Ambassador Howery’s Remarks at Partnership for Peace reception


December 12, 2019

I would like to welcome you all to my residence and thank you for joining us here today to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sweden joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace.  I want to welcome in particular the Ambassadors and Defense Attachés from our NATO Allies and partners as well as our honored guests, Ambassador Lars Fredén and Ambassador Judith Gough.  Another honored guest, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, will be joining us shortly.  I want to acknowledge and thank, as well, the Swedish Atlantic Council for co-hosting this event with us.

When the Partnership for Peace was established in 1994 it was intended to foster cooperation and communication in the optimistic but uncertain time after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.  Dozens of partners joined – many with aspirations to join NATO, some seeking stability through cooperation.  Even Russia joined!

At the same time, there was a bit of a debate about whether NATO was even needed anymore without the communist regime in the Soviet Union testing European borders and resolve.  We believed, perhaps naively, that our ideas alone were enough to prevail.  That China and Russia would open up to democracy and free market principles organically, and those countries, and the fledgling democracies of the Middle East, would embrace our values and play by the rules that had governed the West during a period of unmatched prosperity since World War II.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

In the subsequent 25 years, the world has shifted from the binary nature of the Cold War to a world that is exceptionally more complex – and connected – with competing agendas and divergent interests.

With the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the attempted annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia made clear its disdain for Western values and rules as well as for the inviolability of European borders.

Additionally, terrorism arrived on our shores, visibly and violently, and has wreaked havoc across the globe, targeting innocent civilians in an effort to instill fear in the hearts of private citizens and governments alike.

The Chinese Communist Party has used the multinational system and globalization to infiltrate our economies and industries, which poses a threat to our democratic societies from the inside.

This is the environment we confront today.  Twenty-five years ago, the debate was whether NATO was necessary.  The current debate seems to be whether NATO is up to the challenge and whether the Alliance is unified.

I can say with confidence that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes.  NATO is in fact more vital than it has been in decades.

Yesterday in London at the NATO Leaders’ Meeting, Allies celebrated 70 years of security.  President Trump joined with the now-28 other Allied leaders to reaffirm our solemn commitment to Article 5 – that an attack against one is an attack against all.

This statement is backed up by clear action:  Nearly 30,000 Allied personnel are deployed in NATO operations; another 40,000 are earmarked as the NATO Response Force.  Twenty-two Allies have joined Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria to strengthen our deterrence and defense in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence and Tailored Forward Presence.  Fifteen Allies take part in the Baltic Air Policing Mission.  NATO is unified in its collective defense.

NATO leaders also reaffirmed yesterday our commitment to Article 3 – that Allies will maintain and develop their capacity to resist armed attack.

European Allies and Canada have added 130 billion dollars in defense spending since 2016 and are on track to add another 270 billion dollars by 2024.  Allies are well on pace to commit the forces required for the NATO Readiness Initiative – the ‘Four Thirties’ – by 2020.  That means Allies have committed 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 combat ships to be available to NATO within 30 days.  Since 2018, NATO has conducted 207 exercises and participated in another 287 national exercises.  NATO’s collective defense is actually getting stronger.

While NATO by itself is the strongest and most successful Alliance in history, NATO works best when it works with partners.  The Partnership for Peace has served as proof of concept, and it has led to meaningful cooperation around the world.  For example, 12 partner nations take part in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, contributing some 2,000 troops.  And twenty-two partner nations took part in Resolute Support’s predecessor, the International Security Assistance Force.  The Partnership for Peace led to Sweden becoming an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, the most comprehensive level of cooperation available for NATO partners.

The United States deeply appreciates Sweden’s partnership with NATO.  Sweden is among the most active of NATO’s partners and Swedish troops have deployed in NATO missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya and alongside NATO in the Defeat-ISIS mission in Iraq.

Sweden participates meaningfully in NATO exercises, including the recent Trident Juncture, which was a clear signal to our adversaries of the unity of NATO and its closest partners.  Sweden also hosts NATO Allies in Swedish exercises – Aurora 17 was an important step towards demonstrating interoperability between Sweden and its partners; Arctic Challenge, jointly hosted with Finland and Norway, offered NATO and non-NATO partners the opportunity to build capabilities and test skills.  Russia watches these exercises and can see NATO and its partners are formidable.

Sweden’s partnership with NATO is clearly demonstrated within the EU; Sweden has been a vocal and principled champion of EU-NATO cooperation and has encouraged both organizations to develop and complement each other.  Sweden’s leadership in calling for greater EU and NATO collaboration on countering hybrid threats has helped bring those organizations together.

One area in particular where the United States appreciates Sweden’s leadership in the EU is on confronting the malign activity of the Chinese Communist Party.  The United States views cooperation between NATO and the EU as the best way to counter threats posed by the CCP’s predatory investments in critical technology such as 5G, its violation of international rules and norms, and its aggressive cyber activity.  Sweden’s new China communication, which acknowledges that engagement with China must be balanced by consideration of the risk that engagement entails, calls on the EU to work together to confront the CCP.  While this stance is not taken in the context of Sweden’s partnership with NATO, it is an example of one of NATO’s closest partners pushing for positive change in Europe.

With that, I am eager to kick off today’s celebration of Sweden’s partnership with NATO.

I am pleased to call up Ambassador Lars Fredén, an expert on the Soviet Union and formerly Ambassador to China, among other countries.  Notably, Ambassador Freden served as security policy aid to Swedish Prime Minister Bildt from 1992 to 1994 – the time when the Partnership for Peace came into being.

And then we’ll hear from UK Ambassador to Sweden Judith Gough, whose mission represents NATO as the Point of Contact here in Stockholm.  Ambassador Gough came to Sweden this fall after serving on Europe’s front line against Russian aggression as UK Ambassador to Ukraine.


Thank you, Ambassadors.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no NATO partner more active or committed than Sweden.  And Minister Hultqvist has been a powerful advocate for that partnership.  I would now like to welcome Defense Minister Hultqvist to give remarks.


Thank you, Minister Hultqvist.  You perfectly captured the importance of the partnership between NATO and Sweden.  Together we can build on the momentum of NATO cooperation to ensure that, when we mark the 50th anniversary of the Partnership for Peace, we will still be celebrating peace and security in Europe.

I’d like to thank everyone for coming, particularly Minister Hultqvist, Ambassador Fredén, and Ambassador Gough.  And I’d again like to thank the Swedish Atlantic Council for co-hosting the event with us.  Now I would like to welcome you all to join us for a reception to celebrate the Partnership for Peace.