The United States appreciates Croatia’s steadfast commitment to help Ukraine, said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
Austin hosted an enhanced honor cordon and meeting, today, welcoming Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banozic to the Pentagon.
Croatia’s commitment to Ukraine consists of numerous military equipment donations, including all of its Mi-8 helicopters, as well as humanitarian assistance, Austin said.
“All of that is making a real difference in Ukraine’s fight for freedom. I look forward to your perspectives on the challenges posed by Russia’s cruel invasion of its peaceful neighbor Ukraine,” he said.
Croatia has become a reliable defense partner and a valued NATO ally, he said.
Croatia has forward-deployed its forces to NATO battle groups in Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, the secretary said.
The nation has made impressive progress over the last 30 years, since the end of the Croation War of Independence, fought from 1991 to 1995. Since then, Croatia has become a fully integrated member of NATO and the European Union, Austin said.
“That kind of progress doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and sound policy. And it takes a willingness to set aside differences and to look to the future,” he said.
“One of the bedrocks of a democracy is the strength of its institutions,” Austin said. Croatia’s ministry of defense and armed forces have both played pivotal roles in the nation’s transition to a peaceful and stable democracy, he said.
Austin said he looks forward to discussing Croatia’s defense modernization and its continued investments in its armed forces, as well as its ongoing state partnership with Minnesota’s National Guard.
Banozic said the United States is a strategically important ally to Croatia.
Croatia, he said, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States to defend global security and deter aggression. “We are committed to this fight.”