4:28 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Secretary Austin, Deputy Secretary Hicks, and General Milley, my — and all our other outstanding military leaders around this Cabinet table: I’m honored to welcome you to the White House. And I really mean it — I’m honored to welcome you to the White House.
Above all, I want to thank each of you for your dedication to the service of this country and your members, families, and the longstanding service that you’ve all put in.
I also want to recognize the groundbreaking nature of this gathering. For the first time in the proud history of the Armed Forces, we not only have highly — highly quai- — hali- — a highly qualified woman as Vice President, but as Deputy Secretary of Defense and two women combatant commanders. And it’s an important milestone, I think, that speaks to how we’re harnessing the strength and diversity of our country in making sure women succeed in the military and throughout their careers.
As I said when I got elected — and I didn’t think people thought I meant it — but my administration is going to look like America. And I mean that sincerely. Not just in the military, but across the board. That’s where our strength comes from, in my view.
And today, I want to hear from all of you on your assessments on what you’re seeing in the field and across our forces.
And the strategic environment is evolving rapidly in the world, but that means our plans and force posture have to be equally dynamic. Things are changing. And, you know, ensuring that — the security of the American people, our interests, and the interests of our Allies means having to constantly adapt to anything and everything that’s happening around the world.
And we’re seeing this very day the need for adapt — adaptation as a consequence of our standing with Ukraine against Putin’s brutal and unjustified war.
And I want to applaud the exceptional work you’re doing to arm and equip brave Ukrainians that defend their nation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to Ukraine a number of times before the war. I’ve spoken to the Rada. I was deeply involved in what was going on in Ukraine. And I knew they were tough and proud, but I tell you what: They’re tougher and more proud than I thought. I’m amazed what they’re doing with your help, in terms of providing advice and — and weaponry we’re providing, along with the rest of NATO.
Weapons and ammunition are flowing in daily. And we’re seeing just how vital our alliances and partnerships are around the world.
Our Allies are stepping up, amplifying the impact of our response. And NATO is united, focused, and energized as it’s ever been.
When I was a kid in the United States Senate in my 30s and in my 40s, I was chairman of the NATO subcommittee — the Foreign Relations Committee. I — not because of me or any particular thing, but I’ve never seen NATO as united. I know all the — I — I’m confident, in my view, just — this was Biden speaking — that I don’t think that Putin counted on being able to hold us together.
And I’ve spoken well over 150 times to our NATO Allies, either — like, yesterday, there were four- — how many on —
MR. SULLIVAN: Twelve of them.
THE PRESIDENT: How many?
MR. SULLIVAN: Twelve.
THE PRESIDENT: Twelve, yesterday for a couple hours. They — they are — they’re — they’re stepping up.
And the same is true of the Indo-Pacific, where our allies are the foundation for the future we want to see in that vital region of the world.
Your central, indispensable mission to deter aggression from all our enemies, if required, is — is on display, and to fight, to win wars remain critical to American power.
And as Commander-in-Chief, I — I rely on your advice and maintain our — to maintain our military edge and remain the ultimate guarantor of America’s security.
Quite frankly, even though I’ve been Vice President for 8 years and a senator for 36, I didn’t fully appreciate that — how the rest of the world literally looks to us as the leader of the free world. I mean, looks to us in very precise, specific ways. And something you all fully, fully understand.
And I rely, as I said, on your device — your advice and your ability to maintain our military edge.
And, you know, in return, I promise you — and I hope it’s been demonstrated since I’ve been President — that we as a nation will uphold the sacred duty we have and we owe you, our military men and women, to prepare, properly equip you before we send you into harm’s way. And when we do, to care for those and your family when you come home. And that’s why we’re doing so much at the — at the Veterans Affairs as well. It’s a — it’s a — it’s a sacred obligation.
And so, I want to thank you all again. I’m looking forward to our discussion.
And I thank the press for coming in. Thank you.
4:34 P.M. EDT