SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Buon giorno.
ITALIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE LORENZO GUERINI: Good morning.
SEC. AUSTIN: Good morning, everybody, and thank you for joining us today.
Minister Guerini, I'm delighted to host you again at the Pentagon. And it's great to see you again after the NATO Summit in Madrid and our numerous meetings that we've had this year. The great thing about having a number of meetings is that we've gotten to know each other better as ministers of defense.
Our meeting today underscores the importance of our transatlantic relationships to our shared unity and security. And that's especially crucial as Ukraine continues to fight back against Russia's unprovoked and unjust invasion.
So, Mr. Minister, I want to thank you for everything that you're doing to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's indefensible assault on its peaceful neighbor.
We deeply appreciate the security assistance that Italy has provided and the deployments of your forces to NATO's Eastern Flank. I am very proud of our strong and longstanding bilateral defense relationship with your country. Italy is a gracious host to our forces, U.S. forces, and you're one of our closest Allies and security partners in missions around the world.
Italy makes impressive contributions to international security, especially Italy's extensive out-of-area deployments. In May, Italy took command of the NATO mission in Iraq, and it will resume command of KFOR this fall.
Your military's presence in the Baltics, Romania, Iceland, Lebanon, and in several countries in Africa, demonstrates again that Italy is one of Europe's most reliable security providers.
So, I look forward today to a robust discussion on many of these issues, as well as our cooperation in Africa, where Italy continues to work for peace and security.
Again, Lorenzo, thanks for making the trip. I sincerely hope that it will be a productive visit. We are delighted to host you again. So, over to you, sir.
MIN. GUERINI (TRANSLATED): Dear Lloyd, Mr. Secretary, thank you for this new meeting here in Washington which follows my official visit last year and the numerous meetings we had this year, especially the last one, which is the Madrid Summit.
I am here to (inaudible) the historical relation between our countries, which sees one of its strongholds in the sector of defense. And I'm certain of our common willingness to further enforce it, especially at this time when war is again ravaging in Europe and the international order has been wounded by Moscow's unjustified aggression against a sovereign state.
Dear Lloyd, let me express my gratitude for your leadership of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which contributes in a decisive way to supporting (inaudible) defense in Ukraine, allowing a coordination between our contributing countries which would have been otherwise impossible.
In this regard, Italy is playing its part in providing assistance to Ukraine. So far, we have already delivered three packages of equipment, including some of absolute relevance. And we will continue to do so in close synergy with Allied countries, starting from the United States.
Italy is equally committed in contributing to strengthening the NATO deterrence and defense posture on the Eastern Flank. In this regard, in addition to what we are already doing, the Italian armed forces are ready to send further units in order to strengthen the defense of our Allies on the Eastern Flank.
NATO is even stronger after the Madrid Summit, where we have made important decisions such as 360-degree strategic flexibility. Within this framework, Italy welcomed and fully shared the confirmed centrality of the Southern Flank.
And it is on the Southern Flank, both within European Union and a NATO framework, that Italy intends to play a protagonist role, starting from the Mediterranean, to safeguard our relevant common security interests, which are also connected with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
In this regard, we recently saw a picture of the U.S. and Italian naval groups with the carriers Truman and Cavour navigating side by side in the Mediterranean. This image gives the image of our friendship better than any speech could do, and of the special relation between the United States and Italy, as well as underscoring the importance of the Southern Flank.
Beside military cooperation, I would like to reaffirm the value of industrial cooperation, where Italy and the United States can build a solid relationship in all sectors.
So, Lloyd, thank you for this further opportunity to meet with you, because we have important things to discuss, and we will do it building on the solidity of our common work to contribute to protecting and ensuring international order. And thanks to the United States for what they did, what they are doing, and what they will do to contribute to peace and to international order.
SEC. AUSTIN: Again, Lorenzo, we're delighted to -- to host you. You are a great partner. I look forward to a great discussion here.