By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 13, 2019) -- Maritime security, threat identification and resource gap identification were on the agenda as representatives of eight Nordic and Baltic nations and the United States met this week for the annual Nordic-Baltic-U.S. Forum.
The meeting kicked off Sept. 9 in Washington and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 10, where representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the U.S. discussed their interests in commerce and security in the Arctic.
Officials talked about "what we can do further together in support of our shared interests," said John C. Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy and the chief U.S. delegate.
Rood said one of the great things about the nations participating in the forum was that it included NATO and non-NATO members -- including Finland and Sweden, who are not part of NATO but who collaborate closely on shared objectives, such as issues in the Middle East and Asia, defending the rule of law, and the desired type of market operation in places such as Europe.
Meeting at U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk enabled the group to focus on one of the forum's most important topics: maritime security. "Part of our focus this year, the main focus this year, is how we can do more on maritime security," Rood said.
The group also discussed identifying threats in areas such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic, and the capability and resource gaps for addressing those threats, Rood said, as well as roles in the Arctic.
"The Arctic is growing in importance substantially for all of our countries," he said. "The Arctic is changing and becoming more important for commerce. It's more of a competition area for security interests. All of these countries and the United States have a lot in common in that area."
Rood said standards for interoperability between NATO and non-NATO partners was also a topic of discussion at the forum and that there's an interest in terms of burden-sharing.
He noted that participating nations already agreed on a set of shared values before coming into the forum.
"We have a foundation of shared values, shared orientation on the world. And when I look around the world -- whether it's the news from Hong Kong or some of our recent travels in the Middle East or elsewhere -- freedom is always under pressure," Rood said. Shared values of freedom, democracy, free markets, support of individual rights, and the rule of law are important, he said.