SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Madam Minister, welcome to Washington. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Pentagon for the first time, and we’ve been seeing a lot of each other this week, and I want to thank you again for joining our important gathering of defense leaders at Ramstein Air Base just two days ago. It seems like it was 10 days ago, but it was just two days ago, so things are moving fairly rapidly. I was absolutely delighted to see there, it goes without saying.
You know, we don’t have a better friend than Canada. You are more than a deeply-trusted neighbor; you are an invaluable friend and a steadfast ally. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder protecting our countries and building a secure and prosperous North America and defending human rights and human dignity around the world.
And Madam Minister, you and I were standing up for those shared core principles together again in Germany at the first meeting of the Ukraine Defense Consultative Group, and Canada was a leader in stepping up to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression and atrocities. You know the stakes, and you know how important the rules-based international order is for global security in this century.
So Canada has been pushing hard to help Ukraine get the assistance that it needs so urgently and to strengthen its security and sovereignty over the long term. And let me commend Canada for announcing at Ramstein that it will send eight armored vehicles to Ukraine, and for all your other efforts, including your outstanding work on training through Operation UNIFIER, and I’m looking forward to building on those conversations today in our meeting.
Of course, our agenda extends beyond Russia’s cruel war in Ukraine. We’ll also talk about our shared responsibilities for defending our countries through the NORAD Command. We’re both committed to a stable Arctic region where international norms are respected. Our two countries also work together with Mexico to strengthen North American defense ties, and we cooperate closely with partners in Latin American — Latin America and the Caribbean on security in the region we call home.
And finally, I look forward to discussing challenges in the Indo-Pacific, especially China’s increasingly-troubling efforts to bully sovereign neighboring countries and subvert the rules-based international order. And I know that both our governments care about bolstering a secure, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
So Madam Minister, thank you again for your leadership and for your counsel and insight, and for the warm bond between our two great democracies. Again, welcome to Washington. I know we’re going to have a great conversation today.