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Secretary Austin's Opening Remarks at the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group, Ramstein Air Base, Germany (As Prepared)

Good morning. It’s an honor to be here with you all. 

Thank you all for rallying so quickly for this historic meeting of the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group. It’s an extraordinary gathering, with more than 40 countries represented here today. 

We’re here to help Ukraine win the fight against Russia’s unjust invasion—and to build up Ukraine’s defenses for tomorrow’s challenges. 

As you know, I came here after traveling to Kyiv with my friend, Secretary of State Blinken. We had a warm, candid, and productive discussion with President Zelenskyy and his team about the support that we’re providing, the capabilities that Ukraine needs, and Ukraine’s changing requirements as the battle shifts to the Donbas and the south. 

That visit only underscored my sense of urgency—an urgency that I know we all share. So I’d like this whole group to leave today with a common, transparent understanding of Ukraine’s near-term security requirements—because we’re going to keep on moving heaven and earth to meet them. 

And as you’ll hear from General Wolters, the coordination mechanism that we have in place can become even stronger, with all of your help. 

And we can do more through our defense industrial bases to continue to help Ukraine defend itself even more capably.

Now, we’re joined today by my dear friend, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Reznikov. We’re honored to have you and your team with us. 

We’re all here because of Ukraine’s courage, because of the innocent civilians who have been killed, and because of the suffering that your people still endure. 

Your country has been ravaged. Your hospitals have been bombed. Your citizens have been executed. Your children have been traumatized. 

But Ukraine has done a magnificent job defending its sovereignty against Russia’s unprovoked invasion. And Ukraine’s valor and skill will go down in military history. 

You know, the Battle of Iwo Jima took 36 days. The Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days. And Ukraine has now beaten back the Russian military for 62 days. 

Your resistance has brought inspiration to the free world, even greater resolve to NATO, and glory to Ukraine. 

We’ve provided our assistance at record speed. And the whole world can see the difference that’s making on the battlefield. 

Putin never imagined that the world would rally behind Ukraine so swiftly and surely.

After Russia’s defeat at the Battle of Kyiv, the war is now entering a new phase. But nobody is fooled by Putin’s pretexts or his phony claims on the Donbas. 

So let’s be clear. Russia’s invasion is indefensible. And so are Russian atrocities.

We all start today from a position of moral clarity. Russia is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man. Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity to defend its democracy, its sovereignty, and its citizens. 

But the stakes stretch beyond Ukraine—and even beyond Europe. 

Russia’s invasion is baseless, reckless, and lawless. It is an affront to the rules-based international order. It is a challenge to free people everywhere. 

As we see this morning, nations of goodwill from around the world stand united in our resolve to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s imperial aggression. And that’s the way it should be. 

This gathering reflects a galvanized world. Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, more than 30 of our Allies and partners from across the globe have joined the United States to rush security assistance to Ukraine. 

Together, we have committed more than $5 billion dollars of equipment to support Ukraine’s self-defense. That includes some $3.7 billion dollars that President Biden has committed to help Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began. 

My trip to Kyiv reinforced my admiration for the way that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are deploying these capabilities. 

Ukraine clearly believes that it can win. And so does everyone here. 

Now, to inform our common understanding of the situation, you’ll be hearing later from several of my teammates, including our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley. And I look forward to hearing from you all. 

I know we’re all determined to do everything that we can to meet Ukraine’s needs as the fight evolves. And that includes talking today about a framework for continuing to work together and look ahead.

We have much more to do. 

Ukraine needs our help to win today. And they will still need our help when the war is over.  

As President Biden says, our security assistance has gone “directly to the frontlines of freedom—to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters who are standing in the breach.” 

My Ukrainian friends: we know the burden that all of you carry. And you should know that all of us have your back. 

And that’s why we’re here today—to help strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy. 

I’m proud to be here with you all. And I’m looking forward to our vital discussions. 

Let me now turn to my friend, Minister Reznikov, for his opening remarks.