Mattis Praises Finland’s Contributions to Democracy, Global Security
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Nov 07, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis applauded Finland’s contributions to democracy and global security today after meeting with the country’s most-senior government official.

As part of his five-day trip to Europe, Mattis spoke today in Helsinki, after meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

“My country highly values Finland's contribution to the global coalition to defeat [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria],” Mattis said in a press appearance with Niinistö.

“I think that your tactically skillful and ethically sound troops have brought courage and competence to the battlefields against terrorism in the same manner in which your country has brought compassion to the humanitarian fields on so many occasions,” the secretary said.

Mattis added, “The lessons of our success in reducing the terrorist threat is a reminder that we are strongest when we democracies stand together, united in the face of barbarism, united in the interest of peace.”

Reaffirming Strong U.S.-Finnish Relations

Mattis welcomed the “deepening bilateral and NATO defense partnership with Finland” and applauded the Nordic nation’s initiative to establish the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.

“With this center, Finland has created an institution fit for our time, and I thank you, Mr. President, for your foresight,” Mattis commented.

The secretary complimented Finland’s commitment to Nordic defense cooperation, to include assuming the chair for the Arctic Council.

“By tightening such cooperation here in the north, we see the deterrent capability of democracies strengthened,” he said. “In today's conversations, we reaffirm that relations between Finland and the United States have never been stronger.”

While in Finland today and tomorrow, Mattis is meeting with the Northern Group, a multilateral forum of 12 countries, including the five Nordic countries -- Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden; the three Baltic countries -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; Germany; the Netherlands; Poland and the United Kingdom.

Key Partnerships in Europe

Mattis is on a multination European trip to reaffirm key partnerships and alliances in Europe, according to a Defense Department press operations statement.

En route to Finland, he told reporters the trip is an “opportunity to reiterate: We stand by our friends, democracies, NATO and otherwise in Europe, if any nation, including Russia, seeks to undermine the rules-based international order.”

Mattis travels on to Belgium for a NATO defense ministerial meeting. He separately hosts a meeting of ministers from the defeat-ISIS coalition.

He concludes the trip Nov. 10 in London where he will meet with Gavin Williamson, Britain's new defense secretary.

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Meeting of Defense Ministers of the Northern Group
(Source: Poland Ministry of Defence; issued Nov 07, 2017)
In the contemporary geopolitical situation, the Northern Group is particularly important for both, the Eastern Flank of the NATO and also to ensure communication between the USA and Europe - said Minister of National Defense Antoni Macierewicz after the meeting of Ministers of National Defense of the Northern Group.

The meeting of Defense Ministers of the Northern Group was held on 6-7th November in Helsinki, Finland.

It was very important meeting of Defense Ministers of the Northern Group, in which also participated US Secretary of Defense gen. James Mattis, who specially came to this meeting and stressed the importance of the Baltic and Northern States to the United States. This is obviously a result of the current military situation, which was so dramatically shown during exercise ZAPAD 2017,” said Head of the Ministry of National Defense after the meeting. Minister Macierewicz emphasized that ZAPAD exercises were supposed to show the possibility of interrupting communication between the USA and Europe.

“One of today's sessions was devoted to show how the countries of our region can prevent such aggressive Russian actions. Strengthening our military cooperation becomes an element guaranteeing the security of NATO and the whole world,” added Minister.
Minister Macierewicz also noted that one of the most important topics discussed during the meeting was the matter of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).

“We all agreed that there are programs that can be useful, such as so-called NATO - Schengen. General Mattis rightly pointed out that it is difficult to require from US and other states to support the Eastern Flank in situation when army cannot move easily. Poland is in a good situation. One of my first decisions taken two years ago, was to shorten the period required to 72 hours. So, this movement across the Polish border is easy,” said Minister Macierewicz.

During the meeting, Ministers of the Northern Group decided that Poland will be framework state of the Northern Group, from Jan 2018.

The North Group includes 12 countries: Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

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We Have to Consider Strengthening Defence, R. Karoblis Said to the Northern Group Defence Ministers
(Source: Lithuania Ministry of Defence; issued Nov 07, 2017)
“NATO enhanced Forward Presence is an effective deterrent that has reinforced the security along the eastern NATO borders at its core. However, with Russia showcasing conventional power increasingly more aggressively, we have to strengthen our collective defence capabilities, namely to develop regional air defence, to strengthen maritime defence components, and to solve the logistical challenges quick movement of back-up forces into the region faces,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis stated on November 7 in Helsinki at the Northern Group Defence Ministers’ meeting.

The Defence Ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and the Head of the Defence Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland traditionally present at such meetings were joined by Secretary of Defence of the United States James Mattis to discuss the security in the region.

“The Northern Group Defence Ministers agreed unilaterally that the biggest threat for regional security was posed by the growing Russia’s military power. Exercise Zapad 2017 showed that Russia had learnt the lessons from Georgia, Ukraine and Syria, and is now consistently upgrading its armed forces,” R. Karoblis said.

Therefore, according to the Minister, it was necessary to ensure that implementation of the deterrence measures would be reinforced with additional defence capabilities and measures. The Minister also underscored that physical NATO, especially, U.S. presence in the region, as well as joint exercises of allies, is a strong signal of deterrence for external threats.

When presenting Lithuania’s efforts to strengthen defence, i.e. increased defence budget, modernization, the Continuous Mandatory Initial Military Service which particularly strengthened the Armed Forces, and increasing public resilience to hybrid threats, R.Karoblis invited the countries to seek long-term joint defence measures.

Increasing defence spending remains an important aspect nearly all the Ministers addressed in their remarks. U.S. Secretary of Defence J. Mattis underscored that the United States sought to support those who took care of their security themselves, and equal burden-sharing among partners is an essential precondition of collective defence.

“We have to identify clearly what are the capabilities that we lack to counter the threats. My aim is to cooperate with our partners, to supplement our defence with the capabilities it lacks,” the U.S. Defence Secretary said at the meeting when addressing the strengthening of deterrence and defence measures in the Baltic Sea region. He also pointed out the necessity of the NATO Command Structure Review for strengthening the capabilities to ensure immediate and efficient collective defence.

On November 6 the Minister took part in the Nordic-Baltic Defence Ministers’ meeting where Defence Ministers of 8 countries discussed the security situation in the region, exchanged insights on the dynamics of emerging challenges, and collective means to address them.

The Lithuanian Minister underlined the importance of NATO-EU defence cooperation. “Europe should do more for its defence. The new Permanent Structured Cooperation initiative has to help developing our capabilities but not duplicate NATO efforts. Lithuania invites PESCO countries to join a project for strengthening mutual support in cyber defence,” Minister R. Karoblis said when presenting Lithuania’s project in the European Union format.

The meeting also addressed the countries’ contribution to multinational missions and operations, assistance to Ukraine, Georgia and other partners.

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