Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III discussed the situation in Ukraine, aid to that embattled country and the defense cooperation agreement with the Czech Republic with Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova, today.
The meeting followed the very productive Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting yesterday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Cernochova said the United States underpins collective defense efforts in Europe. “The massive support that the United States has been providing to Ukraine, shows yet again that America is the indispensable leader of the free world,” she said through a translator at a Ministry of Defense news conference. “And I would like to thank sincerely to Secretary Austin, and to citizens of the United States of America for their continuing willingness to defend free world and to defend Europe.”
For his part, Austin said the Czech Republic is a vital NATO ally, and that “the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the defense, freedom and sovereignty of our allies. That’s especially important as Russia continues its cruel and unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine. The Ukrainian people are fighting heroically, to defend themselves from Russian aggression. And they are rightly demanding to live in freedom and to shape their own future to not have it be dictated by Russia.”
At the Summit in Madrid in June, NATO leaders recognized that Russian aggression is the most significant and direct threat to the security of our allies and to peace and stability in Europe. “So today, the minister and I had a highly productive discussion on strengthening our collective defense in response to Russia’s reckless aggression,” Austin said.
The United States and the Czech Republic are steadfast in their support for Ukraine, both Austin and Cernochova said. “We’re all determined to help Ukraine defend itself for the long haul and nations of goodwill from around the world are standing united in support of Ukraine’s right to defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin said.
The two leaders also discussed the bilateral defense cooperation between the two nations as well as the Czech Republic’s ongoing modernization of its military. This will increase interoperability not only with the United States, but all NATO allies.
The Czech Republic is taking an active part in NATO defense and deterrence efforts. The Czech military is a framework nation for the new NATO Battle Group being established in neighboring Slovakia. There are Czech service members serving in the battle groups in Latvia and Lithuania, and Czech pilots also participate in the NATO air policing mission.
Austin emphasized that the alliance does not seek confrontation with Russia. NATO is — and always has been — a defensive alliance, he said. NATO is not a threat to Russia. “But our defensive alliance — as it always has — will protect every inch of NATO territory,” he said.
Austin was asked about the end game in Ukraine and he said that it is “always dangerous to make predictions about a war or conflict.”
The goal is to help Ukraine defend its people and national sovereignty, and it is not up to the United States to define the goal. “We know that the Ukrainian leadership will have the strongest voice in that respect,” he said.
“We’ve all been impressed by what we’ve seen — their willingness to stand up to a much larger, much stronger force, and be effective in their efforts,” Austin continued. “We’ve been inspired by their courage and their commitment. And … coming out of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting yesterday, I think … we continue to be inspired by what we see from the international community in terms of a willingness to support Ukraine.”