56 F
New York
Monday, March 4, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the Defense Cooperation Agreement Signing Ceremony

Secretary Blinken:  Good morning, everyone.  To Defense Minister Häkkänen, to Foreign Minister Valtonen, so wonderful to have you here.  And welcome to all of you.  Welcome to the State Department.  Welcome as the United States and Finland take yet another step in what has truly been an historic year for our friendship.  We throw around the word “historic” sometimes; this really meets the mark.

Back in April, I stood alongside our NATO Allies, including President Niinistö, to see Finland’s flag fly over NATO headquarters for the first time.  In June, I had an opportunity to visit Helsinki, where we took further steps to strengthen our partnership in very concrete ways.

Today NATO is bigger, it’s stronger, it is more united than at any point in its nearly 75-year history, and that’s in no small part thanks to Finland’s accession.  And soon, Sweden will join as well.

Already Finland is making significant contributions to the Alliance, sharing technical expertise, hosting and joining NATO military exercises, meeting and exceeding the NATO target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Finland has been a steadfast partner to Ukraine as it defends its people, its territory, its right to shape its own future – providing more than $2 billion in defense support, in humanitarian aid, and other assistance since Russia’s full-scale aggression.

Today we will further strengthen our security bonds by signing a Defense Cooperation Agreement in just a couple of minutes.  When it goes into effect, our militaries will be able to collaborate more efficiently and more effectively.  Our troops will have more opportunities to train together, and we will bolster NATO’s interoperability.

This agreement builds on three decades of security cooperation between our nations on everything from countering terrorism to boosting Finland’s defense capabilities, including through the recent purchase of F-35 fighter jets.

Today is just the latest demonstration of the United States comprehensive effort to bolster transatlantic security.  Last year we amended our Defense Cooperation Agreement with Norway.  Earlier this month we signed a new defense agreement with Sweden.  Later this week we will sign a new agreement with Denmark.  And of course, today we will be doing this with Finland.

We now have a network of Defense Cooperation Agreements that stretches from northern to southern Europe, from the Norwegian Sea to the Black Sea – providing security and stability for people all across the continent.

And together, we’ll also keep supporting Ukraine.  America’s assistance is critical to building Ukraine’s capacity to stand on its own feet – militarily, economically, democratically – and ensuring that President Putin’s war of aggression remains a strategic failure.  We’ll continue to work with Congress to pass President Biden’s supplemental budget request, which is vital to ensuring that result.

As I said in Helsinki when I visited, Finland knows almost better than anyone what is at stake for Ukraine.  In 1939, the Finns also faced a Russian invasion and proved that a free nation can put up an incredibly powerful and resilient resistance.

Your history is also a reminder of why it’s so important that we all continue to stand with Ukraine, for autocrats who try to redraw one nation’s border by force almost certainly will not stop there.  And that’s precisely why we’ll continue to work together to defend the values of freedom, independence, and sovereignty that NATO and agreements like this one were created to protect in the first place.

With that, Madam Minister, over to you.

Foreign Minister Valtonen:  Secretary Blinken, dear ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure to be in Washington on a sunny day like this.  I wish to thank you for your hospitality and the warm welcome we have received coming to D.C., and looking forward to the fruitful discussions with you, Secretary Blinken.

Finland’s bilateral relations with the United States are excellent.  You are our key strategic partner and ally, but also our most significant trade partner.  Finnish NATO membership, substantial growth in trade – but also increased cooperation at all levels – are examples why the outlook is bright.  NATO membership, along with the DCA, gives us a momentum to lift U.S.-Finland cooperation to the next level.  Another good example is our technology cooperation, which has become an integral pillar of our relations.  We are committed to deepening our ties even further in this field as well.

The signing of the Defense Cooperation Agreement is a great milestone in our bilateral relations.  I wish to thank your skilled team, who have seamlessly worked with our team.  The DCA gives us the ability to act together in all situations and strengthens the security of Nordic and Baltic regions.

As a NATO Ally, Finland will maintain our credible national defense that will make NATO stronger.  I want to underline our strong commitment to the Alliance and its security as a whole.  Sweden’s NATO membership, without delay, is a priority to us.

Today, we will also discuss Ukraine.  By attacking Ukraine, Russia committed a monumental strategic error.  Continuing strong support to Ukraine remains a key priority for us.  EU has now made the historic decision to open EU membership negotiations with Ukraine.  We will push for agreement on future long-term military and financial support to Ukraine as soon as possible.  In the end, Ukraine is not only fighting for their sovereignty and liberty, but also for our shared values.

Secretary Blinken, you have played a key role in the diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.  I want to thank you for that and I’m looking forward to our discussion on the situation which remains very concerning.  Last summer, we had an opportunity to host you in Finland, also President Biden, and again, you are most welcome back anytime.  Thank you so much.

Secretary Blinken:  Mr. Minister.

Defense Minister Häkkänen:  Secretary Blinken and ladies and gentlemen, signing the DCA is an important milestone in our bilateral relationship.  It gives us a powerful set of tools to work together in support of NATO plans.  It is a strong sign of U.S. commitment to the defense of Finland and the whole Northern Europe.

We do not expect the United States to take care of the defense of Finland.  We continue to invest in our defense and shared burden in our area and beyond.  However, this agreement significantly enhances our ability to act together in all situations in military, security, defense fields.  All the Nordic countries will soon have DCAs.  All the – at the same time, we are taking strong steps to deepen this cooperation with Nordic countries and all these arrangements with the deeper cooperation with the United States will provide security in the Northern Europe.  That’s why this is a historical day for us, and thank you for your (inaudible).  Thanks.

Secretary Blinken:  Thank you.

Moderator:  Good morning.  Secretary Blinken and Defense Minister Häkkänen are signing a Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the United States and the Government of Finland.  The agreement sets forth the framework for enhanced defense and security cooperation and partnership between our two countries.  Finland is an essential strategic partner, an indispensable NATO Ally, and we look forward to continued close cooperation.

(The agreement was signed.)

Secretary Blinken:  All right.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-the-defense-cooperation-agreement-signing-ceremony/

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