Finland, which became a NATO member a year ago, will make the alliance stronger, Finnish Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen said. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted an enhanced honor cordon and meeting today, welcoming Hakkanen to the Pentagon. 

Finland has been a steadfast partner of Ukraine and will continue to support its defense, Hakkanen said.  

But Finland is also interested in global security, he said, mentioning that today’s discussion will include developments in the Middle East and in the Indo-Pacific. 

Also, as an Arctic nation, Finland plans to hold exercises there in a few days, he said. 

The defense minister noted that Finland spends 2.3% of gross domestic product on defense, a higher percentage than NATO’s target goal of 2% for its 32 member nations. 

Finland also has a unique conscription system, he said, noting that of Finland’s 5.5 million people, nearly a million have received military training, which is considered a large portion of the population.  

In conclusion, Hakkanen said: “Europe needs a strong United States. But in the era of strategic competition, the United States, also needs to have a strong Europe.” 

Austin said he’s “grateful for Finland’s determination to tackle regional and global security challenges. Finland has stood strong with Ukraine as it continues to fight back against Putin’s unprovoked aggression. Finland has committed more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February of 2022, and those donations have helped meet Ukraine’s urgent needs on the battlefield, and they have made a real difference for the security of both Ukraine and Europe as a whole. 

“The United States is also grateful for Finland’s commitment to our bilateral defense relationship, and we look forward to working together to implement the Defense Cooperation Agreement that we signed in December. I’m eager to hear your views on areas where we can build our defensive capabilities, strengthen our interoperability and deepen the security bond between our two militaries,” Austin said.

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