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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcomes Slovak Minister of Defence Jaroslav Nad' to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Minister Nad', it's great to see you again. We were both in Brussels a few days ago for the NATO defense ministerial, and it's a real pleasure to welcome you back to the Pentagon.

I am especially pleased that we're meeting on the 28th of October, which is the same day in 1918 when Slovaks and Czechs declared their independence from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. And as you know, that declaration was strongly supported by the United States. So happy Independence Day.


SEC. AUSTIN: We've been modern partners as well. Since 1993, the U.S. cooperation with an independent Slovakia has deepened through our work together at NATO in the National Guard State Partnership Program with Indiana and in joint operations. Our cooperation also includes tackling common challenges like the pandemic and countering hybrid -- hybrid threats.

And I especially want to thank Slovakia for its contributions in Afghanistan. We will always be grateful to the brave Slovak troops who've fought and fallen alongside us. We're also deeply grateful for your help during our historic recent airlift. This vital humanitarian mission wouldn't have been possible without our allies and partners, including the support from Slovak military aircraft and forces. The lives that we're able to save together underscore the importance of allied investments, and of NATO's ability to project power.

Slovakia today is a sovereign NATO ally and it stands up for values that we share, and Slovakia is increasing its defense spending, modernizing its military, and enhancing its interoperability with NATO. We're proud to be partners with you on F-16s and Black Hawks and we're looking forward to exploring future defense industry cooperation in other areas to support NATO's capability targets.

And so, Mr. Minister, I'm looking forward to working with you to deepen our defense ties with Slovakia, including through an updated bilateral legal framework. So again, thanks for making the trip. It's great to see you again, and I'm sure we're going to have a great discussion. Over to you, sir.

MIN. NAD': Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It is my distinguished pleasure to be here and to have this opportunity to meet you personally here in the Pentagon and to take stock of the ever-deeper partnership between Slovakia and the United States. As I have written to your guest book, we are partners, we are friends and we are allies, and this cooperation between our countries is long.

As you have mentioned today is the anniversary of the declared independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918. We do commemorate the instrumental roles of Czech and Slovak communities here in the United States, but also to President Wilson, who played in the process of the foundation of Czechoslovakia.

And as you have mentioned, since 1993, the cooperation between our countries is really extensive. You have played a -- a key role in Slovakia's entry into NATO, and you are a key partner and ally in the organization of our armed forces. Thank you. Thank you for that.

Yes, we are looking forward to -- to deliver on defense cooperation initiatives that are ongoing, and to move together for new opportunities between our countries to develop this strategic partnership that we have.

One of Slovakia's core priorities is bolstering whole-of-government approach for countering hybrid threats, including cyber, including espionage, including fake news and other areas. We look forward to enhanced consultation with the United States in these key domains.

When it comes to Afghanistan, we'd like to echo you, your warm words by saying that we are also grateful for the invaluable support that we have received from your side in Afghanistan not only through our 20 years of our cooperation in theater, but mostly in the evacuation operations, evacuation of our citizens, partners and to all the staff, working shoulder-to-shoulder with your forces in Afghanistan, the same thing that actually was happening over 20 years in that country.

Thank you, Secretary Austin. I'm looking forward to our discussion and cooperation.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Minister Nad'.