift in global temperatures has made accessible portions of the Arctic that were previously less cost-effective to navigate, allowing Russia to make moves to reestablish a sizable military presence in the region.

“Climate change brings in more favorable conditions and improves the economic potential of this region,” Putin has said. “Today, Russia’s GDP is the result of the economic activity of this region.”

In a military parade celebrating the end of Russian fighting in World War II last week, Russia showed off some of their latest Arctic-specific hardware, like mobile surface-to-air missile platforms intended specifically for use in the frigid cold of the Arctic Circle, demonstrating a clear shift toward northern operations for the Russian military.

Mattis also thanked the Norwegian official for the country’s ongoing commitment to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, which is currently under evaluation by U.S. Marine General Joe Dunford and other defense chiefs from NATO member states. The Afghan government has established a four-year plan that would place them in position to effectively provide security for up to 80 percent of their nation by 2020, though U.S. forces have requested an increase in NATO advisors in order to successfully meet the needs of the plan.

“You are absolutely right in the fact that we are strengthening our relationships,” Søreide told Mattis. “We are entering into cooperation that will only deepen in the years to come, and we have a longstanding history of decades of cooperating in crucial areas, where I think that we can say that we mutually contribute to things that we could not do alone.

“But you also touch upon some of the important issues. We stand shoulder by shoulder in developing NATO. Your leadership in NATO is extremely important to the alliance, and I have earlier on also commended you for your leadership, and I will gladly do so again, because I think that is vital to the alliance and vital to Europe,” she added.

As has become customary for any meeting among NATO officials, Mattis concluded his conversation with the Norwegian minister by politely encouraging her to push her nation toward an increase in defense spending in order to reach the required two percent of gross domestic product mandated by NATO charter. Norway is currently devoting only about 1.5 percent of its GDP to defense.

Image courtesy of the Defense Department