By DoD News
By Jim Garamone
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps discussed the Hamas attack on Israel and the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine during Pentagon meetings Wednesday.
The United States and the United Kingdom are the closest of allies and the two men looked for ways to make the special relationship between the two countries even stronger.
Austin called the Hamas attack on Israel that began last week “repulsive.”
“We support Israel’s fundamental right to defend itself, after the atrocities and massacres and mass kidnappings by Hamas,” he said.
He noted that the United States continues to flow security assistance into Israel. He also said he has extended the stay of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group in the Eastern Mediterranean and that he has ordered the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group to the region as well. “Those changes to our force posture send a clear signal to deter hostile actors from trying to shed more blood or to escalate this war,” he said.
The United Kingdom is sending the same message, he said, as it has ordered a Royal Navy Task Group to the region. “We will continue to stand with Israel and with you,” Austin said to Shapps.
Austin also addressed aid to Ukraine. “The U.K. has been a leader in providing urgently needed security assistance and training to Ukraine’s forces,” he said. “Because of your stalwart support, Ukraine’s defenders are better armed, better equipped and better trained.”
The Ukrainian people face another winter of war and aggression, Austin said. “But we will get them what it takes for as long as it takes.”
Austin also thanked the United Kingdom for what it is doing to strengthen NATO. He said while he is pleased Finland has joined the alliance, it is time for the immediate accession of Sweden, “to make our great defensive alliance even stronger.”x
The secretary also touched in the Australia, United Kingdom, United States security partnership. “AUKUS continues to show the power of our partnership,” he said. “It’s a generational opportunity to reach our security goals together. And I’m looking forward to discussing our close cooperation, including how we’re responding together to bullying and destabilizing actions by the People’s Republic of China.”
Shapps told the secretary that he was able this morning to visit the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall. “I went and read the words … ‘Freedom is not Free,'” he said. “I’ve quoted those words for many, many years. And it just struck me that the United States and the United Kingdom always stand together and always stand with that principle, no matter what’s happening in the world.”
He reiterated to Austin that the United Kingdom, too, stands with Israel in its fight against the Hamas terrorists. “We’re prepared to put our money where our mouth is and send assets to the region,” he said.
Israel and also the Russian war on Ukraine prove that “freedom isn’t free isn’t just an inscription: It’s a commitment. It’s real,” Shapps said. “Wherever it is threatened, we understand that we have to step up to the plate and defeat it.”