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Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Dr. Mara Karlin's Virtual Remarks at the Black Sea and Balkans Forum

Although I am unable to join you in Bucharest, I appreciate the opportunity to virtually address this distinguished group. I will share a few words about how the United States views the strategic importance of the Black Sea region, the challenges we are facing, and what the United States is doing to address those challenges in close partnership with our Allies and partners.

First and foremost, the Black Sea region is an area of critical geostrategic importance. It links Europe to the Middle East and beyond, and it is a key node for transit infrastructure and energy resources.  It is also a key frontline for transatlantic security. Today, it is the site of the largest conflict in Europe since World War II. Europe and the world's response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is nothing short of extraordinary.  Together, we must continue to impose costs on Russia for violating the core principles upholding global peace and security by seeking to change the borders of a sovereign country by force.  

As many observers have noted, Vladmir Putin did not expect the robust U.S. and NATO response across the Eastern Flank, Germany's new defense posture, and the accession of Finland - and soon Sweden - to the Alliance.  

The Secretary Austin-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group of some 50 nations has garnered international support for Ukraine, resulting in more than $55 billion in lethal assistance. This "community of action" has facilitated an unprecedented level of cooperation to meet Ukraine's immediate and longer-term needs. Allies have doubled NATO's battlegroups on the Eastern Flank – to a total of eight – supporting a strong deterrence and defense from the Baltic to the Black Sea. 

Romania's leadership in Black Sea security has been critical to advancing NATO priorities. I had the privilege of seeing firsthand just how much Romania does when I visited last fall.  We are especially grateful to Romania for hosting an increased U.S. and Allied rotational presence - from Deveselu to MK Air Base - to defend NATO's Eastern Flank and the Black Sea region across all domains.   

We continue to encourage deeper cooperation among Black Sea Allies and partners to deter and defend against Russia's ongoing aggression in Ukraine and the broader Black Sea region. This cooperation includes further efforts to increase information sharing to build common awareness in the maritime domain and beyond.   

The United States and our Allies and partners are committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes.  Ukraine will continue to require the steadfast support of the international community to protect its skies and regain sovereign territory.  There is a stark contrast between the immense support for Ukraine on one hand and Russia's isolation on the international stage on the other.   

Our approach to these challenges is guided by the United States National Defense Strategy, which was released last year, for the first time, in an integrated way with the Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review. This has led to more seamless approaches to deterrence and risk management, and a tighter linkage between the Department of Defense's strategy and resources. 

The central premise of our defense strategy is the urgent need for the United States to sustain and strengthen deterrence, with the pacing challenge from the Peoples Republic of China, and the acute threat from Russia. In dealing with these challenges, the National Defense Strategy identifies Allies and partners as its "center of gravity." It is a call to action for breaking down barriers to working with Allies and partners on common objectives.  

As part of our implementation, we are working to closely align U.S. and Allied defense strategies.  We are aligning our activities across all theaters, domains, and throughout the full spectrum of conflict to allow each stakeholder to bring their comparative advantage.  Our robust cooperation surrounding the war in Ukraine is a profound example of our strategy coming to life, as we work across the U.S. government and our Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with asymmetric capabilities to support its self-defense.  

In line with our strategy, in the Black Sea region, the United States will continue to work with NATO Allies to advance military modernization to address Russia's military threat, including through enhanced posture and exercises to improve security and prosperity for the region. The security of the Black Sea region will require a common approach to the threats. Specifically, we must strengthen defensive anti-access/area-denial capabilities; indications and warnings; readiness through joint training and exercises; and resilience, including against gray zone and cyber actions. 

Our security environment – in the Black Sea and beyond – continues to evolve, fueled by not only aggressive behavior from Russia and the PRC, but also the rapid pace of emerging technologies, climate change, epidemics, and other global challenges. With our clear and focused strategy, and in lock step with our Allies and partners, we are acting to meet the moment today. Together, we will shape a safer and more just world for generations to come.  

Thank you to the Romanian Ministry of National Defense and the New Strategy Center for organizing today's event, their continued partnership, and all their efforts on these important issues. I wish you productive debates in the remainder of the program.