SECRETARY-GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG: Secretary Austin, welcome back to the NATO Headquarters. It’s always good to see you here. Let me thank you for your personal leadership and steadfast commitment to NATO and to our Transatlantic Alliance and all the contributions from the United States to our collective defense and to our shared security. Not least in leading the efforts to provide support to Ukraine to uphold their right for self-defense. Yesterday we hosted the support group, the Contact Group for Ukraine, here at NATO and I also very much welcome the announcement yesterday by the President of the United States to further increase the support for Ukraine because they really need our support. Yesterday after the defense ministerial meeting there was a strong message from all NATO Allies and partners that we are prepared for the long haul, and NATO Allies are prepared to continue to provide substantial, unprecedented support to Ukraine. We are at this ministerial meeting of NATO defense ministers preparing for the summit later this month in Madrid that will be a transformative summit at a pivotal time for our security. We will make important decisions on how to strengthen further our deterrence and defense in a more dangerous world. We will agree on a comprehensive package of support to Ukraine. We will agree on how to further modernize NATO by agreeing on a strategic concept reflecting a new security reality and then we will engage with partners, including our Asia-Pacific partners – Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand – and also with Finland and Sweden – two countries that have now applied for NATO membership. And then we will also, of course, address the need to further invest in increased defense spending and improve burden sharing within our Alliance. So, Secretary Austin, thank you so much. Thank you for being a steadfast and strong supporter of our Alliance. Welcome.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Mr. Secretary General, thanks for convening this meeting. It’s great to be back in Brussels. I think this ministerial will lay a foundation for a successful summit later in the month, so I look forward to some great discussions with our colleagues in the meetings that are coming up. Thanks again for your leadership. You’ve always emphasized that this Alliance is built on core values and our core values are always on display whenever we do anything, whenever we’re together, and I think that’s always, always noticeable and important, certainly as we see countries like Finland and Sweden make a historic decision to apply for NATO membership. That’s very encouraging. We welcome that. These are strong democracies who have values that are very much aligned with our values, and very capable countries, so we hope that things will continue to move forward in support of their desires to join NATO. Again, I look forward to a great discussion. Let me end by saying the way I started by saying: thanks so much for your strong leadership and thanks for agreeing to stay with us a bit longer to help us work through some very complex issues in these difficult times. Thank you.