Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III argued that what happens to Ukraine matters to all people around the world today.
The Secretary, speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, said Russia’s devastating war on Ukraine is a direct challenge to sovereignty everywhere, and he commended the nations of world for defending Ukraine.
Austin is at the start of a trip that will also take him to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he will participate in the Association of South Asian Nations Defense Ministers Plus Meeting. -East.
The secretary reiterated that the new defense strategy sees China as the major challenge to the United States and the rules-based international system that has kept the peace since the end of World War II.
But his remarks in Halifax focused on what US defense strategy calls “an acute threat”: Russia.
“Keeping the international system open and secure is at the heart of everything we do,” he said. “But today, this stable and open system is under threat – and not just from the generational challenge of the People’s Republic of China, but from a tragic and devastating war in the heart of Europe.”
Austin said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine posed a direct threat to European security and a challenge to NATO allies. “Russia’s deliberate cruelty is an attack on our common values - and on the rules of war,” he said.
Beyond the attack that threatens Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “rips apart the rules-based international order that keeps us all safe,” Austin said.
European allies, particularly those in the East “…are grappling with instability, destruction, human misery, floods of refugees and other dangers from an even more reckless and aggressive Russia,” he said. said Austin. “Yet we have seen an incredible response from our friends in Europe, as well as others around the world.”
The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, chaired by Austin, is a coalition of 50 nations that has worked to strengthen Ukraine’s military capabilities. The nations have provided air defense capabilities, anti-armour systems, ammunition, food, fuel and the training the Ukrainian military needs to operate these new systems effectively. “And they rushed to invest in their industrial production to meet their own security needs while giving Ukraine the capabilities to defend itself in the difficult months and years ahead,” Austin said.
The United States, along with other NATO allies, has been strengthening deterrence and defense in Europe, Austin said. Even before Russia’s attack, the United States deployed or expanded more than 20,000 additional forces in Europe, bringing the current total to more than 100,000 American military personnel across Europe.
The United States moved quickly and stationed forward the V Corps Headquarters forward command post, an army garrison headquarters, and a field support battalion in Poland. “These are the first permanent American forces on NATO’s eastern flank,” Austin said. “And we look forward to welcoming Finland and Sweden, two highly capable democracies, to the ranks of NATO.”
The Secretary emphasized that NATO is a defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia and seeks no confrontation with that nation. “Make no mistake: we will not be drawn into Putin’s war of choice, but we will stand with Ukraine as it fights to defend itself,” he said. “We will defend every square inch of NATO territory.”
Austin said the rules-based international order is “one of the most important achievements of human government. It is the structure of international institutions, alliances, laws and norms constructed at enormous cost by Allies – including and especially the United States – in the terrible aftermath of World War II.”
The Allies of World War II paid a huge price in lives. “The price to pay to stop Nazi Germany and the Axis was almost unimaginable,” Austin said. “More than 400,000 American soldiers and more than 44,000 Canadians died in this war alone. And tens of millions of civilians around the world have been lost to war and genocide. But the Allies prevailed, including the mighty contribution of the Soviet Army, which suffered the crushing cost of some 8 million or more dead.”
The rules-based order grew out of the Atlantic Charter first promulgated in August 1941 after a meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland. The principles FDR and Churchill laid out in the Atlantic Charter still ring true today, Austin said. “This charter denounces aggression. It rejects territorial changes against the free will of the peoples concerned. And it respects the right of all peoples, large and small, to choose their own governments.”
This is still the basis of the rules-based international order. “It is an order where small states have the same rights as large ones; where prosperity is shared by all peoples, not hoarded by empires or autocrats; where nuclear weapons are responsibly controlled, not used to threaten the world,” he said. “[It is an order] where disputes are resolved through negotiations, not bloodshed; where sovereignty is respected, not trampled on; where civilians are protected and not targeted; and a world where borders are respected, not redrawn by force.”
The United States helped build order and did not relinquish responsibility for security as it did after World War I. “American leadership helped build the rules-based international order, and American leadership is vital to maintaining it,” Austin said. . “And the peoples of the world do not want to turn back the clock, endure a dark new age of upheaval, chaos and war.”
Through his invasion of Ukraine, Putin offers a glimpse “of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil that none of us would want to live in, and it’s an invitation to an increasingly precarious world haunted by the shadow of nuclear proliferation,” the secretary said. . It’s because autocrats around the world are watching, “and they may well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them their own hunting license,” he said. “Putin’s war of choice shows the world the dangers of disorder.”
In a nutshell, it is the security challenge of the beginning of the 21st century. “It’s urgent and historic, but we’re going to address it,” Austin said.