Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted a visit by Italian Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini today at the Pentagon. The two defense leaders discussed the U.S. and Italian defense relationship, mutual concerns over Russia's actions in Ukraine and shared interests outside of Europe, such as operations in Africa.
"Our meeting today underscores the importance of our transatlantic relationships to our shared unity and security," Austin told Guerini. "That's especially crucial as Ukraine continues to fight back against Russia's unprovoked and unjust invasion ... I want to thank you for everything that you're doing to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's indefensible assault on its peaceful neighbor."
Austin also noted Italy's contributions outside the scope of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such as taking the lead on the NATO mission in Iraq in May 2022, and taking the helm of the Kosovo Force mission again this fall.
"Your military's presence in the Baltics, Romania, Iceland, Lebanon and in several countries in Africa, demonstrates again that Italy is one of Europe's most reliable security providers," Austin told the Italian defense leader.
Guerini thanked Austin for leading the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which has met several times since its first meeting in April.
"Let me express my gratitude for your leadership of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which contributes in a decisive way to supporting resistance in Ukraine, allowing a coordination between all contributing countries which would have been otherwise impossible," Guerini said.
The Italian defense leader said Italy has played an important role in helping Ukraine defend its sovereignty against Russia's illegal invasion of their country.
"So far we have already delivered three packages of equipment, including some of absolute relevance, and we will continue to do so in close synergy with allied countries, starting from the United States," he said.
The Italian military has expressed willingness to further contribute to NATO’s defense efforts.
"In addition to what we are already doing, the Italian armed forces are ready to send further units in order to strengthen the defense of our allies on the eastern flank," Guerini said.
Italy is also committed to the southern flank of NATO defense, he said, noting that decisions made during the recent summit in Madrid ensured a stronger NATO commitment there.
"NATO is even stronger after the Madrid Summit, where we have made important decisions such as 360-degree strategic flexibility. Within this framework, Italy welcomed and fully shared the confirmed centrality of the southern flank," he said.
It is on the southern flank, on the Mediterranean, Guerini said, where a recent photograph he and his staff had seen illustrated not only Italy's commitment to NATO, but its partnership with the U.S.
"We recently saw a picture of the U.S. and Italian naval groups with the carriers [USS Harry S.] Truman and [Italian aircraft carrier ITS] Cavour navigating side by side in the Mediterranean," he said. "This image gives the image of our friendship better than any speech could do, and of the special relation between the United States and Italy, as well as underscoring the importance of the southern flank."