American and Italian service members working together around the world are the living symbol of the strong bonds that tie the United States and Italy together, defense leaders from both countries said today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto to the Pentagon where the two discussed bilateral relations.
Crosetto had just come from placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Austin and Crosetto most recently met at the NATO Defense Ministerial and Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels.
“It goes without saying that Italy is a valued ally on Europe’s southern flank and a gracious host to U.S. forces and I want to thank you for being such a gracious host,” Austin said. “I’m very proud of our long-standing bilateral defense relationship. We absolutely appreciate Italy’s robust contributions to missions by NATO, the European Union and the United Nations and your extensive out-of-area deployments.”
Austin noted that Italian troops are serving in the Balkans, the Baltic republics, the Arctic and along NATO’s eastern flank. The Italians are also in the Middle East, Africa and the Indo-Pacific. In many of these areas, the Italians are not just present, but leading some of the efforts, the secretary said.
These deployments are “a testament to Italy’s leadership to advance security all around the world,” Austin said. Both men raised Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion. Austin thanked the Italian minister for his country’s outspoken defense of Ukraine and for all it is doing to supply Ukraine the capabilities it needs to defend itself.
Still, the focus of the Pentagon meeting was on bilateral relations. Italy hosts thousands of American service members in Sicily, in Naples, at Aviano Air Base at Vicenza and many other areas.
The minister said it is important to talk about responsibilities as members of NATO or the Contact Group, “but it’s also very important to have these bilateral meetings in order to be able to talk calmly, and securely about what we intend to do for the future of security.”
Crosetto said Italy is “honored” to host so many American service members. “And as part of our history, we also have so many war cemeteries in Italy which hold America’s fallen,” he said through a translator. “It is a reminder of the role played by the United States to help us in our fight for democracy and for liberty.”