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

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Thank you, Secretary Wallander. Good morning. It’s great to see everyone on-screen today. Welcome to our fourth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

We’re meeting as Ukraine is about to enter the sixth month in its fight against Russia’s cruel and unprovoked invasion. And it’s an important forum for discussing the urgent requirements that Ukraine needs to defend itself, its citizens, and its sovereign territory. 

Our assistance is making a real difference on the ground. But let’s start by taking a step back and remembering how we got to this point—six months into a war of choice that the Kremlin thought would be over in days.

On 24 February, Russia deployed a massive invasion force to conquer the entire country of Ukraine. And they failed.

Russia poured its troops and steel into taking Kyiv. And they failed.

Russia tried to topple the democratically elected government of Ukraine. And they failed.

And then Russia retooled and thought it could easily seize the Donbas. And they failed.

And throughout, Russia tried to crush the spirit of the free people of Ukraine. And they failed.

And as we have seen time and again over these past months of war, Ukrainian forces are frustrating Moscow’s combat objectives. And they are defending their democracy and their homeland with bravery, resolve, and valor.

We’re all here because we understand the grave threat that Ukraine still faces. But let’s also remember that Putin has consistently overestimated Russia’s military prowess. And he has consistently underestimated the power of a free people fighting to defend their homeland and the will of the international community to stand with them.

And so as this fight rages on, the Contact Group will keep finding innovative ways to sustain our long-term support for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And we will tailor our assistance to ensure that Ukraine has the technology, the ammunition, and the sheer firepower to defend itself.

You know, this is a critical phase of the conflict. And so our collective support for Ukraine is vital—and urgent.

Russia thinks that it can outlast Ukraine—and outlast us. But that’s just the latest in Russia’s string of miscalculations.

We stand united in our support. We stand firm in our commitment. And we will rise to this occasion.

Now, one month ago, in Brussels, this group met in person to reaffirm our dedication to Ukraine’s self-defense. And we heard from many countries undertaking important new initiatives. More than 30 countries have now sent lethal military assistance to Ukraine in its hour of crisis. 

And we continue to make important headway. And we’re seeing the results on the ground.

From our meeting in Brussels until now, the United States has committed more than $2.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. Our assistance includes a total of 12 HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems to further strengthen Ukraine’s long-range fires capability. And I want to underscore the impact that they’ve made.

We have also committed two NASAMS air-defense systems to help Ukraine protect its forces and its civilians against Russian missile attacks. 

The United States has also committed to sending more HIMARS munitions, precision-guided artillery ammunition, tactical vehicles, and other urgently needed support. 

We’ll continue to provide historic levels of security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself. And later this week, we’ll roll out our next presidential drawdown package of weapons, ammunition, and equipment for Ukraine.

It will be our sixteenth drawdown of equipment from DOD inventories since August 2021. It will include four more HIMARS advanced rocket systems, which the Ukrainians have been using so effectively and which have made such a difference on the battlefield. And it will include more rounds of MLRS and artillery ammunition.

And other countries have continued to step up their support as well, including in the important area of long-range fires.  The U.K.’s M270 MLRS systems are now in the fight, and Germany’s systems will soon be on the battlefield as well. 

Poland has also recently transferred three battalions of 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, which are already making a difference on the front lines.

And I want to especially thank Norway for its close cooperation with the United States on our NASAMS transfer. 

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have repeatedly demonstrated their skill in operating HIMARS, M270s, and 155-millimeter howitzers. And those capabilities have been crucial in the Donbas fight.

Ukraine has also made real gains on the ground with other equipment that members of this Contact Group have provided. For example, Ukraine has deftly employed donated Harpoon systems against Russia’s navy in the Black Sea. And those systems helped Ukraine reclaim Snake Island.

So I look forward to today’s discussion on how we can continue to rush Ukraine more critical capabilities and urgently needed ammunition.

And here to help us understand those critical requirements are my close friends and colleagues, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov and Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk.

Minister Reznikov and I have been in close and ongoing touch about Ukraine’s combat requirements and progress since our last in-person meeting in Brussels. 

Gentlemen, I want to thank you and your teams for joining us in today’s meeting. We deeply admire your tireless commitment to your country’s defense, and we deeply appreciate your close cooperation over these past few months. 

I’m also honored to be joined again by ministers and chiefs of defense from some 50 countries.

The Contact Group continues to make a real difference in real time. And that’s a testament to our collective resolve to stand up to Russia’s assault on democracy, sovereignty, and the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.

So let me thank everyone for joining us. And now, we’ll say goodbye to our friends from the media—and following the departure of the media, I’ll turn the microphone over to my dear friend, Minister Reznikov.

Thank you very much.