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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming U.K. Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Ben, welcome back to the Pentagon. It's a pleasure to host you again. We have no closer partner and ally than the United Kingdom. Today, I'd like to discuss ways that we can further deepen our partnership, and one of those is AUKUS. 

It is an historic opportunity that shows how strong we can become when we work together, it shows our deep commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and it's a testament to our shared values and to the long-term investments that we're making in our forces. I'm confident that AUKUS will break down barriers and usher in a new era of U.S.-UK defense cooperation. 

Now, we're also meeting at an historic time for NATO. Finland recently -- Finland recently became the 31st member of NATO and we look forward to Sweden soon becoming the 32nd. And as you know, I'm traveling to Stockholm tomorrow to personally express my support for Sweden joining the alliance.

Ben, I know that you're also deeply dedicated to keeping NATO unified and ready, and British leadership has been especially important over the past year after Russia's cruel -- cruel and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has chosen a path of aggression and atrocity, but the Ukrainian people and military have responded with incredible courage. And I'm going to keep on saying it -- we will support Ukraine in its fight for as long as it takes.

The United Kingdom is -- is a leader in providing urgently needed assistance and training to Ukrainian forces, and beyond your contributions, the UK is working with allies and partners to encourage donations and facilitate the delivery of security assistance to Ukraine.

So Ben, thanks again for everything that the UK is doing to strengthen Ukraine's self-defense. I look forward to a great discussion, including finding ways to continue to work together to help Ukraine and to further strengthen our partnership. Thanks again for being here, Mr. Secretary, and I'll look forward to seeing you in Ramstein on Friday for the next Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting.

SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE BEN WALLACE: Thank you, Lloyd, and thank you for hosting me just before your travels. And like the United States, we strongly support Sweden's accession to NATO and -- and we wish it to happen in a timely manner, if -- if possible.

Can I just thank you for your leadership? I am entering my fourth year as -- about to complete as Defense Secretary and the world sadly has not got less anxious and less insecure. In fact, since this time, with the invasion of Ukraine, we have seen a more anxious world and a more unstable world.

And without U.S. leadership, we would be in a worse place, whether that is in the Pacific, whether that is in Ukraine, whether that is in European defense, or indeed, worrying so the developments in the Middle East around Iran.

So, I want to thank you for your leadership, for the very real support towards Ukraine, in scale and money and volume, that is able -- allow that country to stand for the freedoms that we all fight for and believe in, but I also recognize that our long-term friendship is also a long-term partnership, and AUKUS is that simple.

While I might make it to four years and you might make it to five or six, I suspect we won't be sitting here when the first AUKUS submarine rolls off the production line. It would be a remarkable feat of political survivability to do so but it shows that is a long-term commitment of some of our greatest secrets and our greatest capabilities but for an ally that shares our values and shares the -- the view of the world that is currently under threat like it's never been before.

Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, Ben. Thanks, everybody.