UDCG 11: Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 11th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 11th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

It’s been nearly a year since this group first met, right here at Ramstein. And I hear that many of you refer to this as the “Ramstein forum.” So it feels right that we’re back here to reaffirm our shared unity and resolve.

Now, this Contact Group started from a place of moral clarity. We see Putin’s war for what it is—and that is an unprovoked and indefensible war of aggression against a peaceful, sovereign, and democratic neighbor.

Ukraine has been fighting bravely to defend its people, its sovereignty, and its freedom.

And countries from around the world have condemned Russia’s atrocities and aggression, and stood up for an open world of rules and rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, more than a year later, Ukraine is still standing strong. Our support has not wavered. And I’m proud of the progress that we have made together.

In total, the members of this Contact Group have provided more than $55 billion in security assistance for Ukraine. That’s a tenfold increase since we first met.

Just in the past few months, we’ve provided the equipment and training to support an additional nine armored brigades for Ukraine. That has already strengthened Ukraine’s position on the battlefield.

A European consortium is donating Leopard tanks. And countries continue to coordinate through the Contact Group on providing ammunition and maintenance for those tanks.

This Contact Group also provided key air-defense systems to protect Ukraine’s skies, citizens, and critical infrastructure. That includes Patriot systems from the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, SAMP/T from Italy and France, and NASAMS from Canada and Norway.

We’ve also improved training, sustainment, and the power of our industrial bases.

And throughout, we’ve demonstrated our unity and determination. Our common efforts have made a huge difference to Ukraine’s defenders on the battlefield. And they underscore just how badly the Kremlin miscalculated.

Putin thought that he could easily topple Kyiv’s democratically elected government. He thought that the wider world would let him get away with it. He thought that our unity would splinter.

But he was wrong—on each and every count.

As we come together again at Ramstein, the world hears our voices loud and clear. The world sees what we’ve achieved together.

The Ukrainian military stands tall with capability and courage.

After more than a year of Russian aggression and deceit, this Contact Group is as united as ever and more global than ever. And our support for the forces of freedom in Ukraine holds strong and true.

Now, I know that many of you have been following the reports of unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified U.S. material. I take this issue very seriously. And we will continue to work closely and respectfully with our deeply valued allies and partners.

As I’ve discussed this issue with our allies and partners, I’ve been struck by your solidarity, and your commitment to reject efforts to divide us.

And we will not let anything fracture our unity.

Now, we’re joined again by my good friend, Oleksii Reznikov of Ukraine. And Oleksii, we’re looking forward to hearing directly from you and your team on the state of the battlefield and your most urgent requirements.

I also want to thank each country joining us today. You’ve shown that nations of goodwill from all around the world reject Russia’s cruelty and aggression.

Many of you have dug deep in your stocks for assistance for Ukraine.

Some of our allies, like Estonia and Latvia, have donated more than one percent of their GDP to Ukraine’s cause.

The European Union recently announced an important initiative to ramp up the industrial production of ammunition.

And through the work of our National Armaments Directors, many more countries are also boosting their production of the ammunition that Ukraine so urgently needs.

Now, earlier this week, the United States announced our 36th Presidential Drawdown of security assistance for Ukraine, valued at $325 million. We’ve now provided more than $35 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began. In this latest package, we’ve included more ammunition for HIMARS, additional 155-millimeter and 105-millimeter artillery rounds, and important anti-armor capabilities.

And every step of the way, we remain focused on ensuring the accountability of our assistance, along with our Ukrainian partners.

Now, at today’s Contact Group, we’ll focus on three key areas: air defense, ammunition, and enablers.

Ukraine urgently needs our help to shield its citizens, infrastructure, and forces from Russia’s missile threat.

I also look forward to getting an update from General Aguto, our Commander of the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, on our work to build Ukraine’s armored combat power.

And we’ll also hear an update on our progress toward maintaining Ukraine’s equipment for the long term.

We all know what’s at stake. For more than a year, Ukraine’s forces have defended their country and their fellow citizens.

But they’ve also defended the basic principle that autocrats don’t just get to assault their smaller neighbors.

And the valor and skill of Ukraine’s troops have inspired the world. From the battle of Kyiv to the liberation of Kherson, Ukraine has shown again and again the power of a free people fighting to defend their rights.

Ukraine will continue to fight just as bravely.

And all of us here have come together to stand up for Ukraine and for a world based on rules and rights.

We reject Putin’s grim vision of a world where tyrants get to assault their peaceful neighbors—and try to impose self-declared spheres of influence at gunpoint.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Contact Group is still guided by moral clarity.

Together, we will make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to live in freedom.

Together, we will defend the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.

And together, we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Thank you all for being here. And with that, let’s pause for a moment to let our friends in the media depart.