OSLO: State Secretary Ministry of Defense for Norway Bentzen has said that thank you all for meeting us here and we have just had an interesting tour of the US destroyer. The destroyer we are on right now. The U.S. is Norway’s most important Ally and is crucial for Norwegian security.
I wish to thank Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks for taking time to visit the Norway in these challenging times. These are challenging times, and thus it is even more important to maintain close dialogue with Allies at a time where the global security situation is changing rapidly.
I want to underline how the invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed the security situation in both Europe and in Norway. Norway is bordering a country that will use military force against a peaceful neighbor, to pursue their own geopolitical interests.
Our relationship with the current leadership in Russia will never be the same.
We appreciate the U.S. leadership in this process. The war in Ukraine has proven that the western countries are able to act together and to hold Russia accountable.
Unity at this point is more important than ever before. As we speak, preparations are being made to welcome Sweden and Finland as NATO members. With the NATO enlargement, the high north and the Baltic Sea region will be increasingly linked. Events in one region are going to influence dynamics in the other, therefore we have to reassess how we look at Nordic defense and defense cooperation. Thank you.
US Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks also spoke on the occasion and said that well thank you State Secretary Bentzen, it’s been a real pleasure to be here in Oslo, and I’m grateful for your hospitality in hosting me here in Norway. I had the opportunity to meet with Minister Graham, as well as with State Secretary Peterrson at the foreign ministry. The U.S.-Norway bilateral defense relationship is strong, and it’s marked by deep cooperation and interoperability. Our location this morning here on the USS Porter is emblematic of that close cooperation and relationship. Norway is a critical supporter of freedom and security globally. We will not forget the Norwegian forces who stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in Afghanistan. The Norwegian forces manning the field hospital in Kabul, providing essential support to evacuation operations including in the aftermath of the ISIS attack on U.S. forces on August 26th, 2021.
I’m glad to be here at a particularly historic time, as we work to stand alongside our Allies against Russia’s unjustified further invasion into Ukraine.
We commend Norway for hosting NATO’s Cold Response exercise earlier this year. It demonstrated significant alliance resolve during this challenging period for European and world security, and I want thank you for Norway’s assistance in recovering the U.S. Marines who were tragically lost during that exercise. We’re deeply appreciative for your efforts.
We recognize that Putin’s war of aggression has changed the core of Trans-Atlantic security. Perhaps there is no place this is more evident than here in the Nordics, where your neighbors Finland and Sweden have made a historic decision to seek NATO membership.
I know Sweden and Finland’s decision will also have lasting impacts on the broader Nordic region, and we look forward to working with you to deepen our cooperation. We commend Norway’s decision to send defense assistance and humanitarian support to Ukraine. Thank you for joining the community of nations in defense of democracy there.
State Secretary Bentzen, the United States highly values its bilateral relationship with Norway and will always stand with you. Thank you, and I’m happy to take a few questions.