Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown spoke about the status after Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Opening of the 21st Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Well hello, everybody.

I know that many of us remember meeting for the first time at Ramstein two years ago today for what would become this Contact Group.

We’ve reached a real milestone today. And I’m honored that we’ve got a message to mark it from President Zelenskyy.

Then we’ll move into the day’s agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn it over to the President of Ukraine.

[Pause for President Zelenskyy’s remarks.]

On behalf of the entire Contact Group, I want to thank President Zelenskyy for his inspiring remarks.

Now, I know that everyone here shares President Zelenskyy’s sense of urgency.

So once again, thanks for joining us for this 21st meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. And thanks to our partners in Ukraine. Minister Umerov and General Syrskyi, it’s good to see you all again.

Two years ago today, many of us gathered at Ramstein Air Base for the very first meeting of what became this Contact Group. And in my opening remarks that day, I said that we were “going to keep moving heaven and earth” to meet Ukraine’s security needs.

For two years, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

And even at this moment of challenge, that should be a source of great pride for us all.

This extraordinary coalition of nations of goodwill has held together throughout two years of Putin’s flagrant aggression, and his contempt for human rights and human decency.

And over these two years, we’ve been inspired by the courage of Ukraine’s troops.

Just a month before our first meeting at Ramstein, Ukraine had won the Battle of Kyiv. And Ukraine was uncovering the mass atrocities committed by Putin’s forces. The world recoiled at Russia’s crimes in Bucha, Mariupol, and elsewhere. And Ukraine’s forces steeled themselves for the fight ahead.

And since then, Ukraine’s troops have retaken the city of Kherson and parts of the Kharkiv region. They’ve taken back large swathes of the Ukrainian territory that Russia grabbed since its unprovoked invasion in 2022.

And they’ve pushed Russia’s fleet to the furthest, eastern corner of the Black Sea. That’s let Ukraine nearly return to pre-war levels of grain exports.

For 793 days now, the Ukrainian people have stood tall against the Kremlin’s aggression.

As I said at Ramstein two years ago: “My Ukrainian friends: we know the burden that all of you carry. And you should know that all of us have your back.”

We still do. And we won’t back down.

This week, the United States Congress passed and the President signed into law a package that includes $60.8 billion in additional funding related to Ukraine.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine is a security problem for us all. And we must continue to tackle it together.

Two years later, I’m not just proud.

I’m determined.

Now, Putin thought that he would just roll over Ukraine. He thought that Ukraine wasn’t a real country. He thought that Ukrainians wouldn’t fight for their democracy. And he thought that the world would just stand by.

Putin was wrong. On every point.

He didn’t count on Ukraine’s resolve. And he didn’t count on us. All of us.

Over the past two years, some 50 countries from across the globe have gathered for ministerial-level meetings to coordinate our urgent military assistance. And the results have changed the course of history.

Over the past two years, the members of this Contact Group have committed more than 70 mid- to long range air-defense systems, along with thousands of missiles.

We’ve provided more than 3,000 armored vehicles, including more than 800 main battle tanks.

We’ve given Ukraine tens of thousands of anti-tank missiles.

This year, more than a squadron of donated F-16s will start to arrive in Ukraine, along with pilots and maintainers trained by members of this Contact Group.

And this Contact Group continues to step up to meet Ukraine’s most urgent needs.

Just look at the Czech Republic’s extraordinary initiative to procure thousands of artillery shells from third countries. And the U.K. has announced its largest single package of equipment ever, worth approximately $620 million. Or consider Germany’s bold announcement that it will donate another Patriot system to Ukraine.

And today, I’m pleased to share that United States will provide — through Presidential Drawdown Authority—another $1 billion worth of assistance, including more ammunition for HIMARS, 155-millimeter ammunition, air-defense interceptors, and armored vehicles. 

These are all testaments to our shared commitment to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield.

And through the Contact Group’s capability coalitions, we now have the nimble, flexible structure to adapt to new challenges — and to build up the future force that Ukraine needs for its long-term security.

But we take nothing for granted. And we know that Putin is ruthless and relentless.

Russia is launching increasingly fierce attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, including targeting its power plants. And more and more Ukrainian civilians are dying.

So we’re going to have a special focus today on boosting Ukraine’s air defenses.

Ukraine is in dire need of more air-defense systems. And it urgently needs more interceptors. That’s going to be a huge priority for us all today.

Ukraine also needs more artillery and armor to defend its citizens and reclaim its stolen territory.

And we’re going to do everything that we can to help them.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ukraine’s struggle for freedom matters to us all.

If Ukraine fell under Putin’s boot, Europe would fall under Putin’s shadow.

So we remain determined to deter Russia from any further aggression — including against our NATO allies.

If Putin got his way in Ukraine, his fellow autocrats would draw a dangerous lesson. And the whole world would become more chaotic and insecure if would-be aggressors believe that they can rewrite borders by force, and make people live in fear.

So as I said two years ago in Ramstein, we will continue “to help strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy.”

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today.

Thanks for being here. And thanks for everything that you have done for our shared security over the past two years.

And we’ll now pause while our friends in the media depart.