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Remarks by Secretary Mattis and Minister Hultqvist at the Pentagon

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Swedish Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist
May 18, 2017
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  Welcome to the Pentagon, Mr. -- Minister Hultqvist, Ambassador Lyrvall and ladies and gentlemen.  

It's good to have you here.  It's a privilege, actually, to have you here -- two democracies that still know how to stand up for themselves.  

I would say, on behalf, though, of the Department of Defense, I want to express our condolences to the Swedish people for the April 7th terrorist attack that you -- that you suffered.  It was a senseless act, and the American people stand with you.  We share our sympathy with the families, and with all the Swedish people who were affected --

MINISTER OF DEFENSE PETER HULTQVIST:  Thank you.

SEC. MATTIS:  -- by this attack.

MIN. HULTQVIST:  Thank you.

SEC. MATTIS:  But one point I would make to those who think that they can scare us with such things:  this only strengthens our resolve to stand together and to defeat terrorists.  And I would just tell you that an attack on one nation like yours is an attack on all of us.  That's the way we look at it.  

And as a result, we look at the importance of our united coalition effort against the terrorists -- to destroy ISIS, in this case -- and we thank you for your continued contributions to member of that -- that coalition.  And we value every bit of your support.  

And while Sweden and the United States are not treaty allies, we nevertheless share a strong defense relationship between us in support of stability in the Baltic and of international law as governing the relations between nations.  

I strongly endorse the statement of intent signed last year by our country, and I look forward to working alongside you to deepen our defense relationship.  

I'm also pleased that the wholly defensive partnership between Sweden and NATO is growing, thanks in part to your country's enhanced opportunity partner status and ratification of a host nation support agreement.  

Sweden and its peace-loving people remain a stabilizing element in an increasingly tense region.  I commend you for taking the difficult decision to begin increasing defense spending.  I'm also interested in hearing more and learning about the other steps that you are taking to increase security, such as reinstating conscription.

This two-way street of open discussion between Sweden's Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense is a demonstration of the respect between our two democracies.  

I look forward to our discussion today, and thank you for traveling to Washington, Minister, with your delegation.  

And again, to all of you, welcome to the Pentagon.  

Minister, if you'd care to say a few words.  

MIN. HULTQVIST:  Thank you so much.  

I'm really honored to be here today, and it's a great moment for me to meet you, Secretary Mattis, and also Deputy Secretary Work and your distinguished team.  I really appreciate and value this possibility.  

We experienced a terror attack in Stockholm as you said the 7th of April.  And I would like to thank U.S. whom immediately offered support -- (inaudible).  They haven't noticed that very well.

Our defense (inaudible) is consolidated, defined in a statement of intent, signed last year.  We saw how this agreement has boosted bilateral cooperation in all services. 

In a few weeks, we will jointly participate the naval exercise Baltex.  Another major stepping stone will be Swedish national exercise Aurora 17, with participation of more than 1,000 U.S. troops.  Thank you for that.  

Today, we will talk about common challenges.  From my perspective, Russia is the main challenge.  Russia challenged the European security order.  This has a destabilizing impact in Northern Europe and beyond.  The aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea continues, against international law.  

However problems are found in many regions, Sweden assumes our international responsibilities.  We will stay committed in the coalition against Daesh, and with the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, we will have 250 troops in Mali fighting terrorists.

North Korea continues to build its nuclear capability and long-range missiles.  This is worrisome.  Sweden's involvement is a long-term (inaudible).

A unified approach in Europe and over the Atlantic is key.  The United States and European Union's sanctions against Russia must stay.  

Our defense bill sets a new trend:  we increase defense spending with an increase of 11 percent until 2020.  We reactivate conscription from 1st of January, 2018.  Our strategy is to increase our national military capability, and at the same time, we try to build a security network with countries and organizations, and a statement of intent with United States is a very important part of that.  

I am here today to take our bilateral cooperation further, together with your team, Mr. Secretary of Defense of the United States.  Thank you very much.

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, thank you, Minister, and thank you, members of the press, for joining us.  

(CROSSTALK)  

Q:  Mr. Mattis, can I have two questions -- short question -- I'm from Swedish newspaper -- (inaudible).  

Many Swedes are very concerned about the Russian military build-up.  And many -- many Swedes also ask, in the event of a Russian attack against Sweden, would the USA -- United States come to assist us?  

SEC. MATTIS:  The bottom line is, NATO exists to maintain stability in Europe, and everybody from Moscow to Brussels knows it's a wholly defensive organization.  

I'm confident right now that we can maintain what passes for peace right now, while we work on more respect for international law.  But America will not abandon democratic allies and partners, and we will stand with Sweden, and all democracies will stand together.

It's not a NATO ally, but it is still, from our point of view, a friend and an ally.  

Q:  Mr. Secretary, are you concerned at all with the incident in At Tanf today -- that it could increase the U.S. role in Syria and the civil war there?

SEC. MATTIS:  Well, we’re not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war, but we will defend our troops, our -- and that is a coalition element made up of more than just U.S. troops.  

And so we'll defend ourselves if people take aggressive steps against us, and that's been a going-in policy of ours for a long time.  

But thank you again very much -- 

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. MATTIS:  -- ladies and gentlemen.  Appreciate you coming by.  We have a little bit of work to do now.  

Thank you.