By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 9, 2015 — NATO faces security threats on its southern, eastern and northern flanks, Deputy Defense Secretary Work said yesterday at the Nordic Deputies Meeting at the Norwegian Ministry of Defense in Oslo, Norway.
The deputy discussed security issues in the northern region and the changed security landscape in Europe in a panel discussion with the chiefs of defense from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland and Iceland.
Work said his trip this week to Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom focuses on the security challenges the United States and its Nordic counterparts face in the High North, the Arctic and Baltics, and follows Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recent trip to Germany to examine the eastern threat.
The U.S. and Nordic leaders’ talks centered on the changing geopolitical security environment in Europe after “Russia's aggressive behavior in Crimea and Ukraine and the challenge that it presents for all of us in Europe and in the United States,” the deputy secretary said. Work reiterated earlier statements by the defense secretary that the U.S. intends to approach Russia in a very strong and balanced manner.
Work’s Norwegian counterpart, State Secretary for Defense Oystein Bo, described the Nordic-U.S. consultation as the first to exchange views on the security situation in the Nordic region and explore joint cooperation possibilities following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.
Nordic Concerns Lend Insight, Deputy Says
Listening to his counterparts talk about the “very fluid security environment that they face, from Russian activities in the High North to the crisis of displaced persons in the south,” has given him a great deal of insight, Work said.
Understanding the Nordic leaders’ prerogatives, perspectives and threats in the region and how the United States and its northern European partners will mitigate them is vital, the deputy said.
“[The] High North and the north region are absolutely critical to both European and Trans-Atlantic security,” Work said. “The United States values the partnerships [it has] in this region, both through NATO and bilaterally … The close regional cooperation that I heard this morning between the Nordic countries gives me great, great confidence that we'll be able to meet any challenge together.”
Ukraine Should Be ‘Whole’ Again
“We continue to call upon Russia to stop its destabilizing actions and to honor the Minsk commitments,” the deputy said in a press conference following the panel talk.
“We would like to see Ukraine whole again, and we would like to have peace and stability in that part of Europe,” he said, noting that the United States will continue working with its European allies.
“Right now, we believe the right way is through sanctions and diplomacy,” the deputy secretary said.