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U.S., Finland Work Closely to Aid Ukraine, Defend Europe

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In yet another sign of the world's revulsion of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen told Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III that "in these troubled times, Finland stands ready to work together with the United States."

During Pentagon meetings today, Kaikkonen and Austin looked at ways to deepen the already strong sense of cooperation between the two nations. Kaikkonen told Austin that Finland was shocked at Russia's aggression toward Ukraine. His nation, which shares a long border with Russia, is working with NATO and the European Union in response to the Russian invasion.

The ships of many navies operate in the sea.
Ship Formation
Ships from the navies of the U.S., Finland and other countries operate together in the Baltic Sea in June 2020. The maritime-focused exercise enhances flexibility and interoperability among NATO allies and partner nations.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1
VIRIN: 200615-N-NO901-0028C

Austin, too, highlighted the need for more cooperation in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "war of choice" in Ukraine. The defense secretary expressed his admiration for the fight that Ukraine is making against the Russian invaders. "Their courage inspires all of us," Austin said. "Now, all of us must, likewise, stand with Ukraine and stand up for the rules-based international system that we built together some 75 years ago. Your government's decision to send assistance will certainly help the brave people of Ukraine, and I know that they're grateful for it."

The U.S.-Finnish bilateral relationship began almost 30 years ago when Finland upgraded its air force with U.S. F/A-18 Hornet jets. "Today, I'm looking forward to strengthening that relationship, and starting a process of new avenues of bilateral defense cooperation, including space and irregular warfare," Austin said.

An aerial view of the Pentagon.
Aerial View
An aerial view of the Pentagon, May 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 210512-D-BM568-1287R

Kaikkonen said he and Austin would have a serious discussion on the defense of Europe. "Once again, [the] United States has played a crucial role in strengthening deterrence through NATO and bilaterally," he said at the beginning of the meeting. "In spite of, and even because of, these pressing issues, we need to think long term," he said. "The war in Ukraine has profound implications for your security, for NATO, for Finland. This is not the European crisis, this is a global crisis."

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