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Deputy Secretary’s Sweden, Brussels Trip Furthers U.S.-Regional Collaboration

May 3, 2016 | BY Cheryl Pellerin , DOD News

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s trip last week to meet with military and government officials in Sweden and with NATO officials and alliance representatives in Belgium furthered U.S. collaboration in the region and introduced the department’s approach to the future of warfare.

Work began his trip in Stockholm with a bilateral meeting with Swedish officials and then participated in a larger meeting of U.S.-Nordic-Baltic countries to discuss new opportunities for cooperation and to address regional threats.

In the broader meeting were U.S. officials and secretaries from the Nordic nations of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland and from the Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work speaks to a Swedish Air Force pilot in Ronneby, Sweden, April 27, 2016. Work is on a weeklong trip to Sweden and Belgium to meet with regional leaders and NATO officials. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work speaks to a Swedish air force pilot in Ronneby, Sweden, April 27, 2016. Work visited 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 speaks to a Swedish Air Force pilot in Ronneby, Sweden, April 27, 2016. Work is on a weeklong trip to Sweden and Belgium to meet with regional leaders and NATO officials. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Pilot Conversation
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work speaks to a Swedish air force pilot in Ronneby, Sweden, April 27, 2016. Work visited 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
VIRIN: 160427-D-SK590-114

“On the trip to Sweden we accomplished two things,” Work told DoD News during an interview on his military aircraft on the trip home. “We had bilateral discussions with Peter Hultqvist, the Swedish secretary of state for defense, and got a real good appreciation for what Sweden believed was the strategic situation in the Baltic Sea, [including] what Russia is doing and things that concern them,” Work said.

Interoperability and Cooperation

Work and Hultqvist also discussed ways in which the two militaries could improve interoperability and defense cooperation, he added.

The U.S.-Nordic-Baltic meeting built on the Nordic deputy defense ministers meeting that Work attended in Oslo last September. In the latest meeting, participants discussed ways to enhance defense cooperation, including increasing deterrence of provocative Russian behavior, increasing information sharing and accelerating the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to a summary of the meeting.

“The Nordic countries generally view [Russia’s behavior] as a maritime and an aerospace problem,” Work explained. “Finland has about a 1,500-kilometer border with Russia, so they have a very keen sense of what Russia is doing; whereas the Balts, who also are right on the border, have been very concerned about aggressive Russian activities.”

Participants discussed Russia’s more provocative actions, Work added, including its buzzing of the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea, flying without transponders, buzzing of signal intelligence aircraft and others.

“We all agreed that this is very dangerous, because the chances of an accident are very high and, because of the distrust on both sides, if something did happen, one side would automatically think the other had something to do with it. So it's important to stop these types of activities,” the deputy secretary added.

Swedish Innovation

On his second day in Sweden, Work participated in discussions with Swedish Supreme Commander Gen. Micael Byden on a range of bilateral initiatives, ways to deepen military-to-military cooperation, NATO partnership initiatives, regional security and defense priorities.

Work also visited a Swedish air force squadron and toured the Visby-class corvette HMS Karlstad, and he thanked Swedish military members for their service. The deputy secretary also was briefed on Sweden’s primarily commercial innovation sector, he said.

“The four areas were [the carbon material] graphene, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems … and they lead the world in detection of nuclear materials using noble gases. The [devices] are quite sophisticated, quite accurate, and the U.S. uses them,” he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work attends a luncheon with defense representatives from Baltic and Nordic states in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work attends a luncheon with defense representatives from Baltic and Nordic states in Stockholm in Sweden, April 26, 2016. Work visited 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 attends a luncheon with defense representatives from Baltic and Nordic states in Stockholm, April 26, 2016. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee
Official Luncheon
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work attends a luncheon with defense representatives from Baltic and Nordic states in Stockholm in Sweden, April 26, 2016. Work visited 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
VIRIN: 160426-D-SK590-126

Work said Sweden is a relatively small country -- slightly larger in land size than California -- “but they make their own fighter planes, build their own submarines, and they build probably the stealthiest naval combatant in the world, the Visby-class corvette.

“Not too many countries produce submarines,” Word continued. “Not too many countries produce fighter jets, and not too many countries -- or very, very few -- produce stealth combatants. Here's one small country that has that capability, [and] that’s … quite impressive.”

Brussels and the Third Offset Strategy

In Brussels, Work met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and ambassadors from the United States and the 27 other NATO allies, held a working lunch with NATO military representatives and staff, and delivered a speech hosted by the European Policy Center, an independent policy-research organization.

“Brussels was all about introducing NATO to the idea of the third offset strategy,” said Work, referring to what he describes as a combination of technology, operational concepts and organizational constructs that will help the department maintain its ability to project combat power into any area at times and places of its own choosing.

Work said he had a chance to brief the North Atlantic Council NATO’s highest decision-making body, and all 28 nations attended.

“I gave about a 30-minute brief, and then we had about 45 minutes of questions. I was impressed by the questions, and the members were extremely engaged. What I hope we were able to do is to demystify the third offset,” he added, “and time will tell whether we were successful.”

Driven by Commercial Technologies

Work also briefed the NATO military representatives and said the third offset strategy discussion was much more substantive and detailed.

“As we tried to make clear to everyone, the third offset is being driven primarily by commercial research and development and commercial technologies,” he said. Any one of the NATO members can participate -- even the smallest nation, the deputy secretary added.

“Say they have a commercial industry in artificial intelligence. They're going to be able to plug in and help increase the effectiveness of the entire NATO battle [structure],” he explained, “so what we emphasized to the [North Atlantic Council] and to the military representatives is that we have to think about how we go about doing this as an alliance.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)