PRESIDENT SAULI NIINISTO: So good afternoon. We have had a very good discussion.
I want to thank you, Secretary Mattis, for this visit and your very, very wise words while -- our discussions. Before I go deeper to that, I just want to present my condolences for what happened in Texas. These are terrible events.
We discussed -- well, almost an hour, and we only had one issue to discuss about. That is peace, how to maintain peace worldwide. And I think that our thoughts in that are very much similar ones. And I -- only with these words, I wish all the best to you, Mr. Secretary, in building up this peace.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Thank you, Mr. President. And just a few words out of respect for your country. I'm honored to be here as this freedom-loving people celebrates 100 years of independence. Congratulations --
PRES. NIINISTO: Thank you.
SEC. MATTIS: -- Mr. President. And I believe that Finland, long ago, won its -- and I quote from your declaration -- its "independent position amongst the people of the civilized world." And I -- in that regard, from arms control, to peace-keeping, to your country's stance on human rights, America sees much to admire in Finland.
And I would just tell you that we send congratulations to you this year, in the 100th year of your independence, knowing that you have had to fight to maintain your independence.
My country highly values Finland's contribution to the global coalition to defeat ISIS. And I think that your tactically skillful and ethically sound troops have brought courage and competence to the battlefields against terrorism in the same manner in which your country has brought compassion to the humanitarian fields on so many occasions.
The lessons of our success in reducing the terrorist threat is a reminder that we are strongest when we democracies stand together, united in the face of barbarism, united in the interest of peace.
In the spirit of upholding international law and maintaining the territorial integrity of all states, we welcome the deepening bilateral and NATO defense partnership with Finland, and we will work alongside you to implement the U.S.-Finland statement of intent, which has a stabilizing purpose here in Northern Europe because it contributes to Finland's resilience as an independent nation.
And I applaud Finland's initiative to establish the European's Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. Here in this Helsinki center, the shared concerns of our transatlantic democracies can be researched and addressed in a collaborative manner, each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies. With this center, Finland has created an institution fit for our time, and I thank you, Mr. President, for your foresight.
Even after 100 years of freedom, this country shows no complacency. Rather, you demonstrate that you are serious about the defense of your freedom and independence, also demonstrated by your commitment to Nordic defense cooperation, and now assuming the chair for the Arctic Council.
By tightening such cooperation here in the north, we see the deterrent capability of democracies strengthened. And in today's conversations, we reaffirm that relations between Finland and the United States have never been stronger.
Again, thank you, Mr. President, for this meeting, as well as for the keen insights you shared with me earlier this year, in March, during my first day in office.
PRES. NIINISTO: Thank you, sir.
SEC. MATTIS: Thank you, Mr. President.