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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Introducing President Zelenskyy of Ukraine

Good afternoon, everybody. 

Thanks for being here. 

Lieutenant General Plehn, thanks for that kind introduction, and for all that you do for this outstanding institution of higher learning. 

And thanks to you and the whole team at National Defense University for hosting all of us today—and, I should add, on pretty short notice. 


It's great to see General C.Q. Brown and other Department leaders here today. 

Mister President, welcome back to Washington. 


It is an honor to have you with us today, and we're especially moved to have you here at NDU. 

We've got a lot of students and future leaders in the audience. 

And we also have some proud students from Ukraine. Where are you?


And they're going to all remember this day for a long time. 

Mister President, I think you know that NDU's mission is to educate our joint warfighters and other defense leaders in the type of rigorous critical thinking that we need in this time of testing. 

And I think that the entire NDU faculty will tell you this: So long as free people seek to defend their rights and their sovereignty, students here will study the example of Ukraine. 


This is an institution that teaches leadership. 

And Mister President, you are living proof that a single person's leadership can help rally an embattled democracy, and inspire the free world, and change the course of history. 


We are here today for a simple reason. 

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched an unprovoked, all-out invasion of Ukraine. 

And over nearly two years of atrocity and aggression, Putin has continued to wage his reckless and lawless war of choice. 

Mister President, Ukraine's fight for freedom is one of the great causes of our time. 

And the United States is proud to stand with you. 

And make no mistake. 

America's commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression is unshakeable. 


Ukraine matters profoundly to America's security, and to the trajectory of global security in the 21st century. 

That's why the United States has committed more than $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine's brave defenders.

And together with President Zelenskyy and his team, we have rallied a historic coalition of some 50 allies and partners.

And our friends and allies have contributed more than $37 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. 

And the capabilities from our coalition are making a crucial difference on the battlefield.

Ukraine has taken back more than half of the territory grabbed by Russia since February 2022. 


And the Russian military has been badly weakened. 

You know, Putin tried to demoralize the Ukrainian people. 

Instead, Putin demoralized the Russian military. 

So together with our allies and partners, we are determined to help Ukraine consolidate and extend its battlefield gains, and to build a future force that can ward off Russian aggression in the years ahead. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. King once said that, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 

We are living in just such a time. 

And we must all decide on where we stand. 

So we are determined to help Ukraine fight to defend its territory and its citizens. 

We are determined to deter Russia from any further aggression—including against our NATO allies. 

And we are determined to show the world that America will not flinch in our defense of freedom. 


If we do not stand up to the Kremlin's aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite more aggression, more bloodshed, and more chaos. 

America will be more secure if we stand up to Putin's increasingly aggressive Russia. 

America will be more secure if we stand up for our bedrock values.

And America will be more secure if we make it clear to would-be aggressors worldwide that they do not get to decide which countries live or which countries die. 

Now, despite his crimes and despite his isolation, Putin still believes that he can outlast Ukraine, and that he can outlast America. 

But he is wrong.

Mister President, ladies and gentlemen, America's commitments must be honored. 

America's security must be defended. 

And America's word must be kept. 


Mister President, we last saw each other a few weeks ago on my most recent trip to Kyiv.

And in your capital city, I saw firsthand the determination of Ukraine's outstanding troops, and the resilience of the Ukrainian people. 

And on this visit to America's capital, I hope that you will meet a similar spirit of fortitude and resolve. 

So Mister President, thank you so much for being here with us today. 

And the floor is yours.