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Defense Secretary Highlights Commitment to Allies, Partners, Kirby Says

April 1, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said the efforts of the countries known as the "Quad" — the U.S., Japan, Australia and India — are important in countering the malign influence of China in the region, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said at today's press briefing.

Kirby discussed Austin's commitment to allies and partners around the world and noted that the secretary spoke by phone today with several key defense leaders, including Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrii Taran.

Troops exit helicopter in tall grass and weeds.
Exercise Combined Resolve 14
Ukrainian special forces and a U.S. Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller exit a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a raid at Exercise Combined Resolve 14 at Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 24, 2020.
Photo By: U.S. Army Sgt. Patrik Orcutt
VIRIN: 200924-Z-JY390-289M

In the call with Taran, Austin reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemned recent escalations of Russia's aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine, Kirby said.

Austin reiterated the U.S. commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine's forces to defend more effectively against Russian aggression, Kirby added.

In turn, Kirby said that Taran expressed gratitude for the open dialogue and continued support.

In a conversation with Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Austin underscored commitment to the U.S.-Turkish bilateral defense relationship and collective security through NATO, Kirby said.

The secretary thanked Akar for the significant role Turkey is playing as part of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and in support of the ongoing peace process there, Kirby said.

The leaders also discussed the positive diplomatic developments and efforts to reduce all tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, where the secretary welcomed ongoing exploratory talks between NATO allies Turkey and Greece and the commitment of both governments to this process, Kirby said.

An airplane mechanic does maintenance.
Performs Maintenance
U.S. Army Spc. Mario Alonzo, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter mechanic assigned to Charlie Company, 5th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade “Phantoms,” performs maintenance on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 15, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Cook
VIRIN: 210315-F-BQ566-1002M

In addition, Austin highlighted cooperation among allies and partners in the Black Sea region, including recent exercises that comprised U.S. Navy and Turkish naval assets, Kirby said.

And Austin and Akar discussed the instability along NATO's eastern and southern flanks, including challenges posed by Russia, he said.

Kirby said Austin noted the importance of working to strengthen U.S-Turkey military-to-military cooperation, and he urged Turkey not to retain the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

In a conversation with Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Austin reaffirmed the strong and deepening security partnership between the United States and Greece, Kirby said.

Austin thanked Panagiotopoulos for hosting U.S. forces at Souda Bay in Crete and expressed appreciation for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's visit to the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower on March 23, Kirby said.

The secretary highlighted strong bilateral defense cooperation marked by an expansion of the presence of the United States in Greece during the past year and the homeporting of the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams expeditionary mobile base at Souda Bay, he said.

Sailors in a line pull a rope on the deck of a ship.
In-Line Heave
Sailors heave in line aboard the USS Mitscher as the ship prepares to depart Souda Bay, Greece, March 24, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kaleb Sarten
VIRIN: 210324-N-QD512-1024C

Austin also noted that "our deepening relationship is a dividend of the 2019 update of the U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement," Kirby said.

In addition, Kirby said the two leaders discussed the positive diplomatic developments and efforts to reduce tensions in the eastern Mediterranean; the secretary welcomed ongoing exploratory talks between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and the commitment of both governments to this process.

Kirby added that the two leaders committed to being vigilant regarding threats to stability in NATO's southern flank, including from Russian malign influence.