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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2024

Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command Naples Visits Finland

By By Lt. Cody L. Keim

HELSINKI - Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) and Allied Joint Forces Command (JFC) Naples, visited Helsinki, Jan. 24-26, 2024.


The visit was hosted by Lt. Gen. Vesa Virtanen, Chief of Defense Command Finland, to discuss Finland’s military integration into NATO and the role they play in meeting today’s dynamic security environment.


“Finland joining NATO advances the Alliance’s ability to meet today's global security concerns and promotes stability throughout Europe," said Munsch. "Together, alongside NATO, we are committed to collective defense that supports peace and security in the region. Our strength lies in our unity, which has never been greater than it is today."


Finland integration into the collective defense strategy follows Finland officially becoming the 31st member of NATO in April 2023, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe and on NATO’s eastern flank by nearly doubling its existing border.


“The Alliance’s 360-degree approach enables meeting and preparing for a multitude of threats,” said Virtanen. “Adm. Munsch’s assessment of the security situation further confirmed for us the importance of cooperation and information-sharing in advancing and maintaining security and stability.”


The visit also included an opportunity to meet with the Finnish Navy’s coastal brigade to showcase their capabilities in Arctic conditions.


“This time of year offers us an excellent opportunity to showcase the versatile capabilities of the Finnish Navy in Arctic conditions for our American visitors,” said Rear Adm. Toumas Tiilikainen, Finnish Commander of the Naval Forces.


Additionally, Munsch met with Esa Pulkkinen, Finnish Ministry of Defense Permanent Secretary and Gen. Timo Kivinen, Finnish Chief of Defense, to discuss Finland’s interoperability amongst partner nations in the Baltic Sea


Furthering their integration with partner nations, Finland is scheduled to participate in BALTOPS 24 later this year after recently completing Exercise Freezing Winds in November 2023, marking the first major naval exercise with Finland as part of NATO.


As a NATO operational headquarters for Southern Europe, JFC Naples leads multinational battlegroups in Romania and Bulgaria, missions in Iraq with the NATO Mission Iraq, and in Kosovo with the Kosovo Force.


For more than 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.


Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. U.S. 6th Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.