The United States seeks stronger strategic relationships with European nations to bolster regional security, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti yesterday told a gathering of chiefs of defense and senior enlisted leaders at the conclusion of a defense conference held in Stockholm, Sweden.

Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, co-hosted the Northern Europe Chiefs of Defense conference with Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces Gen. Per Micael Bydén.

The two leaders held a bilateral discussion on U.S.-Swedish defense cooperation. Conference attendees also included representatives from Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. These countries meet every year for discussions on common challenges in the region.

“I would like to start by thanking General Bydén for hosting the event; it has been a great conference, Scaparrotti said in a press statement. “It has been a tremendous opportunity to come together and discuss common challenges that face our nations. Sweden continues to be a critical partner in addressing these challenges.”

Conference Fourfold

The purpose of the conference today was fourfold, Scaparrotti said.

“First, we want to support stronger strategic relationships between the U.S. and Europe as we partner together to defend our shared values,” he said. “Second, we want to improve the understanding of the issues affecting us all. Third, we want to exchange views on cooperation and interoperability. And finally, we want to come up with actionable steps that we can take to enhance regional security.”

The conference addressed three key areas of concern, or challenges, that all of the countries represented at the gathering face, the general said.

“The first challenge is to deter Russia from further acts of aggression and malign influence, not only here in Northern Europe, but across the European continent,” Scaparrotti said.

Russian aggression, he said, threatens the stability and prosperity of Europe.

“From the invasion of Georgia in 2008, through the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and, more recently, to the interference in the legitimate political processes across Europe and the United States, Russia is attempting to undermine the trans-Atlantic alliance and partnerships,” Scaparrotti said. “Simply put, we must deter further such actions by Russia and strengthen our defense against their attempts to destabilize the international order.”

The next area of focus is to enable NATO allies and partners, he said. Both Sweden and Finland are Enhanced Opportunities Partners in NATO, and with this relationship they work closely with NATO, both in Europe and abroad in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, Scaparrotti said.

“Together, we ensure the defense of our nations from state and nonstate actors and project security beyond our borders,” the general said.

The third challenge discussed at the conference was countering transnational threats, Scaparrotti said. Building on the momentum from the recent Defeating-Violent Extremist Organizations conference held a couple weeks ago in Wiesbaden, Germany, he said, the participants had substantive discussions on leveraging the resources of NATO and partner nations, and other European organizations to apply a comprehensive approach to defending Europe from extremist threats.

Extremist Threats

“These extremist threats, whether home grown or exported from the European periphery, can only be defeated through the application of all elements of power — diplomatic, informational, economic — in addition to military force,” Scaparrotti said. “It will take close collaboration between law enforcement, judicial bodies, intelligence agencies and the military, in a networked alliance, to reduce and eliminate the violent extremist threat. These conferences are opportunities for us to discuss not only gaps in our capabilities, but also successes so we can share them and learn from one another.”

U.S. European Command is one of the United States’ two forward-deployed Geographic Combatant Commands whose area of focus cover almost one-fifth of the planet, including all of Europe, large portions of Asia, parts of the Middle East and the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. The command is responsible for military relations with NATO and 51 countries with a total population of close to a billion people.