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Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Good afternoon, everybody. It’s great to be with you. 

And thank you all for joining us for the third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. 

We’re here today because of our ongoing determination to get Ukraine the capabilities that it urgently needs to defend itself. 

I’m personally grateful for the significant security assistance that this Contact Group has provided thus far. 

But we can’t afford to let up. We can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high. 

Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield. We’re seeing what President Zelenskyy warned us about: after failing to take Kyiv and reassessing its combat aims, Russia has shifted its focus to the Donbas. 

And we can’t underestimate the challenge that Ukraine faces.  

Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions. And Russia continues to indiscriminately bombard Ukraine’s sovereign territory and recklessly endanger Ukrainian civilians.  

So we must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense. And we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens, and its territory.  

But make no mistake: Russia’s unprovoked and indefensible invasion isn’t just a danger to Ukraine. It’s a menace to European security. And it’s an affront to the rules-based international order that protects us all. 

So we must continue to rise to meet this challenge.

Ukraine’s soldiers and citizens are doing just that. And they are defending their homeland with resolve, grit, and ingenuity. 

They’ve inspired us all. 

And they need our help. 

So I’m honored that we’re joined again by my dear friend, Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov. I’m also glad to have Ukraine’s Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant Moisiuk*, joining us today. We’re grateful to you, President Zelenskyy, and all of Ukraine’s leaders for your bravery and determination. 

Now, Minister Reznikov and I have been in close contact about changes on the battlefield. We’re working in lockstep to meet Ukraine’s requests for new capabilities—especially its need for long-range fires, armor, and coastal defense. 

To help Ukraine defend itself, the United States has provided it with Howitzers, Javelins, and huge amounts of ammunition, UAVs, Mi-17 helicopters, counter-artillery radars, tactical vehicles, and electronic jamming equipment.

Along with our partners, we’re also training Ukrainian forces on new capabilities. 

And we’re committed to doing even more. We are providing Ukraine’s defenders with HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems. And that will significantly boost Ukraine’s capabilities—especially when combined with additional donations of NATO-standard rocket systems from the U.K. and our other allies.  

So the United States will keep doing our part. And since Russia’s invasion on the 24th of February, more than 45 Allies and partners from around the world have rushed security assistance of their own to help Ukraine defend itself. 

That’s a reflection of the global outrage over Russia’s unprovoked aggression. And it’s a reflection of global commitment to reinforcing an international order rooted in rules and respect. 

So today, I’m honored to have Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Defense from more than 45 countries with us, as well as representatives from NATO and the European Union. 

Let me give a warm welcome to Ecuador, Georgia, and Moldova, who’re joining today’s meeting of the Contact Group. 

Since our virtual meeting three weeks ago, we’ve seen important progress on several fronts. 
Allies are providing Harpoon launchers and missiles to bolster Ukraine’s coastal defense. 

The U.K. is providing M270 multiple-launch rocket systems and training to help Ukraine defend its territory in the Donbas.  

Several of our allies and partners are providing Howitzers and artillery ammunition. Ukrainian forces are now using that to defend the Donbas. 

Meanwhile, other forms of military assistance—from tanks to helicopters—continue to flow into Ukraine.

So we’ve got a lot done thus far. 

But we don’t have any time to waste. 

So we’re here to dig in our spurs. 

We’re going to deepen our support for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in today’s fight, and we’re going to build their enduring strength for tomorrow’s dangers. 

By working together, we can help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s cruel assault. 

We can strengthen Ukraine’s security for the long haul. 

And we can rally together to show that rules in fact do matter—and that might does not make right.

Thank you all for everything that you’re doing. 

And now, let me turn it over to my good friend, Minister Reznikov. 

*Editor’s Note: Lieutenant General Moisiuk