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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Slovak Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. Welcome to the Pentagon, and thanks for making the trip.

I had a great visit to Slovakia in 2022, and your visit here today just underscores the importance of our defense relationship. Since 1993, the United States and an independent Slovakia have deepened our defense cooperation through NATO, the State Partnership Program of the Indiana National Guard and joint operations. 

Today, Slovakia is increasing its defense spending. It's modernizing its military and it's enhancing its interoperability with NATO. Slovakia's purchase of F-16s further bolsters your modernization efforts, as well as our bilateral relationship, and I'm glad that we'll have the chance to discuss a range of shared security challenges today. Our partnership has never mattered more, especially as we've marked two years since Putin's all-out invasion of Ukraine. 

Slovakia has provided critical security assistance to Ukraine's brave defenders, and I look forward to discussing ways that we can continue to strengthen Ukraine's defenses and to reinforce NATO's Eastern flank. NATO remains the greatest alliance in history, in large part because it is strictly defensive. We're grateful to Slovakia for hosting one of NATO's forward land force units that further demonstrates your deep commitment to the alliance.

I'm also eager to discuss NATO's central role in transatlantic security as we prepare for NATO's 75th Anniversary Summit here in Washington in July. 

Mr. Minister, I'm delighted to host you here today and I look forward to a great discussion. And over to you, sir.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ROBERT KALINAK: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, thank you for your warm words and I'm really happy that I can be here because it's long years I’ve been serving in Slovak politics so I remember a lot of things. During our accession to NATO, I was the chairman of the defense committee of national parliament, and I became Deputy Prime Minister in 2006. So from that time, we have the long years of common cooperation, I’ve (inaudible) first Secretary Mattis and Mr. Gates some years ago, and then we had very close cooperation with General (inaudible) and the others, and I hope that we also contribute somehow by our small skills and small expertise that we have in our region, and we thank you for your support so that years was not easy after the 1989 and the revolution in our country. But then we really feel the support from your side.

And these years are demanding. This is an absolutely critical year, and we try to do our best to solve this situation. It's not easy, but I think that it (inaudible) we find time of solution, and again, the peace will come back to us.

And a special thanks for your contribution, multi-national battle group that we have in Slovakia now, and I hope we will solve things that need to be solved there, and we prepare for the new infrastructure because it was -- we were in a hurry to build it. But I hope that we fulfill your expectation from our country, because this is really helpful in this situation where we are now.

So thank you once more for your time, and thank you for the time we have here because yesterday, we were in Greenville, so we (are) returning back to Slovakia richer with F-16s.


MIN. KALINAK: So when they arrive in July to Slovakia because in the end of August, we're celebrating the 80 years of Slovak National uprising, and it's huge ceremony will be held, and I'll be very happy that new F-16 will be part of this presentation as a symbol of long years cooperation and successful friendship. Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Mr. Minister, welcome to the Pentagon. We're delighted to have you here, and I look forward to a great discussion.

Thanks, everybody.