Speaking during the opening session of the Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference in Washington, Austin said Ukraine's ability to produce critical military equipment domestically is key to its ability to maintain lasting freedom and sovereignty within its borders, according to US Department of Defense.
"Together with our allies and partners, we must continue working to help Ukraine repel Russian forces today and build a future force for Ukraine that can deter Russian aggression in the years to come," he said. "That will mean strengthening Ukraine's defense industrial base, both to maintain Ukraine's current war effort and to bolster Ukraine's national strength and deterrence long into the future."
The two-day conference, co-hosted by the White House, Commerce and Defense Departments, brings together U.S. and Ukrainian industry and government representatives to discuss ideas that could bolster Ukraine's defense industrial base.
Discussions at the conference include areas of potential collaboration between the U.S., Ukrainian government and industry partners regarding ways to advance best practices that can lead to long-term success, as well as increased investments in Ukraine's defense sector.
The discussions build on an event held in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, in September, which focused on enhanced industry partnerships between Ukraine and international partners.
During the kickoff Wednesday, U.S. and Ukrainian officials signed a statement of intent on the co-production of critical weapons and on prioritizing technical and data exchange between the two countries to address the urgent needs of Ukraine's armed forces.
Austin said advancements realized through industry partnerships will open pathways for Ukraine to produce spare parts closer to the point of need and more swiftly return repaired military equipment to the frontlines.
"We must also strengthen the logistical and information technology systems that bind all of these efforts together — a robust and resilient industrial base that has hot production lines with strong, secure supply chains," Austin said.
"By gathering here today, we're working to bring the full power of American free enterprise and American innovation to bear to reach that goal," he said.
Austin said a strong, sustainable Ukrainian defense industry would resonate far beyond its borders and enhance security around the globe.
"Together with our allies and partners, I am confident that we have all the pieces that we need to help our Ukrainian friends sustain their fight for their sovereignty over the long haul," he said. "It's up to all of us to put those pieces together."
"At the end of the day, we all benefit from the dynamic industrial bases of our global allies and partners," Austin continued. "And that's important far beyond Europe. The whole world is watching, and we must come together to meet this moment."
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