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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Minister Gram, it's great to see you again. We were together just a few weeks ago at Ramstein for an important meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. And it's an honor to host you here at the Pentagon at this important time for European security.

Norway is one of our most capable and longstanding allies, and we know that we can count on Norway. From the Middle East to the High North, Norway has always stood with the United States to support our shared national security interests and our shared democratic values.

Our defense relationship remains strong, both bilaterally, as - and as fellow members of NATO, and that's especially important today, in the wake of Putin's ruthless war of choice in Ukraine. Russia's invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, shameful and cruel, and the United States and Norway stand together in the face of threats to European security and the rules-based international order.

So Mr. Minister, I am glad to have the chance to thank you for everything that Norway has done to rush security assistance and humanitarian aid to the brave and embattled people of Ukraine. We especially appreciate Norway's cooperation to provide NASAMS air defense capabilities to Ukraine, and that effort will make a massive difference to Ukraine's self-defense.

I'm also mindful of the crucial role that Norway plays as NATO's eyes and ears in the Arctic. Your support - or you support the entire alliance with efforts like Exercise Cold Response, which wrapped up its ninth edition this March.

And I want to thank you for the assistance of the Norwegian government and people in - in responding to the tragic crash of a V-22 Osprey in this year's exercise, which claimed the lives of four brave Marines. 

So Mr. Minister, thanks for all you're doing for our shared security and thanks again for making the trip and I look forward to a great discussion.

DEFENSE MINISTER BJØRN ARILD GRAM: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you so much and it's a great honor to meet you and your team here at the Pentagon. The United States is Norway's most important ally. And as you said, we are in the middle of war in Europe. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unacceptable and the Norwegian government fully supports the people of Ukraine in their resistance and fight for freedom, and we try to contribute with different kinds of donations to help them, and we'll continue to do so. And Russia cannot win this.

And the U.S. leadership of the coalition to support Ukraine is greatly appreciated and facilitates a strong and well-coordinated international effort. And I often - also want to say, on a more personal note, a thank you to you, Mr. Secretary, for your strong leadership in this effort.

The North Atlantic and the Arctic is gaining strategic importance and the United States and Norway are working closely together on intelligence, maritime surveillance, repositioning of material, and reinforcement of forces, as well as training and exercises in all domains. And it's important that the U.S. and Norway continue the close cooperation in the High North.

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. The expansion of more powerful totalitarian regimes is a growing threat. Democracies need to prepare for longer confrontation beyond the war in Ukraine. So I look forward to develop our strong bilateral relationship even further in the talks here today.

So - and once again, Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for welcoming us to the Pentagon and I look forward to our further discussions.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thank you. Thanks, everybody.