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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Minister Anušauskas, good afternoon. It's a real pleasure to host you here at the Pentagon. It's great to see you again. It was an honor to get to visit Lithuania back in February, and I know that we're all looking forward to a successful summit that will be conducted at Vilnius next July.

Now, we're meeting at a crucial time for European security, and we're 10 months into Russia's cruel and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the Kremlin's forces are showing deliberate cruelty, targeting Ukraine’s civilians and civilian infrastructure. But the Ukrainian people have responded with the incredible courage that the world now knows so well. The United States, our allies and our partners are deeply committed to supporting Ukraine as it resists Russia's aggression and defends its right to exist.

Now, Lithuania fully understands how important it is for us all to stand up to Ukraine's -- or stand up for Ukraine's right to defend itself, and we're grateful to Lithuania and our other allies for your important contributions to Ukraine's self-defense. We can all see the difference that that's making on the ground. So let me thank Lithuania for providing Ukraine with military equipment and training assistance to help it defend itself, and let me commend Lithuania for your robust defense spending and for investing in new capabilities.

Mr. Minister, thank you for your gracious host nation's support for allied forces. I understand that you're working to increase your country's ability to host allied forces, and we appreciate those steps, as well, and the United States remains committed to a persistent rotational U.S. force presence in Lithuania.

And finally, let me thank Lithuania for your principled leadership further afield in the Indo-Pacific region. Lithuania has promoted democratic values in the region and urged the People's Republic of China to refrain from further destabilizing actions towards Taiwan. Lithuania has also helped to focus other allies and partners on these important issues, so we couldn't ask for a better ally and friend than Lithuania. We're grateful for your friendship, Mr. Minister. Thanks again for making the trip, and I look forward to a great discussion.

DEFENSE MINISTER ARVYDAS ANUŠAUSKAS: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, thank you for hosting me at the Pentagon. It is good to be back, and I (inaudible) since the (inaudible) in this room. Russia's attempt to change Europe and the rules-based order that (inaudible) for all of us. Now, more than ever before, it is important to maintain our unity and demonstrate solidarity in the face of Russian brutal invasion of Ukraine. I'm glad that the Lithuanian American defense cooperation and friendship is stronger than ever.

This year is special for our partnership after we are celebrating 100 years anniversary of our diplomatic relations and we’re very happy for now that today, we have signed a contract with the U.S. to procure eight HIMARS launchers. It is a big step for our armed forces, this new system, and it will significantly enhance our national and regional capabilities. I also very much welcome your decision to (inaudible) rotation of U.S. troops to the Baltic states, including Lithuania. We are happy to see U.S. boots on Lithuanian soil.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for your personal support for the rotation of deployments. We are investing into our security a lot, compared to 2021. This year, our (inaudible) for national defense have increased by 50 percent. A good part of that goes to the modernization of our armed forces were also very good for U.S. security assistance as it helped boost the development of our capabilities. 

As you well know, Ukraine is hosting NATO summit next year. We hope it will mark solidarity and unity of our alliance, and lead to an even stronger cooperative defense NATO. I look forward to seeing you in Vilnius. U.S. leadership and support of Ukraine is very important. I hope that united, we can provide the required level of support to Ukraine to win this war. I am certain that we are on the right side of the history.

Mr. Secretary, I want to personally thank you for your strong leadership. I look forward to a productive discussion today. Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thank you, Mr. Minister, and thanks, everybody.