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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Hosted Meeting in Honor of Pal Jonson, Minister for Defence of Sweden

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Mr. Minister, welcome back to the Pentagon. It was great to see you briefly on Saturday in California at the Reagan National Defense Forum, and I'm glad that we'll get a chance to spend a bit more time together today.

I had a great visit to Stockholm last April, and I wanted to thank you for your hospitality. We even got out on the water and had a very memorable -- enjoyed a very memorable demonstration of what your superbly trained forces can do.

I greatly appreciate Sweden's dedication and leadership and I'm grateful for your personal engagement, including your thoughtful contributions at the NATO Defense Ministerial in October and the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

As I've seen firsthand, Sweden is already one of our strongest and most capable partners, and the only thing that -- the only thing better than Sweden as a friend is Sweden as an ally. So I look forward to welcoming Sweden soon as a fellow member of the NATO alliance.

And we're going to sign a Defense Cooperation Agreement today and that will embody our shared commitment to the defense relationship between our two proud democracies. We look forward to learning from each other as we continue to build our defense capabilities together and to strengthen our interoperability.

Sweden has shown outstanding leadership in supporting Ukraine as it fights Russian aggression, including providing $2.7 billion in security and humanitarian assistance. Your support and donations have made a huge difference in Ukraine's battle to defend itself from Russia's cruel war of choice.

And we will continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Swedish forces in many areas. We understand your strengths in maritime operations, distributed air defense, and more. And when we add the capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces to NATO that -- which is the greatest defensive alliance in history, we will get even stronger.

So Mr. Minister, thank you again for your friendship and for making the trip to Washington. I look forward to a great discussion. Over to you, sir.

MINISTER PAL JONSON: Secretary Austin, thank you very much for those kind words. This is indeed a historical day and a historical location also for our bilateral relationship. As you noted, I just came in yesterday from the West Coast and from the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum.

I also visited Silicon Valley. I had the privilege also to visit your Defense Innovation Unit working out there. I thought that was very inspiring, and I think innovation could also be an area where we could work even more further in the -- to the future.

It was an honor to host you in Sweden, Mr. Secretary. It was the first time in 22 years that a Secretary of Defense coming to Sweden. It made a big impression on me personally, on our relation, but I also know it made a big impression on the Swedish public. So thank you for coming to Sweden at the critical time for our security.

The U.S. has provided considerable political and military support during our process also to join NATO. Your swift political ratification and support has really been invaluable. So thank you so much also for that.

I think that the signing today of the DCA sends a strong signal that we remain committed to addressing security challenges together. Being interoperable and being prepared is crucial of the -- of this commitment of course.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement will be a cornerstone also in our bilateral defense cooperation and a sign of our mutual will to further develop this endeavor, not at least shown by the fact that it was negotiated actually in record time as well. So the process went very well and I think it's worked very well together.

Our cooperation in supporting Ukraine, under your leadership in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, has been very rewarding for us, and thank you so much for -- Secretary, for your personal leadership in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. I rest assured that Sweden and the U.S. have a unity of purpose to do this work as long as it takes.

So once again, thank you very much for hosting me today, in this historical day.

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, we're delighted to have you here, Mr. Minister, and so thanks for coming. I'll look forward to a great discussion. Thanks, everybody.