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

Good morning, everyone. It's great to see you all at our eighth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Together, we're starting a new year with renewed resolve to support the brave defenders of Ukraine. And I know that this meeting will only strengthen our unity and our drive.

We're honored to be joined virtually today by President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. And so we'll hear from him in just a few minutes. 

We're also joined here in person by my good friend, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov. 

And let me also welcome Ukraine's Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk.  

It's great to have all these brave leaders with us. Let's give them all a round of applause.


Now, I know that everyone here was deeply saddened by the helicopter crash on Wednesday just outside of Kyiv that took the lives of more than a dozen people, including Ukraine's interior minister. So let me express my deep condolences to our Ukrainian friends here today—and to all of the families in mourning after this tragic crash. 

We're meeting at a turbulent time. 

But, if you look around this table, you see the resolve and the unity of this Contact Group. 

Some 50 countries have stepped up to help Ukraine defend itself and deter future threats. 

When Putin launched his reckless and unprovoked invasion 11 months ago, he thought that Ukraine would just collapse.

And he thought that the world would just look away.

But Putin didn't count on the courage of the Ukrainian people.

And he didn't count on the skill of the Ukrainian military. 

And he didn't count on you—on everyone on-screen and around this table. 

But we need to keep up our momentum and resolve. And we need to dig even deeper. 

This is a decisive moment for Ukraine, in a decisive decade for the world. 

So make no mistake. We will support Ukraine's self-defense for as long as it takes.

Now, we know that Russia remains bent on aggression and conquest. And Russian forces have increased their horrific attacks, killing many innocent Ukrainians.

We saw the cruelty of Russia's war of choice again just a few days ago in the city of Dnipro. A Russian missile strike ripped into an apartment building, killing at least 46 civilians, including children. 

The Kremlin's forces continue to bombard Ukraine's cities and citizens. 

And Russian forces have targeted power plants, theaters, sports arenas, and centers of Ukrainian history and culture. 

Russia's attacks are designed to break the spirit of Ukraine. 

But they have failed. 

And the people of Ukraine have inspired the world. 

Meanwhile, Russia is running out of ammunition. It's suffering significant battle losses. And it's turning to its few remaining partners to resupply its tragic and unnecessary invasion. 

And even Iran and North Korea won't admit that they are supplying Russia.

Just compare that to the groundswell of support for a free and sovereign Ukraine represented in this room. 

I'm especially proud that the United States has greatly increased its security assistance to Ukraine. 

Last month, the United States announced that we will provide a Patriot air-defense battery and associated munitions. 

We also included Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and other armored vehicles in that major package of security assistance.

And today, I'm pleased to announce another major new round of U.S. security assistance that helps to meet Ukraine's most urgent battlefield needs. 

This new security assistance package is worth up to $2.5 billion—and it's one of the largest yet. 

It brings total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to more than $26.7 billion since Russia's unprovoked invasion last February.

Our new package provides even more air-defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its cities and its skies. 

And that includes NASAMS munitions and eight Avenger air-defense systems.

This new assistance package also helps meet Ukraine's urgent need for armor and combat vehicles. 

So we're providing 59 more Bradleys, 90 Strykers, 53 MRAPs, and 350 up-armored Humvees. 

And this new package will also provide thousands more rounds of artillery. 

So the United States remains determined to lead and to do our part to help Ukraine defend itself. 

Now, the United States will also provide Ukrainian forces with combined arms and joint maneuver training. 

And this training will work in concert with efforts by the European Union and others. 

And as the United States increases our support on multiple fronts, we're also prioritizing accountability, with cooperation from the Ukrainian forces. 

And we're proud to stand together with our valued allies and partners to support Ukraine's self-defense. 

Poland has been a leader in providing armored vehicles, in training Ukrainian forces, and in providing shelter for Ukrainian refugees.

Our German hosts have announced that they will also provide a Patriot air-defense system for Ukraine, complementing our own Patriot contribution. 

Germany will also donate Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles for Ukraine. 

Last week, Canada announced that it would provide a NASAMS air-defense system to Ukraine. And that's a major investment in Ukraine's ability to defend its skies.  

France also announced a significant donation of AMX-10 light tanks. 

And many European countries have announced their own training initiatives, as part of the EU's Military Assistance Mission to Ukraine.

These announcements, especially on air-defense donations, are direct results of this Contact Group.

And today, we will continue our important work together. 

Our Ukrainian friends will discuss the situation on the ground and their most urgent needs, especially air defense and armored vehicles. 

And then we'll discuss our complementary training initiatives. 

We'll also get an update on ways to energize the industrial base, coming out of the National Armaments Directors' meeting. 

Finally, we'll hear from many of the countries here today about your ongoing support for Ukraine's self-defense.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a crucial moment. 

Russia is regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip. 

This is not a moment to slow down. It's a time to dig deeper.

The Ukrainian people are watching us. The Kremlin is watching us. And history is watching us. 

So we won't let up.

And we won't waver in our determination to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's imperial aggression. 

Now, we're honored to have a special guest with us today: President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.

His leadership and grace under fire have inspired the Ukrainian people—and everyone in this room.

He embodies the spirit of Ukraine.

And as he told our Congress last month, "Ukraine is alive and kicking." 

So Mr. President, let me turn it over to you to share your message with this Contact Group. And thank you so much for joining us. Over to you, Mr. President.

[President Zelenskyy delivers remarks on-screen]


Thank you, Mr. President.

I hope you know that we will continue to stand up for Ukraine's right to defend itself. 

We'll continue to stand up for the principle that borders may not be redrawn by force. 

And we will continue to stand up for an open world of rules, rights, and responsibilities. 

Again, thank you for being here today. 

Now, as always, we're going to pause for a minute while our friends in the media depart. Thank you.