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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Well, good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us.  Minister Reznikov, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon.  Let me offer our congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister of Defense.  I look forward to working with you and to continuing our close cooperation on defense and security issues.

The recently signed U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework created a foundation for strengthening our strategic defense partnership.  I look forward to discussing how we can implement that framework to continue to advance our shared priority -- to counter Russian aggression -- and to deepen our cooperation on such areas as Black Sea security, cyber defense and intel sharing.

Of course, our meeting comes at -- at -- at an important time.  Like you, we are monitoring closely recent Russian military movements near your borders and we've made clear our concerns about Russia's destabilizing activities and our desire for more transparency.

I just -- would just like to say a few things.  First, we'll continue to consult with you, as well as our partners and Allies, in the region about what we're -- what we're all seeing and about how best to promote regional security.

Now, second, I want to reassure you, as President Biden has said to President Zelenskyy, our support for Ukraine's self-defense, sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering.

Third, we remain committed to supporting Ukraine's efforts to implement deep and comprehensive reforms in its defense sector -- sector.  We know that's hard work but doing it is key to Ukraine achieving its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

And Mr. Minister, I look forward to working closely with you to build on the strategic defense partnership between our two proud countries, and let me thank you again for being here.

MINISTER OF DEFENSE OLEKSII REZNIKOV:  Dear Secretary of Defense Mr. Austin, dear ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to the U.S. side and to my colleague, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, for the opportunity to hold this meeting.  It is pleasure to have the first visit as the Minister of Defense to Washington D.C.

Ukraine appreciates the strategic relations with the U.S. and the assistance of the American people in countering Russian aggression.  We are determined to develop our partnership and this visit is held at a time when the whole world is observing a hybrid attack, using migrants on the Poland and the Baltic countries.

My country has been repelling waves of Russian’s hybrid aggression for eight years.  We appreciate the full efforts of the United States to draw attention to the next phase of military preparations around Ukraine made by Moscow.  We have the same assessment about the dangerous potential of these threats, and we would like to discuss what the answer might be.

In Ukraine, we are well aware that Russia may resort to escalation at any time, and we are ready to defend our country and the future of our children.  This possible escalation will certainly have catastrophic consequences for whole of Europe.  Whether it will take place depends on -- depends to a large extent on the unity and determination of the civilized world to stop the aggression -- aggressor.  The Kremlin has hide-and-seek words.  Words of concern and calls for dialogue are hard to hear there, but they understand the actions, especially proactive.  This is like a kind of vaccination against a dangerous virus of aggression which mutates and brings the world back to a state of Cold War.

Therefore, I would like to thank the United States once again for its effective support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity -- integrity within internationally recognized borders.

(THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  I'm grateful to the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Austin, for this possibility to have this meeting.  One of the priorities for me as a Minister of Defense of Ukraine is to comprehensively develop the cooperation with the United States, including through the provision of a substance to such framework agreements and other agreements (inaudible).

Today, I would like to inform our American colleagues about the line of efforts we have identified.  It is very essential in order to achieve a synergy between the defense forces agencies.  Our defense agencies and intelligence agencies are in continuous contact, and share the information.  And as for today, we have the same estimation of strengths and risks around Ukraine and close to its borders, eastern and southern borders of Ukraine.  Hundreds attacks on Poland and Lithuania using migrants is another for the example that Europe is in danger.   Ukraine deters these aggressions already eight years, and we are grateful to U.S. side for calling attention to these facts, that Russians is getting ready for the next phase of attack, and the signal from U.S. will give a signal to the whole civilized world that we should unite against Russian aggression.  As for today, aggressor uses hybrid type of weapons, including energy, women and children, cyberspace, and aggressor will never stop if we do not stop him.

And once again, Secretary, I would like to thank you and the whole American people for their provided support to Ukraine.  Thank you very much.

SEC. AUSTIN:  Thank you very much, and again, welcome.