“The United States and Sweden – An Enduring Partnership in Challenging Times”
Good afternoon and welcome to our (belated) U.S. Independence Day reception! I’m very pleased that so many of you could join my U.S. Embassy colleagues and me, even if our gathering has had to be spread out over different days and different times and we have to bump elbows instead of shaking hands. It’s exciting to have our friends at the residence again, after such a long time.
This has been a year of challenges. A year unlike any we have ever experienced. The last pandemic to strike the world with such impact was more than a hundred years ago. Yet while we have been compelled to make changes over the past six months to how we travel, how we work, and even how we live, I am an optimist. I believe that, despite the horrific losses we have suffered, and despite the disruptions to our daily lives that we must still endure, we will come out of this pandemic stronger than before. As Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”
As a sailor, I know how hard it can be to steer a straight course in rough seas. But I firmly believe that democratic countries, like the United States and Sweden, can overcome any challenge, especially when we work together. The history of our countries’ partnership is long. With the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1783, the Kingdom of Sweden recognized the United States even before we had consolidated victory on the battlefield. Our like-mindedness was demonstrated by the Swedes who fought for the Union in the Civil War and by the Swedes who made it possible, despite the country’s neutrality, for downed U.S. airmen to return with their aircraft to the fight for freedom in World War II. Last December I was honored to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sweden’s membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace and, with it, our countries’ shared campaign for a Europe whole and free and at peace. I am frequently reminded too of the U.S. and Swedish troops serving shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan and in Iraq. But our historic partnership is much broader than just defense and security.
Despite our differences at times, our cooperation during the Cold War through the Marshall Plan and in the formation and development of the key post-war multilateral institutions was also significant. Working together, our respective foreign assistance agencies have improved the lives of people across the globe. Notably, in 2015, Sweden became the first foreign government to support the USAID project ‘Power Africa’ by committing the equivalent of $1 billion over ten years to transform the economies and lives of that continent’s men, women, and children. Meanwhile, American and Swedish diplomats have been pursuing a joint effort to finally bring peace to the Korean peninsula and to push back Russian aggression in Ukraine that threatens to undermine the international norms that emerged from the ashes of World War 2. Today, we are partners as well in the Arctic and in the challenging task of dealing with the People’s Republic of China while keeping our eyes open to the opportunities and simultaneously countering the threats.
The vibrant U.S.-Swedish trade and investment partnership that companies large and small have built between our two nations is well known. With Stockholm being the second largest source of “unicorns” after Silicon Valley, I can assure you transatlantic ties in innovation and technology are stronger than ever. Less appreciated perhaps are the close relationships between our educational and cultural institutions. Our universities and research centers collaborate closely, as the Nobel Prize ceremonies illustrate every year. The Mayo Clinic’s partnership with the Karolinska Institute in research, education, and innovation is but one example of the collaboration that is particularly important in our current days. Public-private partnerships are no less crucial. In this connection, I am proud to mention the work this Embassy has done to help the Swedish company, Getinge, to overcome obstacles and sharply boost the production of its ventilators to benefit people around the world.
At the core of this cooperation are not only shared values, but a shared belief in the ability of people to use technology to solve some of our greatest human challenges. To date, the United States has invested more than $10 billion to rapidly develop COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics and bring safe and effective medical countermeasures to market faster, which will benefit the entire world. Sweden too is applying its celebrated strengths in technology and the sciences, and its world-class skills in engineering and innovation, to this same problem set.
Yes, 2020 has been a difficult year, but as I said, I am an optimist. Never before have so many, including in our two countries, dedicated so many resources to solving a global problem. That is why I am hopeful that, in the months to come, a vaccine or treatment, one that is safe and effective, will be found. In meeting that challenge, as in the past, the United States and Sweden are applying their characteristic resourcefulness and spirit of innovation. At the foundation, however, it is our shared core values – the values of freedom, democracy, and equality – that make our partnership so strong and so enduring, particularly in challenging times.
And now I would like us to raise a glass in a toast to the United States and to Sweden: “May our partnership thrive for another 244 years and beyond! Skål!”