UDCG 16: Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 16th Ukraine Defense Contact Group

Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 16th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Let me say just a few words first about the terrible tragedy that Israel is now enduring.

The full horror of the attacks by Hamas continues to become more clear and more appalling.

The United States stands firmly with Israel as it defends itself and its citizens from this vile Hamas terrorist assault.

We will stay in close contact with our Israeli partners and ensure that they have what they need to protect their country.

As President Biden has made clear, no other party hostile to Israel should try to exploit these despicable attacks.

Like any other country, Israel has a bedrock right to defend itself from terrorism and aggression.

And our support for Israel’s security will remain ironclad, especially in this hour of atrocity and challenge.

Now, let me turn to today’s agenda.

By gathering this Contact Group again, we remind the world of our shared commitment to support Ukraine today—and for the long haul.

Let me start by thanking President Zelenskyy for joining us today. Mr. President, it’s an honor to have you here.

And you can see firsthand the scope and determination of the coalition that has done so much to help Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

Let me also thank Minister Umerov and the rest of the Ukrainian delegation for joining us again today.

And I’m delighted to be here with our new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General CQ Brown. Welcome to your first Ukraine Defense Contact Group, General. It’s great to have you here with us.


Now, this coalition continues to make history with our unity and our steadfast support for Ukraine.

So make no mistake. The United States will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

And today, I look forward to working together to do even more to get Ukraine’s brave defenders what they need at this crucial moment.

We’re here to deliver what it takes, for as long as it takes, so that Ukraine can live in freedom.

So today, we’ll discuss Ukraine’s immediate requirements as it fights back against Russia’s flagrant aggression.

And we’ll hear from Minister Umerov and his team, who will update us on Ukraine’s current counteroffensive.

Ukraine is making steady progress forward, and it continues to liberate key terrain from the dug-in Russian invaders.

This is a hard and dangerous fight.

And we salute the incredibly brave Ukrainians risking their lives to drive back Putin’s army of aggression.

And the current battles only underscore the importance of the lifesaving security assistance from everyone here that has kept Ukraine in the fight.

So as winter approaches, our task in this Contact Group is twofold.

We must continue to rush Ukraine what it needs to meet its current challenges, even as we continue to develop Ukraine’s combat capabilities to ward off future dangers.

So we’re here to dig deep to meet Ukraine’s most urgent needs—especially for air defense and ammunition.

I look forward to hearing about the new support packages that many countries here are preparing.

And I am proud that the United States will announce its latest security assistance package for Ukraine, valued at $200 million.

It includes AIM-9 munitions for a new air-defense system that we will soon deliver to Ukraine, as well as artillery and rocket ammunition, precision aerial munitions, anti-tank weapons, and equipment to counter Russian drones.

That puts America’s total commitment at some $43.9 billion since the start of Putin’s war.

And I’m proud that this coalition of some 50 nations of goodwill from around the world has rallied to commit more than $33 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.

In fact, more than a dozen of our allies have committed more to Ukraine than the United States as a percentage of their GDP.

Now, we’re also here to discuss how to balance our immediate support to defend Ukraine with our longer-term assistance.

The next step forward in our long-term vision will be working with our fellow Contact Group members to organize what we’re calling “capability coalitions.”

These coalitions will be responsible for coordinating contributions from coalition members for each major capability area.

We have already organized highly effective coalitions focused on Leopard tanks and F-16 training, which have marshalled resources from multiple countries.

But now, we’re taking this concept a bit further.

We’re asking countries to organize coalitions focused on wider capabilities, beyond just specific platforms.

Just as this Contact Group surged capabilities to support Ukraine’s immediate needs, we will also organize ourselves to coordinate our investments in Ukraine’s future force.

Now, we all know better than to underestimate the degree of Putin’s malice and frustration.

And we saw that again last week with the horrifying Russian missile strike in the Kharkhiv region that killed dozens of Ukrainian civilians.

We should be ready for the Kremlin to again bombard Ukraine this winter with cruise missiles and drones.

And we should expect Putin’s forces to cruelly and deliberately put Ukraine’s cities, civilians, and critical infrastructure in their gunsights.

By turning civilians into targets, Putin hopes to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people and plunge them into bitter cold and darkness.

But he will fail. And we all know it.

Putin hoped to demoralize the Ukrainian people. Instead, he demoralized the Russian military.

Putin hoped to isolate Ukraine. Instead, he isolated Russia.

Putin hoped to fool the whole world. Instead, he couldn’t even fool his own mercenaries.

So in this war of aggression, nobody should assume that time is on the Kremlin’s side.

We stand together today—determined to ensure that Ukraine has the support that it needs for another winter of war.

Unity will remain the beating heart of this coalition.

The Kremlin never predicted our strength and our unity of purpose.

And the Kremlin certainly did not bargain on our continued resolve nearly 20 months into Russia’s needless and reckless war of choice.

So I’m inspired again looking at all the countries around this table—even while Putin is left pleading for support from Iran and North Korea.

We stand together.

Putin stands alone.

And everyone here understands the stakes and why Ukraine’s fight to defend itself matters.

Ukraine matters because Putin’s war of choice is a vast and urgent threat to security in Europe.

Ukraine matters because Russian aggression clearly challenges our NATO allies.

Ukraine matters because Russian atrocities against civilians offend our shared values and threaten the rule of law.

Ukraine matters because Russian attacks on Ukrainian grain are deliberately inflicting hunger and suffering on innocent people around the world.

And Ukraine matters because if great powers can invade their peaceful and democratic neighbors with impunity, it will claw away the rules-based order that has made the world so much safer since the end of World War II.

That is what has brought us together again.

And as I have said before, I continue to firmly believe that “our support for the forces of freedom in Ukraine will hold fast, in any season or any storm.”

So thanks again for being here.

And now, for his first time in person at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, let me give the floor to President Zelenskyy. Mr. President, welcome again. We’re delighted to have you here.