The North Pole is a strategic hotspot. Over the ice-capped roof of the world run the shortest air routes from Russia to the U.S. Last week, the general public learned for the first time that Russia is interested in Norway's bleak Spitsbergen archipelago, within the Arctic Circle (Spitsbergen to Pittsburgh: 3,500 miles).

In November 1944, Russia first asked Norway to share Spitsbergen with the Soviet Union, and to cede neighboring Bear Island outright. Trygve Lie, then Norway's Foreign Minister, refused. In April 1945, Russia tried again, suggested a joint regional defense system. Nothing came of that, either. At the U.N....

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