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Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 23rd Ukraine Defense Contact Group (As Delivered)

Good morning, everyone. It's great to see you all again. Thanks for joining us for the twenty-third meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

I'm glad that we're joined again by our partners from Ukraine. Minister Umerov and your teammates, thanks for being here.

As we gather this morning, Ukraine's forces are in a tough fight. In Kharkiv and elsewhere, the Kremlin continues to intensify its bombardment of Ukraine's cities and civilians. And Ukraine urgently needs more air-defense capabilities to defend its skies.

But the Ukrainian people remain resilient and unbowed. And Ukraine's forces continue to impress the world with their skill and their grit.  

Ukrainian forces are fending off Russia's new offensive in the Kharkiv region, and holding strong on the frontlines in Ukraine's east and south.

It has been 840 days since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And Ukraine's defenders have inflicted staggering losses on the Russian invaders.

Since Putin's full-scale invasion in February 2022, at least 350,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded. Ukrainian forces have sunk, destroyed, or damaged 24 Russian vessels in the Black Sea. And since September of last year — just before the Kremlin began its renewed offensive — Russia has lost more than 2,600 combat vehicles across the front lines in Ukraine. As Russian invaders moved forward west of Avdiivka, they lost more than 160 combat vehicles there in May alone.

So that's just another reminder of the price that Russia has paid for Putin's imperial ambitions. And it's another reminder of Ukraine's determination.

And make no mistake. Ukraine's partners around the world have its back.

Now, it's been nearly two months since President Biden signed the national-security supplemental. The United States is continuing to deliver urgently needed security assistance through more presidential drawdown packages. Since the supplemental became law, the United States has already delivered tens of thousands of artillery rounds, thousands of anti-tank mines, hundreds of GMLRS and anti-tank weapons, and more air-defense capabilities to help Ukraine repel Russian forces near Kharkiv.

President Biden also announced a new package of drawdown assistance that will provide Ukraine with more air-defense interceptors, armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and artillery systems and munitions.

I am proud that this Contact Group has committed more than 98 billion dollars in security assistance to Ukraine since February 2022. And this coalition continues to find innovative and sustainable ways to rush in critical capabilities to meet Ukraine's most pressing needs.

Let me highlight just a few of them. I'm grateful to Sweden for announcing its largest military assistance package yet — worth approximately $1.23 billion. That includes two Airborne Surveillance and Control aircraft, which will be critical for Ukraine's long-range air surveillance.

I'm also grateful to our hosts in Belgium, who have committed to deliver 30 F-16 fighters to Ukraine by 2028, as well as an additional $1 billion in military aid this year.

And I'd like to thank Spain for its recent pledge of more air-defense missiles.

And so countries are moving at flank speed to get Ukraine the capabilities that it so urgently needs. And we must keep doing so. We must keep finding new solutions, especially for Ukraine's air-defense challenges.

And we'll continue to support Ukraine's long-term security. And you can see that in Ukraine's new bilateral security agreements with Belgium, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

This Contact Group is also supporting Ukraine's work to strengthen and modernize its forces for the long haul. The eight Capability Coalitions provide a practical, nimble mechanism for allies and partners to do just that. I'm grateful for the Coalition Leadership Group's work to drive progress across each Capability Coalition. And just yesterday, the Coalition Leadership Group met to discuss the next steps to meet both Ukraine's short-term needs and its long-term requirements.

And I look forward to hearing updates today from the drone coalition. The drone coalition is working to help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression today and deter Russian aggression tomorrow.

For its long-term security, Ukraine needs a robust, effective, and self-reliant defense industry. So the United States is working closely with this Contact Group to strengthen Ukraine's defense industry and to foster joint projects.

Now, we've got a lot of work ahead. And fortunately, support for Ukraine is growing, and not waning.

In fact, I'm pleased to welcome Argentina as a new member. Minister Petri, I'm glad to have you with us.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a critical moment. The stakes of this war are high. Ukraine's survival is on the line. But so is all of our security. None of us would want to live in a world where Putin prevails. And we would all be less secure if tyrants think that they can trample borders and cow their neighbors.

So we've got a lot to do. But I am confident that this coalition will continue to rise to the challenge.

Again, thanks for being here today.

And with that, we'll all pause for a moment while our friends in the media depart. Thank you.