SHARE
COPY LINK
THANKSGIVING IN SWEDEN

UNITED STATES

‘I’m thankful to be US ambassador to Sweden’

As Americans in Sweden and around the world celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, US Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski explains why he's thankful for the United States' "special relationship" with Sweden.

'I'm thankful to be US ambassador to Sweden'
US Ambassador Mark Brzezinski greets Barack Obama during the US president's visit to Stockholm. File photo: AP
Every November in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering with friends and family, enjoying good food and to give thanks for all that is important in our lives. This November, as I mark my two-year anniversary as the US Ambassador to Sweden, I am particularly thankful for the special relationship between the United States and Sweden. Indeed, as President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt put it in their joint statement in September: “Sweden and the United States are very special friends.” 
 
During the past two years, I have traveled around the country and have met with Swedes from all regions of the country and from all walks of life. What I’ve found is a partnership anchored not only in policy, but in people. Whether it’s addressing climate change, advancing human rights and democracy, or promoting greater prosperity, I am thankful for the work our governments and people do to meet global challenges and promote human dignity.
 
One critical area is the environment. During President Obama’s visit to Stockholm earlier this year, he made one of his highest priorities a visit to KTH in Stockholm to see examples of groundbreaking, clean-energy innovations. His visit also underscored our collaboration on clean technology and combatting climate change. Through the Swedish American Green Alliance (SAGA), a joint initiative between the US and Sweden, we have launched a number of exchange programmes for students, organized conferences and workshops, and built links between American and Swedish companies and universities. 
 
Similarly, in the Arctic, we are working together to safeguard this delicate region. This past May, Sweden concluded its highly successful chairmanship of the Arctic Council – a success we hope to emulate when the US becomes chair in 2015. Last month, I traveled to the Abisko Scientific Research Station, where 110 years of data demonstrate the effects of a warming climate on the Arctic. At the station, I attended a workshop with Fulbright scholars to discuss climate change, governance, and security in the Arctic. US Secretary of State John Kerry said it best earlier this year at the Arctic Council Ministerial in Kiruna: “There is nothing that should unite us quite like our concern for both the promise and the challenges of the northern-most reaches of the earth.” 
 
Promoting human rights and democracy is another shared priority. As former US Secretary of State Clinton noted during her June 2012 visit to Stockholm, “Sweden brings its diplomatic heft and its development expertise to nearly every corner of the globe.” In both Afghanistan and Kosovo, Sweden has worked alongside the United States and our Nato allies and partners to support stability and prosperity. We also cooperate closely on development assistance. Just last week, Dr. Raj Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), visited Sweden to sign two partnerships: one with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) for 2.6 billion kronor ($397 million) over five years for collaborative development projects and another with both Sisa and Volvo Group to provide vocational training in Sub-Saharan Africa.
 
Around the world, Sweden and the United States are following the legacy of the heroic Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II by refusing to be indifferent and advancing the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and others who are persecuted or oppressed. During his recent visit, President Obama also highlighted Wallenberg’s legacy at a commemoration ceremony in Stockholm’s Great Synagogue.
 
Our cooperation in safeguarding the climate and promoting democracy and human rights is mirrored by our common commitment to advancing economic prosperity. Globally, with half the world living on less than 16 kronor a day, we aim to expand economic opportunity not only through development programmes, but also through increased access to markets and freer and fairer trade. 
 
At the same time, our solid commercial relationship is expanding economic opportunity and creating jobs in Sweden and the United States. Our annual bilateral trade in goods and services is valued at over 162 billion kronor. Sweden is the 13th largest investor in the US and the 273 billion kronor of cumulative Swedish investment has created nearly 200,000 jobs in the United States. The US is also one of the largest investors in Sweden, responsible for an estimated 75,000 jobs. These numbers are good, but they can get better. That’s one reason why the United States and Sweden are two of the strongest advocates for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty – the proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and European Union. The US embassy has also brought together many leading US and Swedish business representatives. We have supported numerous trade delegations over the past two years from Alabama, Virginia, California, and Minnesota as well as from several US cities.  
 
In closing, on this Thanksgiving Day in the US, I’d like to echo the words of President Obama: “I want to thank Sweden and the Swedish people for being such strong partners in pursuit of these values that we share.”
 
I’m thankful for the opportunity to advance our strong relationship to new levels over the past two years and look forward to continuing our hard work in deepening and expanding our relationship during the rest of my tenure as ambassador here in Sweden. 
 
Mark Brzezinski
US Ambassador to Sweden

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

RUSSIA

No island as important as Gotland, says US military chief

There is no island as strategically important as Gotland, a top US military chief has told Swedish media as his soldiers prepare to join Sweden's largest exercise in two decades.

No island as important as Gotland, says US military chief
United States Army Europe commander Ben Hodges on a visit to Lithuania. Photo: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Sweden is leading the major military exercise Aurora 17 in September, with units from all over Sweden, at sea, land and air. More than 19,000 troops are set to take part, including 1,435 soldiers from the US, 270 from Finland, 120 from France and between 40-60 each from Denmark, Norway, Lithuania and Estonia.

It will focus on the Stockholm and Gothenburg regions and Gotland, the Baltic Sea island at the centre of military discussions in Sweden, where fear of an increasingly assertive Russia has grown in recent years.

“Aurora 17 is the first and biggest exercise of its kind in more than 20 years,” said Sweden's Armed Forces.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commanding general of the US Army forces in Europe, described Gotland as a key location on a visit to the island ahead of the exercise.

“I look forward to my soldiers being given the opportunity to train as much as they can with you,” newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) quoted him as telling Swedish troops permanently stationed on the island for the first time since 2005.

“You have a strategically very important task here. I do not think there is any island anywhere that is more important.”

READ ALSO: Why is Sweden re-militarizing idyllic holiday island Gotland?


Swedish troops on Gotland. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

READ ALSO: Why Sweden is bringing back military conscription

Non-Nato member Sweden has strengthened its ties with the military alliance in recent years, despite Russia's words of warning that an expanding Nato would be seen as a “threat”.

Russia will hold a joint exercise, Zapad 2017, with Belarus around the same time as Aurora 17, seen by many Nato allies as an attempt to flex its muscles. The US has also stepped up its presence in eastern Europe with troops and tanks as part of a Nato military build-up that has drawn criticism from Moscow.

“Russia has changed the security environment,” Hodges told DN.

“We have to react to that, and not just the US, but the whole of Nato. The countries closest to the bear have historical experience. They feel the hot breath of the bear – and they are the ones most worried.”

“The fact that Sweden decided that they have to put troops back on Gotland is a very clear indication of what's going on. Sweden is known as moderate, credible and alliance free. Nevertheless Sweden felt that this was necessary.”

READ ALSO: Sweden in Nato would be a threat to Russia, says Vladimir Putin

Ben Hodges' comments in Dagens Nyheter were translated from Swedish to English by The Local. We understand his original comments were given in English, translated to Swedish by Dagens Nyheter.