U.S. and Albanian defense leaders met today at the Pentagon to make a strong bilateral alliance even stronger.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Defense Minister Niko Peleshi met as the two nations marked the 30th year of their nations' defense relationship.
The men last spoke during the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Ramstein Air Base last week. Albania, a NATO ally, is providing aid to Ukraine as the country battles against Russian invaders.
"Over the past three decades, our relationship has only deepened," Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. "Our forces train and exercise together. They work alongside each other in coalition operations.”
Albanian troops have served alongside U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq and Latvia. "More recently, we appreciate Albania[‘s] support and hosting Defender Europe '21,"Austin said.
The secretary also said he appreciated that Albania has volunteered to host Defender Europe '23.
"We're meeting at a critical time for European security," the secretary said. "Last week's contact group underscored the importance of moving urgently to strengthen Ukraine against Russian aggression and to strengthen our shared security."
Austin thanked the Albanian minister for the lethal and humanitarian aid his country is providing Ukraine. Albania is also deploying forces to bolster NATO's defense in the East.
Peleshi told Austin his country is proud to be a member of NATO and an ally of the United States. He said his country wants to do what is needed. "We have been very active in international missions, NATO missions, U.N. missions and operations because we want to deserve being an ally of the great, most powerful political alliance," he said.