Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work met with Finland’s Minister of Defense Jussi Niinist on Oct. 7 and signed a bilateral statement of intent to cooperate on defense issues, according to a Pentagon readout of the meeting. The statement calls for a sharing of security information and expanded joint training and exercises. The United States signed a similar agreement with Sweden in June. Neither Nordic country belongs to NATO, but both nations have enhanced their relationship with the alliance in the face of increased Russian aggression. Finland reported two different Russian Su-27s violated its airspace on Oct. 6, according to Reuters. Estonia said a Russian jet violated its airspace the following day, but Russia denied sending planes across any borders and said Su-27s had conducted training flights over international waters.
Work also held a “first-of-its-kind” trilateral meeting with the Finnish and Swedish defense ministers to discuss building on the already strong ties between the nations, according to the readout. He also met with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to thank him for his country’s participation in the counter-ISIS fight. While in Helsinki, Work participated in a meeting with delegates from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden to discuss NATO’s enhanced presence on the alliance’s eastern flank, the US European Reassurance Initiative, security challenges in the Baltic region, and the status of the anti-ISIS campaign. “A concentration for us over the last two years is for the Nordic and the Baltic countries—from Iceland all the way to Finland—to think more in terms of working together and cooperating in interoperating and training,” Work told DOD News.