UDCG 18 – Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Prepared)

Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 18th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Prepared)

As you can tell, I’m joining from home today. I’m feeling good and looking forward to being back at the Pentagon very soon. And I’m grateful for all of your warm wishes.

So thanks for working across the time zones to join us for the 18th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

We’re eager to enter this new year with new energy.

And we’re all here to reaffirm our support for a free, secure, and sovereign Ukraine, and to ensure that we continue to get Ukraine the capabilities that it needs, for the winter and beyond.

Ukraine is not alone.

Around the world, Ukraine’s friends have stepped up to help Ukraine’s brave troops resist Putin’s aggression.

We’ve formed a historic international coalition, rooted in shared interests and common principles.

And the United States remains determined to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom.

I’m especially glad that we’re joined today by my friend, Ukrainian Defense Minister Umerov.  Rustem, we’re looking forward to hearing your report from the battlefield.

Ukraine’s fight is important for all of our countries.

Ukraine’s incredibly brave troops are continuing their battle against the Kremlin’s invaders across a vast frontline in Ukraine’s east and south, in bitter winter weather.

Ukraine’s defenders continue to inflict significant losses on the Kremlin’s forces.

Putin continues to sacrifice staggering numbers of Russian troops in his rash and reckless war of choice.

And Putin hopes that missiles and drones will demoralize the Ukrainian people, and break the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian military.

So I urge this group to dig deep to provide Ukraine with more lifesaving ground-based air-defense systems and interceptors.

And Ukraine has answered Putin’s cruelty with courage and defiance. After almost two years of war, Ukraine’s people and troops stand strong against Russian aggression and occupation.

Russia’s military has been badly weakened and demoralized.

And Ukraine has taken back more than half of the sovereign territory grabbed by Russia since its unprovoked invasion.

So let’s be clear. Our support for Ukraine’s struggle against tyranny makes all of our countries more secure.

If we lose our nerve, if we flinch, if we fail to deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite even more bloodshed and chaos.

So a sovereign and secure Ukraine is critical to global security.

And we must not waver in our support for Ukraine.

On December 27th, the United States announced an additional $250 million package to help meet Ukraine’s urgent security needs.

The package includes lifesaving air-defense munitions, air-defense system components, ammunition for HIMARS, anti-armor munitions, 155-millimeter and 105-millimeter artillery ammunition, and medical equipment.

The United States continues to work hard to monitor and account for U.S. security assistance delivered to Ukraine.

We have seen no credible evidence of the misuse or illicit diversion of American equipment provided to Ukraine.

What we do see is Ukraine using the capabilities that we’ve provided to defend itself against Russian aggression.

Now, I want to take a few minutes to commend the allies and partners who have risen to the moment, and announced important new long-term security assistance packages since we last met.

This includes significant announcements by Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Taken together, these commitments will amount to billions of dollars in additional military aid for Ukraine.

We must continue to focus both on Ukraine’s immediate battlefield needs, and on helping Ukraine to strengthen, modernize, and sustain its defense forces for the long haul.

That’s why the United States hosted the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference in Washington last month, with the goal of ushering in a new era of cooperation to meet Ukraine’s long-term security needs.

We remain committed to strengthening Ukraine’s defense industrial base, both to intensify Ukraine’s current fight and to boost its long-term deterrence.

And our allies and partners are working proudly beside us.

The members of this Contact Group have shown a profound and principled commitment to Ukraine’s enduring security.

I’m especially grateful to our allies and partners for your commitment to leading this Contact Group’s “capability coalitions.”

That includes Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

Together, our allies and partners have established six capability coalitions to support Ukraine’s air force, ground-based air defenses, artillery, maritime security, de-mining, and information technology.

We’ve made impressive progress since our last meeting.

I’m proud that the United States is co-leading the artillery capability coalition, along with France, and also co-leading the air-force capability coalition, alongside Denmark and the Netherlands.

That’s just another reminder of how much we can do when we come together.

The security of the entire international community is on the line in Ukraine’s fight.

And I am more determined than ever to work with our allies and partners to support Ukraine, and to get the job done.

Thanks again for joining us.

And now I’ll pass it back to Assistant Secretary Wallander, and we’ll pause while our friends in the media depart.