PREVIEW - US Defense Chief Travels To Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, Belgium

PREVIEW - US Defense Chief Travels to Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, Belgium

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 17th October, 2021) US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will embark on a European tour on Sunday to visit Ukraine, Georgia and Romania and attend his first in-person NATO defense ministerial meeting.

"Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III departs on a trip this weekend to visit Georgia, Ukraine, and Romania and participate in the NATO Defense Ministerial in Belgium," the Pentagon said. "The Department of Defense steadfastly supports its European Allies and partners in the face of Russia's destabilizing actions in the critical Black Sea region, and the Secretary looks forward to meeting with his counterparts and other senior officials to reinforce the United States' commitment to a safe, stable, and prosperous Europe."

Austin will meet with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze while in Georgia, where he will reaffirm US support for the country's territorial integrity and underscore the importance of the US-Georgian relationship. They will also discuss greater cooperation in the Black Sea, according to the Pentagon.

In Ukraine, Austin will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Andrii Taran to reaffirm US support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Pentagon said.

It added that the visit will also serve as an opportunity for the leaders to discuss Ukraine's defense reforms and cooperation in the Black Sea with allies and partners.

Austin will similarly reaffirm the US commitment to its bilateral relationship with Romania during meetings with President Klaus Iohannis and National Defense Minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciuca. They are likewise expected to exchange views on Black Sea security issues, the Pentagon said. While in the country, he will also visit US forces at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base.

In Belgium, Austin will take part in his first in-person NATO defense ministerial meeting, during which he will meet with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other counterparts. Austin's focus during the meetings will be on advancing NATO's military adaptation and ensuring that the alliance is prepared for future challenges. He will also reinforce the US commitment to the NATO alliance.

Austin will meet with US service members at various points during the trip to learn about their experiences and thank them for the contributions to the Defense Department's mission, the Pentagon added.