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U.S., Italian Defense Leaders Discuss Shared Interests, Concerns for Ukraine

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. 

Two men shake hands.
Bilateral Handshake
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini engage in a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., July 14, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 220714-D-WA993-4002

"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. 

U.S., Romanian, Italian and British aircraft fly in formation.
In Formation
A U.S. Air Force F-16 flies in formation with a Romanian air force F-16 Fighting Falcon, an Italian air force Typhoon and a British Royal air force Typhoon over Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, April 8, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Maeson Elleman
VIRIN: 220408-F-LH638-1085M

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. 

People in civilian attire are gathered around a large table. In the rear are members of the media. National flags are in the background.
At the Table
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini engage in a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon, July 14, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 220714-D-WA993-3004

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. 

Three large military ships move through the sea.
Ionian Sea Three
The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour transit the Ionian Sea in formation, March 17, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bela Chambers
VIRIN: 220317-N-DH793-1581R
U.S., Italian and Spanish vessels transit a body of water.
Neptune Shield
The USS Harry S. Truman, center, and the USS San Jacinto, lower left, transit alongside the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour and other Italian and Spanish vessels during Neptune Shield in the Adriatic Sea, May 31, 2022. Neptune Shield 22 involves NATO's ability to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group, an amphibious ready group and a Marine expeditionary unit to support the alliance’s defense.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Crayton Agnew
VIRIN: 220531-N-DN159-1612M

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." 

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