“Croatia’s support for Ukraine is making a real difference in Ukraine’s fight for freedom. You are a pillar of security in the region and we rely on you when it comes to stability in that area,” Secretary Austin said
On Thursday, October 19, 2023, Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banožić met with the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin at the Pentagon, the administrative headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
The ministers discussed bilateral defense cooperation, the current security situation – the current situation in Israel and Ukraine, cooperation and contributions to security within the framework of the NATO alliance, the situation in Southeast Europe as well as projects and plans for equipping and modernization of the Croatian Armed Forces.
During the meeting, Minister Banožić and Secretary Austin signed the U.S. – Croatia Framework for Defense Cooperation between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Croatia and the Department of Defense of the United States of America, which defines the continuation and improvement of defense cooperation in the period 2023-2028 with the aim of strengthening bilateral defense cooperation and implementing NATO capability goals. The Framework is one of the key outcomes of the Strategic Dialogue between the Republic of Croatia and the United States which was held for the first time last year in the US.
Minister Banožić thanked Secretary Austin for his warm welcome and for hosting him, noting that, as a Defense Minister, his priority is to maintain and strengthen Croatia’s relations with the United States and to continue working on projects and other ways that will further deepen our relations in the future.
“Today’s meeting is a strong message of the excellent bilateral relations between Croatia and the United States and an indicator of the strength of the achieved alliance. We must never forget that the US was always by Croatia’s side when we needed a friend and an ally. This is why Croatia stands firm, shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States to face common security challenges”, Banožić said.
In this context, faced with the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the terrorist attacks against the State of Israel, Minister Banožić said: “We are aware that the US represents a pillar which enables the building of a safer world for generations to come. The Croatian Government is well aware of this and we remain committed to doing our part,” he added.
Minister Banožić thanked the US for its continuous and consistent support in strengthening the capabilities of the Croatian Armed Forces and its assistance in financing additional Black Hawk helicopters. He invited Minister Austin for a return visit to Zagreb.
Secretary Austin confirmed that the US will continue to support the further development of CAF capabilities and the strengthening of allied relations.
Secretary Austin commended cooperation with Croatia and thanked for Croatia’s active engagement and support for Ukraine after the Russian aggression.
“Croatia has made impressive progress. You are our reliable partner and a valued ally. Croatia’s support for Ukraine is making a real difference in Ukraine’s fight for freedom. You are a pillar of security in the region and we rely on you when it comes to stability in that area,” Secretary Austin said.
This is the first bilateral meeting held between Defense Minister Marijo Banožić and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin.
Together with a delegation of the Croatian Ministry of Defense and the Croatian Armed Forces, Minister Banožić paid an official visit to the United States. Apart from the US Secretary of Defense, in Washington and Minnesota he had a meeting with Senator Steve Daines, Defense and Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) Director James Hursch, Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard Major General Shawn Manke and Commander of the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard Major General Charles Kemper. In continuation of the visit, Minister Banožić is to meet Mira Resnick, a representative of the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.