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Remarks by Secretary Mattis and President Poroshenko at the Pentagon

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
June 20, 2017
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS:  But welcome to the -- the Pentagon, Mr. President, to you and to your delegation.  I would just tell you that this is a privilege, for us to host you and your folks.  We are keenly aware of what your nation has been going through.

Our two nations, as we both know, share interests.  We also share, more importantly, a commitment, and that commitment is to the principles underlying the international order.  Words like sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom from coercion come to mind.

We do not take such freedom for granted, and we recognize that 2014 was a watershed year for security in Europe.  We also recognize the severe casualties that your people have suffered.

And even in the face of dangers from aggression, cyber attacks and more, a neighbor shredding trust, your country has shown a strong commitment to defend itself, and, frankly, against all odds.

The United States stands with you.  We support you in the face of the threats to sovereignty, to international law, or to the international order.  General Abizaid, our senior defense adviser for the Ukraine, will continue to be a resource for you -- and for me, I might add.

He is my former boss, so sometimes it's a little awkward when we are now working together, but that's good for both of us.  At least, that's what I think.  (Laughter.) 

But I appreciate very much, Mr. President, in the midst of this trip, you taking the time to come to the Pentagon and -- and to meet with us.  We've been looking forward to this for weeks now, since we got the word of your visit.  

So, again, welcome, Mr. President, and thank you for being here.

UKRANIAN PRESIDENT POROSHENKO:  Thank you very much indeed, Your Excellency.  

Mr. Secretary, this is a great honor for me and for all my delegation to be together with you in Pentagon.

I told you that it is my dream from the time when I was in the army, to be in the Pentagon.  And I think that we, together, during the last three years, do a great job.  We, together with our American partners, create a new armed forces of Ukraine, which not existed two years ago.

And now, we are not only stop the aggressor  -- we build up the third -- not the third-- the armed forces which are among top ten European army.  And for me, it is just really interesting, the priority of Ukraine and in U.S., too.   And when I sit here, here and watch, see that we are close -- (inaudible) -- events in Ukraine.

And I want to thank you for that, and especially want to thank the general, John Abizaid, because he did a great job.  He is pulling together with my armed forces.  His piece of advice is -- (inaudible).  Because of that, we are so successful.

I'm really proud that, when we are in jeopardy to have a (inaudible) in our armed forces with United States, (inaudible), to be fully integrated, very well understand each other and learn from each other.  

We shared our experience about how -- (inaudible) -- Russia.  You shared your experience with how to build an effective armed forces.  And I'm proud to inform you, Secretary, that our battalion, which come (inaudible) are significantly rising, now, their efficiency on the front line.

And we don't give up -- and we don't give any tiny piece of power left after we start our effective cooperation.  And the events in (inaudible) where the battalion of the 72nd Brigade just returned from Yavriv, effectively defend our land against Russian forces.

And -- (inaudible) -- 24th Brigade (inaudible) effectively defend our land and many others.

We keep our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our independence significantly because of effective cooperation with our strategic partner, the United States.

And I think that we can extend our cooperation, because we fight not only for our territorial integrity and independence, not only for our sovereignty.  We're fighting for freedom.  We're fighting for democracy.  We're fighting for -- (inaudible).

And this is very important role.  Our (inaudible) cooperation for my country, which are on the eastern side of the -- (off mic).

Unfortunately, after the Russian aggression in the east of my country, Russian illegal annexation of the Crimea, we live in a completely different (inaudible).  This -- it's completely ruined all postwar security system, which -- based on the Security Council -- (inaudible).

And now we are -- one of the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council -- he's an aggressor.  We should be -- (inaudible) -- a new system.

Now, we, all the time, remember our partners from United States are one of the guarantee from Budapest and London, when my country volunteered, give up the third biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, with 1,240 nuclear warheads, in exchange for -- (inaudible).

Now I'm proud to return to Ukraine, (inaudible) -- (inaudible).  Thank you very much.

SEC. MATTIS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, let me just ask, how can you reassure the American people that the U.S. isn't sleepwalking into serious civil war?

(CROSSTALK)

Q:  Mr. Secretary, can you tell us anything about the intercept over the Baltic? -

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. MATTIS:  Thanks very much, everybody.

PRES. POROSHENKO:  Look, I want to say another very important thing.  Now Ukraine spend 6 percent of our GDP on the security and defense sector.  And I think this is a very good example.  On a very -- in a short period of time, we build up an effective system to defend not only us, but the whole -- European security.

And with that situation, I think we have a very great and promising potential cooperation.  We include in our cooperation with the military and defense sector.

We are fully satisfied today, with today's meeting with the president, today's meeting with the vice president, and today's meeting with the secretary of defense.

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. MATTIS:  Thanks very much.