Secretary Mattis Hosts an Armed Forces Full Honor Arrival Welcoming Finland Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö and Sweden Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist to the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; Jussi Niinistö, Minister of Defence for the Republic of Finland; Peter Hultqvist, Minister of Defence for the Kingdom of Sweden


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  OK, so gentlemen we will sign the document now.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, one more.  Thank you.  Well Minister Niinistö, Minister Hultqvist, Ambassador Kauppi and members of the delegations, welcome.
 
To have you today was a real pleasure for us and I'm sure you can say that you saw loud and clear how we express our military respects for your two nations at the full honors parade just now. 
 
It's a privilege Ministers to welcome both of you back to the Pentagon.  And to continue our conversations following last November's northern group meeting in Helsinki, and to enhance our trilateral efforts while upgrading our national defenses.  Finland, Sweden are both vibrant democracies, and they share with the United States a strong defense relationship.
 
Each of us supports regional and global stability, with international law providing the essential framework between nations large and small.  Here in Washington, we salute both of your nations serious approaches to security in support of a global order that respects all nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, providing a steady anchor of stability in a region grown more tense as a result of Russia's unfortunate, unproductive and destabilizing choices from the Ukraine to Syria. 
 
Finland, Sweden and America remain aligned in our shared understanding of regional challenges and united in our desire to address them together; for we democracies are always stronger together.  Minister Hultqvist, as you said last year, and I quote you here, "a unified approach in Europe and over the Atlantic is key."  So particularly as we face a Russia that seeks to re-draw international borders by force of arms and to exercise veto authority over democratic nations political, diplomatic and economic and security decisions.
 
Both Finland and Sweden know first-hand that the threat this type of disregard for international law can pose to regional security and stability a disregard that can take various modes, from the Russian invasion of Finland during the winter war almost 80 years ago is one example. And one in which the Republics of Georgia and Ukraine know all too well from current events.  Also, Soviet incursions into Sweden's territorial waters at the end of the Cold War is another example, a reminder of threats we once hoped were in our past.
 
Russia's destabilizing behavior today reminds us that our shared respect for the rule of law and territorial integrity must be defended.  In that vein, I wish to express our respect for Finland and Sweden's strong commitment to global security.
 
Thank you for your nations continued contributions to the defeat ISIS coalition and to NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.  Your well trained, well equipped and ethical troops' courage and commitment bring essential capability to those battlefields, just as your nations have, for decades, brought compassion to humanitarian fields.  From the Swedish Red Cross hospital stood up in Pusan during the Korean War, to the humanitarian aid both Finland and Sweden provide today to those in need around the globe.  Both your nations serve as examples to others in human rights, global citizenship and defense of democracy.
 
As we look to the future, we will continue to bolster our partnership in the Arctic.  Both your nations bring extensive knowledge of this increasingly important region, with Finland as the current chair of the Arctic Council.  And with Sweden having held the chair from 2011 to 2013, I look forward to your thoughts and advice on this region.  Today, we signed our statement of intent and take our military cooperation to the next level.  For relationships are never static, they always evolve, either growing stronger or weaker. 
 
Our meeting demonstrates our mutual commitment and our positive trajectory strengthening our military relationships.  Minister Niinistö, as you said last November, let us go forward together.
 
Ministers, you and your delegations are always welcome here in pursuit of this end, going forward together.  Mr. Minister?
 
MINISTER JUSSI NIINISTO:  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you Mr. Secretary for your words and warm welcome.  It says in a recently approved Finnish defence white paper that the United States and Sweden are Finland's most important partners in defense cooperation.
 
And today is the second time we meet together.  The first time was in November in Helsinki last year, and this trilateral defense relationship compliments our respective bilateral relationships and multinational defense cooperation in European Union and NATO.
 
Our countries have a shared interest in a stable and secure Baltic Sea region, in safeguarding the fundamental principles of international law and in preserving the European security order.  Cooperation helps us to do it more effectively. So I'm very pleased with this trilateral statement of intent.  Let us all follow together.
 
SEC. MATTIS:  Mr. Minister?
 
MINISTER PETER HULTQVIST:  Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen and Mr. Secretary Mattis.  We are very pleased for this warm welcome and its full honor parade.  It shows that it is very important for all of us.  And we are pleased to have signed this document, trilateral statement of intent between Sweden, Finland and the United States. 
 
For us, and in our perspective, it's an historical step and milestone in our defence cooperation.  It's very important for us.
 
And it's important towards the stability in the northern part of Europe and the Baltic Sea region, and it's a very good platform for the future.  It raises in a practical way the threshold of the security and the stability in the high north and the Baltic Sea region.
 
I think it's very important that we develop our cooperation, we have done a lot and we will do a lot in the future and we will create stability and the long-term peace in our point of view.  So thank you so much and we are going forward together.
 
SEC. MATTIS:  Going forward together is our theme. (Laughter.)
 
And ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you very much for coming up to cover this important day for us.  And we wish you well and if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work.  Thank you.
 
Q:  Mr. Secretary, excuse me, you said previously that it was in America's national security interest to stay in the Iran Deal.  Do you still believe that to be true?
 
SEC. MATTIS:  The President will make a statement here I believe in about two minutes.  And at that point, we'll be able to discuss it more fully.  But thank you again ladies and gentlemen, we -- we want to get down to work at this point.  Thank you.
 
Q:  Minister of Sweden -- just a question for Sweden.  This -- this statement is not legally binding, but why is it still important to sign this today? Could you tell us that?
 
SEC. MATTIS:  Yeah, the statement is a statement of three different democracies mutual intent to bring stability and to maintain peace in the region.  And I think it's always important that we have the normal collaboration and the usual consultations between what we consider to be equal nations.
 
We've never been impressed one way or another by the size of a nation.  These are important democracies, and for us to work together it's critical to maintain world peace.  But thank you again ladies and gentlemen, appreciate it.
 
Q:  Mr. Mattis, just one more question for Sweden.  What is the most important theme from American perspective with this agreement?
 
SEC. MATTIS:  I think the most important thing is when democracies speak together about respect for human rights, respect for international law, respect for territorial integrity, respect for sovereignty regardless of the size of a nation or its population.  When we speak together like this, we bring a tempering of anyone's aggressive designs.  And I think that is the message here today.  Now ladies and gentlemen, you've worn me out. (Laughter.)
 
It's time for you to excuse me. Thank you so much, thank you.