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Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III thanked Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram for his country’s help to Ukraine and the crucial role it plays in the Arctic and North Atlantic.

The two men discussed issues affecting both NATO and bilateral relations between the two countries today at a Pentagon meeting.

The meeting comes just two weeks after the two defense leaders met as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Norway is a founding member of NATO and has worked alongside the United States from the Middle East to the High North, Austin said.

This level of cooperation and interoperability is particularly important in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to destroy the rules-based international infrastructure that has prevented a great war for over 70 years. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine was unmotivated, shameful and cruel,” said the secretary. “The United States and Norway stand together in the face of threats to European security”.

Norway has supplied Ukraine with state-of-the-art systems, including the national advanced surface-to-air missile system. Norwegian service members are also training Ukrainian service members in new capabilities and stand alongside NATO allies to defend every inch of NATO territory.

Austin said he was also “mindful of the crucial role Norway plays as NATO’s eyes and ears in the Arctic.”

Climate change is opening up areas of the Arctic and Russia looks to the region as an opportunity. Norway constantly hosts exercises and training events in the region. Austin thanked the Norwegian Defense Minister for his country’s help when a V-22 Osprey crashed during a recent exercise, killing four Marines.

Gram told Austin that the United States is Norway’s most important ally and said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss ways to increase cooperation with the United States, allies and partners. “We are in the midst of the war in Europe,” Gram said. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is unacceptable”.

The nations of the region must work together. “Russia cannot win this,” Gram said.

Gram thanked Austin for his personal leadership in the effort to supply Ukraine and for his efforts to examine the strategic importance of the Arctic. “The United States and Norway are working closely together on intelligence, maritime surveillance, pre-positioning material and force reinforcement, as well as training and exercises in all areas,” Gram said.

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