May 25, 2023
Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 12th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)
Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us virtually from time zones around the world. And welcome to the 12th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. It's great to see everyone again.
As Ukraine advances its fight against Russia's invaders, the members of this Contact Group stand united.
Since this group met last month, the United States has committed an additional $1.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.
That includes a recent package of $375 million with equipment such as HIMARS ammunition, anti-tank systems, and laser-guided rockets.
We are also providing key combat enablers such as heavy equipment transport and armored bridging systems.
And in our latest Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package, the United States funded additional air-defense systems and munitions.
That package also includes equipment that will integrate Ukraine's legacy air-defense systems with air-defense launchers, missiles, and radars from members of this Contact Group.
And we're also providing more 155-millimeter artillery rounds, as well as more training, maintenance, and sustainment.
We are focused on contributions that make a real difference in real time.
Yet the United States is also committed to standing with Ukraine for the long haul. And so are the countries that have gathered here today.
We've been working in lockstep with all of you to get Ukraine's defenders what they need, when they need it.
Several Contact Group members have made important announcements recently.
Germany pledged to provide Ukraine with more Leopard tanks, ammunition, combat drones, and more, in a package worth nearly $3 billion. That reflects Germany's drive to meet Ukraine's near-term needs, and Germany's investment for the long haul.
Denmark also announced a significant new package. It includes air defense support and combat enablers such as mine-clearing vehicles, mobile field bridges, and recovery vehicles.
France also has committed more light tanks and armored vehicles.
All these donations respond to Ukraine's top-priority requirements and reflect the sustained resolve of this Contact Group.
Together, Contact Group members have ensured that Ukrainian soldiers have the training that they need.
We've trained nine motorized and mechanized brigades, and continue to execute collective training for Ukrainian combat units.
Earlier this month, 31 M1 Abrams training tanks from the United States arrived at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
And last week, President Biden announced that the United States will support a joint effort with our allies and partners to train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16s.
We hope this training will begin in the coming weeks.
This will further strengthen and improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force in the long term. And it will complement our short-term and medium-term security agreements.
This new joint effort sends a powerful message about our unity and our long-term commitment to Ukraine's self-defense. And it again shows our shared determination to ensure that a sovereign and secure Ukraine can deter any future aggression and defend itself against future attacks.
You can see that commitment in our work on the most important capability that this Contact Group is now providing: ground-based air-defense systems. Those crucial systems are protecting Ukraine's skies and civilian infrastructure from Russia's assault. And we continue to deliver much-needed ammunition.
In total, the Contact Group has committed nearly $65 billion in security assistance.
Now, Putin was hoping that our resolve would fade. And he was betting that our unity would crack.
Instead, we remain as united as ever. And the whole world can see it.
Now, everyone here knows what the Ukrainians are up against. Russia has renewed its shocking and shameful barrage of missile attacks that threaten innocent Ukrainian civilians, including hypersonic missiles aimed at Kyiv.
But this Contact Group continues to strengthen Ukraine's air defenses and save innocent lives.
Ukrainians now have the Patriot air-defense system on their sideâ€”provided by the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands. And Ukraine has been shooting down Russian missiles with precision and skill.
The Patriot saves lives. And so do air-defense systems like the IRIS-T and NASAMS that this group has also delivered.
We've helped Ukraine defend its skies. And we won't let up.
Russia has failed to dominate Ukrainian airspace. And that's why air-defense capabilities will again be a major focus of our discussions today.
Now, let me take just a moment to preview more of today's agenda.
As always, we're joined by our good friend Oleksii Reznikov and his team. Oleksii, thanks for taking the time to brief us on Ukraine's priority needs for the fight ahead.
Then the commanders of U.S. European Command and Security Assistance Group-Ukraine will brief us on Ukraine's near-term requirements.
And we will discuss ways to further accelerate industrial production for critical systems.
We're going to have to dig deeper, and we're going to have to continue to look for creative ways to boost our industrial capacity.
The stakes are high. But the cause is just. And our will is strong.
We will continue to stand up for Ukraine's sovereign right to live in freedom.
We'll continue to stand up for an open world of rules and rights.
And we will stand up for a free and sovereign Ukraine for as long as it takes.
And with that, I'll pause for a moment and allow our friends in the media to depart.
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