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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Delivers Opening Remarks at the 9th Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Brussels, Belgium

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III:  Good morning, everyone.  It's great to see you all at our ninth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.  And before we get started, I want to express my deepest condolences for the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria last week.  The United States will continue to work urgently with our Turkish allies and others to rush assistance to those in need and in anguish after this terrible tragedy.

Now, I'm proud to be here with representatives from across the globe, and we're here to reaffirm our resounding support for a free and sovereign Ukraine.

Nearly one year ago, Putin began his unprovoked and indefensible invasion of Ukraine.  Putin thought that in a matter of days, his forces would seize Kyiv and overthrow Ukraine's democratically-elected government, and he thought that the international community would just live with it.

As President Biden said last week in his State of the Union address, Putin's invasion has been a test for the ages and a test for the world.  Ladies and gentlemen, we've responded by standing up for our shared values of sovereignty and freedom, and we've risen to this challenge with unity and resolve.  We've moved out with urgency, the urgency that the moment demands, and time and time again, it has mattered that we delivered on what we promised to Ukraine.  Russia did not prevail, Kyiv did not fall and Ukraine's friends did not falter.

In the year since Putin's war of choice began, Ukrainian soldiers have won the battles of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.  They've pushed back invading Russian forces with Javelins and Stingers and other systems donated by the countries in this room.

The world was inspired by the resilience of Ukraine's people and the courage of Ukraine's troops.  Even in the face of setbacks, Ukraine has shown that it will prevail.  And more countries have rushed to help Ukraine fight for its territory, its sovereignty and its freedom, and your presence here just proves that countries of goodwill from all around the world continue to step up and to ensure that any setbacks are only temporary.

And together, this Contact Group has made it clear that we will support Ukraine's fight for freedom over the long haul and help Ukraine hold and advance during the spring counteroffensive.  With unity and urgency, we will again deliver the support that we have promised to Ukraine.  We will put capabilities into the hands of trained Ukrainian forces so that they can be integrated together on the battlefield.

Now, we know how to do this.  Last April, we held our first Contact Group to coordinate our contributions to Ukraine, and these meetings continue to embody the unshakable enduring support for Ukraine from all over the world.  This Contact Group stands as a testament to our unity: unity of purpose, unity of effort and unity of values.  None of us could have accomplished this much alone, but together, we have committed nearly $50 billion in lethal assistance to Ukraine since the start of Russia's all-out invasion last February 24th, and our coordination is making a real difference in real time.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are working together to provide Patriot air defense systems to Ukraine.  France and Italy are working to provide a SAMP/T air defense system, and a consortium of countries, including Germany, Poland, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands are working together to provide Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.  For more armored power, the United States, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands are jointly providing more than 90 T-72 tanks.  This is in addition to Poland's latest donation of T-72s.  The U.K. has provided a company of Challenger main battle tanks and has worked with several countries to source more ammunition for Ukraine's defenders, and we're working together on training for the Ukrainian Armed Forces through bilateral and multilateral training initiatives like the European Union's military assistance mission.

All of these donations and joint initiatives flow from our unity and our resolve, but we still have much more to do together, and we must intensify our focus.  Ukraine has urgent requirements to help it meet this crucial moment in the course of the war, and President Zelenskyy underscored Ukraine's need for more equipment at our last meeting in Ramstein.

So we're fortunate to be joined again by my good friend, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, and Oleksii, thanks for your leadership and for joining us again today in person.  And let me also welcome Ukraine's deputy chief of defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk.  It's great to have both of you here with us, and your presentations will help us sharpen our focus on the situation on the battlefield and Ukraine's most critical needs.

Of course, it isn't just our goal to provide equipment; it's to provide full and lasting capabilities.  So today, we'll continue talking about integrating and synchronizing our support so that Ukraine has combat-credible capabilities that matter and endure.

We'll also hear from our EUCOM commander, General Cavoli, on the integrated training that's being conducted across Europe, and we'll discuss industrial-base initiatives that will help sustain our support to Ukraine for the long term.  We'll also talk about ongoing accountability for the historic levels of security assistance that we're providing to Ukraine.

And Minister Reznikov, let me commend you for your team's cooperation on this.  Ukraine is committed to making sure that the equipment we're providing gets to Ukraine's defenders on the front lines.

Now, today's meeting comes at a critical time.  The Kremlin is still betting that it can wait us out.  But one year on, we are as united as ever, and that shared resolve will help sustain Ukraine's momentum in the crucial weeks ahead and help Ukraine travel the challenging road that lies beyond.

And looking around this room today, I know that our unity will only grow.  We all understand the stakes in Russia's war of choice.  This isn't just about Ukraine's right to live in peace and security; it's also about the kind of world that our children will inherit.  None of us want to live in a world where autocrats can assault their peaceful neighbors, trample their borders and bombard their people.  So we've come together to stand up for a world where rules matter, where sovereignty is respected and where civilians are protected.

Now, let me pause for a moment while our friends in the media depart, and then we'll hear from our Ukrainian colleagues.

Thank you very much.