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Media Availability with Secretary Mattis en route to Finland

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  So I'll something on the record then I'll take a couple questions, okay?

But first of all, thanks again for coming out here (inaudible).  I hope it's worthwhile.

But going to Finland and over to Brussels for NATO, some other business in the United Kingdom.  In Finland participating in the Northern Group meeting and it's a forum of Nordics, Baltics, other European allies, not just the Nordic component.  You'll see other people these as well.

They talk about security concerns.  In other words, they look north, that if they're not -- as you know, NATO's looking east, NATO's looking south, NATO's actually looked out in the Med now for a change.  But right now these guys, they -- they're focused on the north, and talking about building allies' capabilities and where we fit into this.

I do a lot of listening at something like this, more than I do a lot of talking.  But it's the way I stay connected to see where we can maybe help them, how would we do it, training, telling them "You ought to come see something we're doing in the States," asking them if we can look more deeply at something we hear about.  That sort of thing.

But it is an opportunity to reiterate:  We stand by our friends, democracies, NATO and otherwise in Europe, if any nation, including Russia, seeks to undermine the rules-based international order.  And we do have a lot of shared values, about sovereignty.  You know that -- most of you know some of the history of Finland or a lot, and how they've had to fight to hang on to their freedom, their territory, self-determination.

You read it -- I like reading other nation's declarations of independence and constitutions.  They're very, very interesting.  You see the cultured come out.  Some of the same themes keep coming back time after time, but they're in different words.

But we'll -- we'll just talk about how we can work together to boost the collective ability for self-defense, and with some of the NATO nations there as well.  Obviously, NATO collective defense.

In Brussels at the defense ministerial, that means all of my counterparts are there.  There's also sometimes other international organizations represented at some of the meetings.  For example, the E.U. will be at our dinner; that sort of thing.

A lot of interest.  A number of them wrote to me or sent me e-mails, called, and they want to hear more about North Korea.  Very interesting.

One of the MODs said their capital is closer to North Korea than Washington, D.C., or Chicago.  You know, I think we kind of -- excuse me.  I'm sorry -- we kind of think of -- you know, we think of where we sit and look outwards.  (inaudible) -- see themselves actually closer to danger than us.  So it probably has something to do with that.  They brought that up to me.

One of them who brought it up, said it had been brought up to him by another MOD.  So it's not something just thought of only by a few.

But we will reaffirm the alliance.  This is how we get together and talk about the most critical challenges.  And, as you know, President Trump went there and said, "We're with you," that -- I think it was May or June, around that time frame.  And so, there's been no more discussion about the things that sometimes characterize our -- (inaudible) -- going out in March or April, that sort of thing.

At the -- we'll also hold what's called a D-ISIS ministerial.  This is most of the NATO Nations, if not all, but also nations like United Arab Emirates and Iraq; nations like that are also there.  And basically talking about the operation against ISIS, and the operational progress and how we're engage going forward.

Right now I'd say probably at least two- thirds, maybe three-quarters of the questions I'm getting asked now is going forward.  It's not about, "Are we going to be able to stop ISIS?  Are we going to be able to overcome) ISIS?"  Not that.  "What's next?  How is it looking?"  And we'll get together.

Again I want to do a lot of listening to them, because you know this is on NATO's southern flank is where ISIS has been.  But it's not over.  The fight goes on.  Even if the fight may shift more to how they do recruiting over the internet, or -- you know (getting over broader?) it's not just geography.

We'll -- we'll close out the trip in London.  I want to meet my new secretary of -- my counterpart, Secretary of State for Defense David Williamson.  Make certain that the commitment to the U.K.-U.S. alliance is very firm, firm setting.  You never take these things for granted.  You don't say, "Well, it's U.S.-U.K., so it's fine."  You don't do that.  You work at it.  You always work at it.  You want to leave it better than you found it.

And so, I think the theme that's probably most telling here is up in the Nordic area partners -- not all allies but partners certainly -- partners -- Finland and Sweden are two nations that have always taken their defense very, very seriously.  And you look at the way they organize, trade and equip as a nation, and it comes through loud and clear.

I also think there's things I can learn while I'm up there with those two nations about how you work together on a bilateral basis.  Sweden and Finland, obviously we have very strong relations with them, they're (actively) engaged in the D-ISIS fight, for example, and all.

And then down in Brussels the same thing.  NATO allies -- how you work by with and through allies.  And then when I go over to U.K., the longstanding U.S.-U.K. what we call the special relationship, how we maintain that and make it a little better.

So that's where I'm going, what I'm doing.  I think you all probably know most of that.  At least you knew where you were going when you got on the plane I hope.