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NEWS | April 20, 2022

Sixth Fleet Commander addresses European security changes and challenges at annual Cooperative Strategy Forum

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

Senior military leaders from Europe and the U.S. convened the Cooperative Strategy Forum, April 20, 2022 to discuss emergent and enduring security issues in the European region, specifically the Baltic Sea.

The event, developed by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Warfighting Development Directorate, is designed to create an interactive forum for senior Navy and civilian leaders to work together to confront common maritime security challenges.

“Over the next two days, we will work on ways to best align our collective strength to deter conflict, and if called upon, respond swiftly and effectively,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and the forum’s Key Note Speaker. “We have an obligation to maintain readiness and demonstrate a credible and capable maritime force, which will maintain freedom of the seas, ensure free economic exchange, and maintain maritime security.”

This iteration of the forum, organized by the Swedish Navy and sponsored by U.S. Naval Forces Europe, focuses on the current European security environment with discussions on maritime trends and partnerships, and includes a strategic interests and threats tabletop exercise.

“On February 24 we all woke to a different reality,” said Black. We now live in a Europe where Russia violated Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and now threatens Eastern Allies and Partners in ways not seen in 75 years.”

The forum comes not only at a critical time in European security but also an important time for Sweden, as it celebrates 500 years of naval history. According to the Swedish Armed Forces, the Royal Swedish Navy, established in 1522, has been an integral part of Sweden’s development, sovereignty and independence.

“We can state that today's Europe has forever changed; the security and stability in our immediate area and in Europe are threatened. Sweden's and our partners' security depends on international cooperation,” said Sweden Vice Adm. Jonas Haggren, Chief of Defense Staff. “It is of great importance that we continue bilateral cooperation in order to strengthen and enhance our common defense capability across air, land and maritime domains to deter any opponent.

Haggren said a foundation for being able to act together requires trust between partners and exchange of information and experience. “The Cooperative Strategy Forum is an excellent opportunity for partners to discuss common maritime challenges.”   

The forum, and similar events throughout Europe, also contribute to exercise training objectives for combined and multi-national exercises. The next major exercise for the Baltic area, BALTOPS 22, takes place this summer and has been held annually for 50 years. While not a NATO exercise, BALTOPs brings together NATO Allies and like-minded partners, such as Sweden and Finland, to practice maritime operations in a dynamic security environment.  

U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security, and stability in Europe and Africa.