DEFENSE SECRETARY LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Secretary Gram, it’s great to see you again. We were in Ramstein just a few weeks ago for an important meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. And it is my honor to have you here at the Pentagon at this important juncture for European security.
Norway is one of our most capable and longstanding allies, and we know we can count on Norway. From the Middle East to the Far North, Norway has always stood with the United States in support of our shared national security interests and our shared democratic values.
Our defense relationship remains strong, both bilaterally and as members of NATO, and that is especially important today after Putin’s ruthless post-election war in Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, shameful and cruel, and the United States and Norway stand together in the face of threats to European security and the rules-based international order.
Minister, I am pleased to thank you for everything Norway has done to bring security and humanitarian aid to the brave and embattled people of Ukraine as quickly as possible. We particularly value Norway’s cooperation in providing NASAMS air defense capabilities to Ukraine, and these efforts will make a huge difference in Ukraine’s self-defense.
I am also thinking of the crucial role that Norway plays as NATO’s eyes and ears in the Arctic. Your support – or you support the entire alliance with efforts like Exercise Cold Response, which concluded its ninth edition in March.
And I want to thank you for the support of the Norwegian government and people in responding to the tragic crash of a V-22 Osprey at this year’s exercise that killed four brave Marines.
Minister, thank you for all you are doing for our common security and thank you again for making the journey and I look forward to a great discussion.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BJØRN ARILD GRAM: Well, Secretary of State, thank you very much and it is a great honor to meet you and your team here at the Pentagon. The United States is Norway’s most important ally. And as you said, we are in the middle of a war in Europe.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unacceptable and the Norwegian government fully supports the people of Ukraine in their resistance and struggle for freedom and we are trying to help with various types of donations to help them and we will continue to do so do. And Russia cannot win this.
And US leadership of the coalition in support of Ukraine is greatly appreciated and facilitates a strong and well-coordinated international effort. And I often want to thank you personally, Secretary of State, for your strong leadership in this effort.
The North Atlantic and Arctic are of increasing strategic importance, and the United States and Norway are working closely together on reconnaissance, maritime surveillance, movement of material and augmentation of forces, and training and exercises in all areas. And it is important that the US and Norway continue to work closely together in the far north.
The world is becoming more and more dangerous. The spread of more powerful totalitarian regimes is a growing threat. The democracies must prepare for a prolonged confrontation beyond the war in Ukraine. So I look forward to building our strong bilateral relationship even further in today’s talks here.
So – and again, Secretary of State, thank you for welcoming us to the Pentagon and I look forward to our further discussions.
SEC. AUSTIN: Well, thanks. Thanks to all.