UDCG 13: Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 13th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 13th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us for the 13th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Before we begin, let me say a few words about the Russian missile attack in the city of Kryvyi Rih on Tuesday. The Russian barrage struck an apartment building, and according to reports, killed nearly a dozen people and injured many more.

Recently, residents of this city have been forced to ration water after the destruction of the dam in Kherson last week. And this is one more reminder of the war’s devastating consequences to innocent Ukraine civilians.

But the people of Ukraine continue to inspire us with their courage and their resilience. And Ukraine continues to fight to liberate its sovereign territory from Russian occupation.

So we are meeting at a critical and historic moment. As President Biden has said, “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state—plain and simple.”

So this Contact Group has come together once again to stand up for the values of sovereignty and freedom.

I’d like to thank Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov for joining us again. Oleksii, your leadership reflects the determination of the Ukrainian people.

When Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, Putin thought that he could easily prevail.

But he was wrong.

The Ukrainians won the battle of Kyiv. They liberated Kharkiv and Kherson. And today, Ukraine stands well-positioned for the challenges ahead.

The United States is proud to stand alongside some 50 nations of goodwill to provide Ukraine with the training and equipment to help it succeed on the battlefield.

Throughout the Kremlin’s vicious war of choice, the Ukrainian forces have shown outstanding bravery and skill. And Ukraine’s fight is a marathon, and not a sprint. So we will continue to provide Ukraine with the urgent capabilities that it needs to meet this moment, as well as what it needs to keep itself secure for the long term from Russian aggression.

And make no mistake: we will stand with Ukraine for the long haul.

You can see that commitment in our ongoing security assistance to Ukraine.

Last week, the United States announced a new package of more than $2 billion under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This package includes additional munitions for Patriot air-defense systems, HAWK air-defense systems and missiles, additional 105-millimeter and 203-millimeter artillery rounds, and more.

And on Tuesday, President Biden authorized the 40th drawdown of equipment from U.S. stocks. This $325 million package includes munitions for Ukraine’s NASAMS and HIMARs, additional Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers, and anti-tank weapons, and other critical capabilities.

As I say, our commitment to Ukraine is enduring. And this Contact Group remains united and determined.

Our efforts are grounded in a broader strategic approach. We seek to ensure that Ukraine has the capabilities that it needs to protect its citizens and its territory, and to deter further aggression from the Russians, and, ultimately, to prevail over Putin’s campaign of cruelty and conquest.

And our agenda today reflects those goals.

This Contact Group has been intensely focused on enabling Ukraine to protect its citizens and critical infrastructure with air-defense assets. These contributions are shielding Ukrainian civilians from Russia’s merciless missile and drone attacks. This group’s donation of Patriot, IRIS-T, and NASAMS systems are saving Ukrainian lives.

And I ask that the members of this Contact Group continue to dig deep to provide Ukraine with the air-defense assets and munitions that it so urgently needs to protect its citizens.

We will also continue to adapt our assistance to meet the changing circumstances on the ground and the changing needs of Ukraine’s forces.

At our last meeting, we announced a new initiative led by the Netherlands and Denmark to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including the F-16. I want to thank the Netherlands and Denmark for spearheading that important effort. And we look forward to hearing more about your progress today.

And later, Germany and Poland will brief us on the next steps in the vital task of sustaining Ukraine’s Leopard tanks. We applaud the leadership that has gone into forging two coalitions—one dedicated to fighter-aircraft training, and another to provide and sustain Leopard tanks.

And I want to commend the many members of this Contact Group who have already started to address the longer-term needs of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. That will help ensure that Ukraine’s forces have the capabilities that they need to defend their country against Russian aggression in the future.

And it’s become increasingly clear that Ukraine needs a force that is interoperable with our militaries. So today, we’ll hear from the U.S. EUCOM Commander, General Cavoli, and several of our colleagues on future training plans and our work on in-theater sustainment.

All these efforts will help sustain Ukraine’s military for the current fight. Yet they will also lay the foundation for Ukraine’s future force.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions have inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Ukrainian people. Yet the Ukrainians continue to inspire us with their resilience, their bravery, and their unwavering commitment to keep their country free and secure.

So together, we will stay united. Together, we will rise to meet the challenges of changing circumstances. And together, we will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes.

So with that, I’ll pause and allow our friends in the media depart.