We have been focusing on the strengthening of Nordic defense cooperation as well as the deepening role of both the United States and the UK in that effort as well.
Visits to Finland, Denmark, the UK and Norway over the past few months have generated a number of interviews about the reshaping efforts and we will be publishing additional interviews and analyses in the near future, based on recent visits to Norway and the UK.
According to an article published by the Finnish government on May 7, 2018, a major part of the visit was signing a trilateral agreement with Sweden and the United States.
Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö will make a working visit to Washington on 7-10 May 2018. He is to meet the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Sweden’s Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist.
The ministers are to discuss the overall security policy situation and current themes in defence cooperation between the three countries.
The ministers will also sign a trilateral Statement of Intent (SOI). After signing similar SOIs with the United States in 2016, both Finland and Sweden have enjoyed positive bilateral defence relations with the United States and the goal is to apply the model also to trilateral defence cooperation in the future.
A trilateral SOI complements and brings together previously agreed thematic entities; through cooperation it is possible, for instance, to make sure that overlapping activities or competitive situations are avoided in international exercises and trainings. Finnish and Swedish defence ministers have informed their parliaments on 19 April 2018.
The main elements of the agreement indicated in a public release are as follows:
The Department of Defense of the United States of America (U.S. DoD), the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Finland, and the Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Sweden (MODs of Finland and Sweden) are deepening our respective bilateral defense relationships.
In 2014, Finland and Sweden initiated deepened bilateral defense cooperation that encompasses all branches of the Armed Forces and the Ministries of Defense. Likewise, the U.S. DoD signed bilateral Statements of Intent with each of the MODs of Finland and Sweden in 2016. These bilateral defense relationships are promoting security in the Baltic Sea region by reinforcing transatlantic linkages, strengthening stability in northern Europe, and building interoperability between the United States and two of its most capable and likeminded partners.
The U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden intend to build on this positive momentum. Our countries have a shared interest in cooperating to support a stable and secure environment in the Baltic Sea region, in safeguarding the fundamental principles of international law, and in preserving the European security order.
Based on our respective bilateral Statements of Intent, the U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden intend to complement and reinforce our defense relationships by formalizing and enhancing our trilateral defense relationship.
The U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden intend to pursue an enhanced trilateral defense relationship. Expanded defense cooperation between the U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden strengthens our respective bilateral defense arrangements, as well as multilateral agreements and arrangements, such as those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO), and the European Union (EU).
We intend to complement existing efforts and leverage existing structures and activities wherever possible to achieve the following objectives:
- Intensify our trilateral dialogue on defense policy;
• Develop practical interoperability at the policy and the military levels; • Expand our trilateral situational awareness in the Baltic Sea region;
• Strengthen our capabilities and posture;
• Improve our ability to conduct combined multinational operations;
• Coordinate our strategic communications; and
• Promote constructive linkages between NATO and the EU.
To achieve those objectives, the U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden intend to conduct cooperative activities including, but not limited to:
- Regular trilateral meetings at all levels, including study groups;
• Exchanges of information at all levels;
• Increasing practical cooperation between our respective armed forces;
• Coordinated participation in training and exercises;
• Shaping exercise design to reflect trilateral cooperation priorities where appropriate;
• Development of cooperation in multinational operations;
• Coordination of strategic communication concerning incidents and activities as appropriate; and • The enhancement of the EU-NATO strategic partnership.
This Trilateral Statement of Intent is not a legally binding commitment between the United States, Finland, and Sweden under international or national law.
This Trilateral Statement of Intent does not substitute for or invalidate any existing defense agreements, arrangements, or Memoranda of Understanding between the United States, Finland, and Sweden.
The U.S. DoD and the MODs of Finland and Sweden intend to modify this Statement of Intent as defense cooperation develops. The implementation of this Statement of Intent is intended to be reviewed regularly.
The featured photo shows the three senior defense officials meeting to discuss issues and to sign the trilateral agreement. Credit: US Department of Defense.