Jets Escort Cohen to Swedish Defense Talks, Vasa Visit
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jun. 12, 2000 When Defense Secretary William S. Cohen's plane entered Swedish air space June 9 he got an indication that this would be more than just an ordinary trip.
Vasa Museum Director Klas Helmerson uses models to point out aspects of the sinking of the Swedish ship Vasa in 1628 to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Swedish Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow. Cohen visited Sweden June 12 as part of a European trip that ends in Moscow June 13. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As the Air Force C-32 crossed into Sweden, two Saab 37 Viggen jet fighters formed up on either wing to provide a guard of honor. Long-time travelers with the secretary said nothing like that had happened before.
The planes escorted Cohen's jet to the airport.
Swedish Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow met Cohen at the airport. The two and the defense ministers of Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia would convene June 10 at the Third Annual Nordic-Baltic-U.S. Defense Ministerial in Vilnius, Lithuania. Cohen and von Sydow later talked June 12 in Stockholm in advance of Cohen's trip to Moscow to meet June 13 with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev.
Engaging Russia, regional defense programs and the U.S. National Missile Defense program were at the center of the U.S.-Sweden talks, U.S. officials said.
Sweden is a nonaligned country, but it is “not disinterested,” said Cohen. “They are an active participant in the Partnership for Peace program and they engage with NATO and non-NATO countries.” Sweden has participated in 14 peacekeeping and peace maintenance operations, Cohen said, and they currently have 750 soldiers working with NATO forces in Kosovo. They have also provided police and other civilian help for the Balkans.
Cohen said he was impressed with Sweden’s willingness to work with its neighbors to engage Russia and its plans to restructure its military to be able to deploy quickly and operate efficiently with NATO and non-NATO forces. He cautioned that plans such as Sweden’s must be adequately funded to be effective.
In addition, the United States has proposed, and Sweden has accepted, being the home of the Baltic Simulation Center. The simulation center would be part of the Baltic Defense College and would hold regional simulation-based exercises. “This will enhance the Partnership for Peace peacekeeping training at low- cost,” said U.S. defense officials.
Sweden will also work with the U.S. Revolution in Military Affairs strategy to apply its information technology expertise to new tactical systems. “We will also have some say in developing the doctrine for use of these system,” von Sydow said during a press conference following his meeting with Cohen.
Cohen, who left the meeting for Moscow, also said they discussed the U.S. National Missile Defense proposal and Russian objections and last week's counterproposal.
On a sidetrip, Von Sydow escorted the secretary and his party to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a 17th century man-of-war and, for a few moments, the most powerful ship afloat. When launched in August 1628, the Vasa sailed into the harbor, hit some gusty winds and sank. Swedish divers located the wreck in the 1950s and raised it in 1961. Though submerged 300 years, the Vasa was in amazing condition; the Swedes sprayed it with a special preservative to keep it that way.
Cohen and von Sydow received a special tour of the museum from Klas Helmerson, the director general of the National Maritime Museums.