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Finland, Sweden and US deepen defence cooperation in Washington

Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö travelled to Washington DC on Monday to meet his Swedish counterpart Peter Hultqvist and US defence secretary James Mattis.

Hultqvist Mattis ja Niinistö
From left: Sweden's Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Finland's Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö, who are meeting in Washington this week. Image: AOP, Lehtikuva

Defence Ministers from Finland, Sweden and the United States are scheduled to meet in Washington to discuss military cooperation between the three countries and the overall security policy situation, according to a press release from Finland's defence ministry issued on Monday evening.

The three defence ministers will also sign a trilateral statement of intent (SOI).

The ministry said the new SOI "compliments and brings together" earlier agreements, aims to ensure that there are no overlapping activities and that competitive situations are avoided in international military drills and training exercises.

"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," the ministry release reads.

Expert: Increased sharing in weapons systems possible

Finnish researcher and expert in US foreign and domestic policy, Charly Salonius-Pasternak said he thinks the new agreement is significant.

"The agreement simplifies the management of a growing number of [military] exercises and eases the exchange of information between the countries ," Salonius-Pasternak told Yle.

That increase in sharing of information, Salonius-Pasternak said, could deal with weapons systems available to all three countries.

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter quoted the country's defence minister Hultqvist saying that the agreement aims to increase stability through a heightened US military presence in Europe.

Salonius-Pasternak said Hultqvist's statement is significant.

"It appears that it [the agreement] has been seen as necessary to create better conditions for US military representation in Finnish and Swedish defence matters," he said.

Niinistö is also scheduled to make a presentation on the Baltic Sea region's security situation at an Atlantic Council seminar on Tuesday, according to the ministry.

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