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US, Finland sign defense cooperation deal

by Martin Fornusek December 18, 2023 11:02 PM 2 min read
Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen (L), Finnish Defense Minister Antii Hakkanen (C) and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) during the signing of the U.S.-Finland defense cooperation agreement on Dec. 18, 2023. (Finnish Embassy in the U.S./X)
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The U.S. signed on Dec. 18 a new bilateral defense cooperation agreement with Finland, the newest NATO member that sought membership following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, Helsinki announced the deal, which strengthens mutual defense ties and gives the U.S. access to 15 Finnish military facilities, including four air bases and one naval base.

"Today, we will further strengthen our security bonds by signing a Defense Cooperation Agreement," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during the signing ceremony.

"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."

Finnish Defense Minister Antii Hakkanen called the signing a "historic day," adding that the deal's implementation will be carried out by the two countries' defense ministries.

Several of the bases the U.S. military will have access to include facilities in northern Finland, including Ivalo, Rovajarvi, Rovaniemi, and Tervola.

The deal with Helsinki is part of Washington's broader effort to strengthen cooperation in northern Europe.

A defense agreement with NATO member Norway was updated last year, and the U.S. plans to sign a new agreement with Denmark later this week.

Washington also signed a new deal with Sweden, which is currently seeking alliance membership, earlier in December.

Sweden's accession to NATO is being stalled by Hungary and Turkey, two alliance members that have not yet ratified the Nordic country's accession.

Blinken lauded Finland's contributions to NATO, as well as its support to Ukraine, which has amounted to over $2 billion since the start of the full-scale invasion.

"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," Blinken commented.

Putin: New NATO member Finland didn’t have problems before, but now it will
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Finland is “now going to have problems” because it joined NATO, on the same morning that he claimed not to be interested in fighting any NATO members.
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