Opening Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the 7th Ukraine Defense Contact Group
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Nov. 16, 2022)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III answers a question from the media after hosting a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 16, 2022. (DoD photo)
Good morning, everyone. It's great to see you all at our seventh meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

And I'll join Secretary Wallander in thanking my good friend, Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov, for his exceptional leadership, and for joining us again today.

Let me also welcome Ukraine's Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk.

It's great to have you with us. Your presentations are vital for our common understanding of the battlefield and Ukraine's most critical needs.

And it's also great to be back with this group of outstanding allies and friends. You have been stalwart in your support of Ukraine's inalienable right to defend itself from Russian aggression.

Once again, Russia has been launching missiles against Ukraine's cities and Ukraine's civilians. And yesterday we saw reports of deadly explosions in Poland—one explosion in Poland—near its border with Ukraine.

We will continue to work closely with our ally Poland and others to gather more information. And we'll continue to consult closely with our NATO allies and our valued partners.

What we do know is the context in which this is unfolding.

Russia is facing setback after setback on the battlefield, and Russia is putting Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure in its gunsights.

Both of those things only deepen the resolve of this Contact Group. And they only intensify Ukraine's determination.

The Kremlin may hope that more bombardment will break the resolve of the Ukrainian people. But ordinary Ukrainian citizens have responded with the magnificent defiance that the world now knows so well.

And we're seeing Ukraine succeed in battle after battle to defend itself—in Kyiv, Kharkhiv, and now Kherson.

You know, Kherson was the only regional capital that Russia managed to temporarily occupy. And the dramatic scenes of Ukrainian forces liberating Kherson have further galvanized the international community.

Neither sheer force nor sham annexation attempts can defeat the determination of the Ukrainian people to live in a free and sovereign country.

And this Contact Group will continue to show our unified support for Ukraine's self-defense.

We're going to maintain our momentum throughout the winter so that Ukraine can continue to consolidate gains and seize the initiative on the battlefield.

Ukrainian troops are fighting with even greater tenacity and determination. And thanks to the many Contact Group members who have committed new donations, Ukraine's defenders are fighting with even more key capabilities.

And to showcase how important these donations are, our NASAMS air defense systems are now operational. And they have had a 100 percent success rate in interrupting Russian missiles as the Kremlin continues its ruthless bombardment of Ukraine, including yesterday's attacks.

While Russia continues to ruthlessly target Ukraine's civilians and energy infrastructure, nations of goodwill continue to stand behind Ukraine. And Russia's cruelty only strengthens our resolve.

As President Biden has made clear, the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

That's why we announced another Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative package of $400 million this month. And just last week, we announced an additional $400 million in equipment through Presidential Drawdown Authority.

And that brings U.S. security assistance to a total of $18.6 billion since the start of Russia's all-out invasion.

Both of these packages will provide much-needed capabilities for the near-term fight—and for the long-term sustainment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

That just underscores the role of this Contact Group—as a crucial forum to continue coordinating our enduring support with other nations of goodwill.

For example, since our last Contact Group, seven countries have either delivered critical air-defense systems to Ukraine or committed to sending them. That will save the lives of innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children—and help the Ukrainian Armed Forces defend their skies.

Meanwhile, the United States, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are working together to provide 90 overhauled T-72B tanks to Ukraine. And 45 of those tanks were part of our recent USAI package.

Let me thank both Minister Ollongren and Minister Cernochova and their staffs for getting this done.

This effort to fund and execute an industrial program on Ukraine's behalf is a direct result of our close cooperation through the Contact Group. And our meetings are a chance to think creatively and further increase our support for Ukraine.

The last time we met, we spoke about our efforts to train Ukraine's Armed Forces, and about the importance of accountability for the equipment that we are providing. We also discussed key industrial-base initiatives in light of the National Armaments Directors' meeting under the auspices of this Contact Group.

And so today, we'll build on those vital conversations. And we'll discuss how we can best train and prepare the Ukrainian Armed Forces to defend their country. Collective and individual training efforts will help ensure that Ukraine can continue to consolidate its gains and keep up its momentum on the battlefield, even throughout the winter.

I'm also looking forward to hearing from Ministers about industrial-base initiatives stemming from the National Armaments Directors' working groups. And these efforts will help us to more effectively source, produce, and procure key capabilities for Ukraine's self-defense.

These conversations will be even more crucial as Ukraine enters a hard winter.

We must do more to meet Ukraine's urgent air-defense needs, which can help protect Ukraine's energy infrastructure and provide heat for its children.

So, today, we've got a big agenda, and I look forward to making good progress.

We're inspired by the resilience of the Ukrainian people. And we're inspired by the unity of this Contact Group.

You have all shown enduring resolve—both to help Ukraine fight for its freedom and to defend the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure.

Thank you again for your commitment to this cause.

And so now we'll pause for just a minute while our friends in the media depart, and then we'll hear from our Ukrainian colleagues.

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