WASHINGTON: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has said that I’d like to start by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the German soldiers who were injured in a bomb attack in Mali just a few days ago. This is yet another example of the dangers of our brave servicemen and -women take each and every day. We hope for their speedy recovery, and we also send our warm wishes to their families at this difficult time.
He said that now, Madam Minister, I’d like to thank you for being here. You were the very first of my European counterparts whom I met on my first trip to Europe as secretary of defense, and I’m happy to welcome you here to Washington. I’m also looking forward to escorting you down to Norfolk later to visit one of our aircraft carriers and see some of our fleet.
Austin added that you and I were able to meet with our French and British counterparts in Brussels a few weeks ago for the first Euro Quad Ministerial since 2014, and as the challenges of the pandemic begin to ease, it’s a real pleasure to be able to meet in person twice in one month, which is extraordinary. I’m looking forward to a highly-productive discussion today about a range of issues, and the strong defense relationship between our countries. As I said in Berlin, Germany is one of our staunchest allies, and strengthening our bilateral relationship is a top priority for the Biden administration.
For decades, American and German service members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder against common threats to — and to advance our shared interests and values, and we saw this over almost 20 years in Afghanistan, where Germany was a framework nation. As we wind down NATO’s mission there, we reflect on our shared sacrifice, including both German and American soldiers who have paid the ultimate price.
And we’re going to talk — be talking today about our common efforts as we work together toward lasting peace and security. We see your commitment again as Germany plans its naval deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. This deployment demonstrate — demonstrates Germany’s commitment to projecting stability in an area of fierce strategic competition.
As we look to the future, the deep and enduring U.S.-Germany partnership will be more important than ever. The rules-based international order is being challenged on several fronts, including a range of threats that don’t care about borders, as well as a redistribution of power. So I want to personally thank you, Madam Minister, for your role in ensuring that Germany does more to meet those challenges.
And finally, I’d like to thank Germany for warmly welcoming and hosting so many of our service members. You know, I still have fond memories of German culture and hospitality from my days as a young lieutenant, and those times are probably a little further away than I would — I would like to admit, but I’m very pleased to see that that — that that tradition continues.
German Defense Minsiter Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also spoke on the occasion and she said that I remember our first phone call when I said Germany welcomes Lieutenant Austin, and now, Germany will welcome Secretary of Defense Austin, and the sign that — the fact that you are the first to be in Berlin visiting us is a very strong sign of our — of our close ties.
She added that thank you very much for expressing the sympathies for the soldiers that were wounded in a suicide attack in Mali. It remembers – It reminds us of the oath that German and American soldiers swear to protect and secure the lives of those in this country with their — with their very life. And you — you mentioned that we are partners, we are friends, we share more than interests. We share more than common interests. We have common values, and we face challenges both old and new together. And so many decades — we’ve been standing side-by-side. Our soldiers have been working shoulder-by-shoulder both in NATO, in — in the E.U. and in international missions in the countries.
And my visit today is a sign that this will remain in — like that in the future, both in what we do within NATO and what we do in the — in the — in the Indo-Pacific, where we are working for — or towards a world where we have the same values that we have shared today. And also, I’m very happy to be meeting you here and to have these talks with you today, and also, for — thankful for the opportunity to travel with you to Norfolk, where — and for the opportunity to speak with American and German soldiers there. So thank you very much, again, for this very warm welcome.