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Work Praises Sweden’s Regional Leadership, Technological Capabilities

April 27, 2016 | BY Cheryl Pellerin , DOD News

On the second day of his trip to Sweden -- the first time in 16 years that a U.S. defense secretary or deputy secretary has visited -- Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work toured military facilities and saw the products of a major Swedish defense company.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work shares a light moment with Swedish State Secretary Jan Salestrand in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. Work is in Sweden to strengthen and reassure alliances in the Baltic and Nordic regions. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work shares a light moment with Swedish State Secretary Jan Salestrand in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. Work is in Sweden to strengthen and reassure alliances in the Baltic and Nordic regions. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work shares a light moment with Swedish State Secretary Jan Salestrand in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. Work is in Sweden to strengthen and reassure alliances in the Baltic and Nordic regions. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Light Moment
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work shares a light moment with Swedish State Secretary Jan Salestrand in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. Work is in Sweden to strengthen and reassure alliances in the Baltic and Nordic regions. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Photo By: Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
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The visit was part of a multiday trip to speak with military and government officials in Sweden and Belgium about regional security, accelerating the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and developing and using innovative technologies to offset the advantages of major adversaries.

During a news conference at the end of the day, Work, along with Swedish State Secretary Jan Salestrand and U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji, made remarks and took questions from local reporters.

“This is a very important time for both of our countries,” Work said.

A Free and Open Baltic Sea

Russian activities in the Baltic have become aggressive and unsafe, Work said, “and it's important that we maintain the Baltic Sea as free and open to all the Nordic and Baltic countries in the region.”

In her remarks, the ambassador said that in the month or so she’s served in her new role she’s been impressed by Sweden’s capabilities and its commitment to cooperation and partnership with the United States in the military security domain.

“In a larger context,” she added, “Sweden and the United States have a very strong partnership and a very old and important close friendship … in a number of areas -- not just security, but trade, development assistance, human rights and [others].”

The United States looks forward to doing everything it can to enhance the U.S. bilateral security relationship with Sweden, Raji added, “and we very much appreciate the close partnership that you have with NATO and the work we've done on a number of projects together in NATO.”

Air and Maritime Capabilities

In his remarks, Salestrand said that he, Work and the U.S. delegation had focused on air and maritime capabilities during their visits in Karlskrona, and over the visit as a whole, on regional security.

“As we all know,” Salestrand added, “the importance of the Baltic Sea region has been very much changed, from a peaceful corner of Europe to what we could [call] a potential hotspot. And we have [discussed] our concern about how [Russia] … sometimes behaves in certain actions in the Baltic Sea.”

During the first part of the day, Work visited Ronneby Air Base and had discussions with Swedish Supreme Commander Gen. Micael Byden that focused on a range of bilateral initiatives.

The defense leaders discussed ways to deepen military-to-military cooperation, NATO partnership initiatives and regional security and defense priorities. Work assured Sweden of the U.S. commitment to bilateral cooperation, NATO's Enhanced Opportunity Partner Initiative as it relates to Sweden, and deterring Russian aggression, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, Work’s spokeswoman, said.

Work also visited a Swedish air force squadron and toured the Visby-class corvette HMS Karlstad, which the deputy secretary called “probably one of the most advanced naval combatants on the planet,” and where he thanked Swedish military members for their service.

Maintaining Peace and Security

“I took a ride in the CB-90 [combat boat developed in Sweden], which the U.S. Navy procured because it's the best boat of its type in the world,” Work said, “and then I visited [the Saab Defense and Security Group] and looked at the future of submarines in Sweden.”

Throughout the visit, Work discussed the development of the third offset strategy with leaders and reaffirmed the close and historic friendship between the United States and Sweden. The strategy is a U.S. Defense Department effort to offset the strengths of potential great-power adversaries with leap-ahead technologies and innovative ways to use them.

The deputy secretary also thanked each of his Nordic and Baltic counterparts for their contributions to international security.

“I really believe that Sweden is a leader in this region and can help us maintain peace and security for all of the citizens of NATO and our partner countries” in the region, he said.

Work’s trip will conclude April 29 following a visit to Belgium.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)