Remarks by Ambassador Yuri Kim at the Defender 2023 Planning Conference

Minister Peleshi, Major General Begaj, men and women in uniform for our 33 partners and ally nations here today, welcome to Tirana. It is great to have you back!

You were here just a few months ago, engaged in all sorts of activities around this wonderful country, this great ally of ours, and it is good to have you back here, planning for the next Defender Europe 2023.

We stood just a few months ago in the middle of Mother Theresa square, right outside this hotel, and we spoke about how Defender 21 was an historic moment. It is a landmark in Albania’s commitment to regional security and to fulfilling its NATO obligations and its partnership with us and all of the members of this great alliance.

Today represents an extension of that commitment and we’ll further our collective goals of readiness and interoperability. The terms ‘historic’ is thrown around quite a lot but it is really the only word that we can use to describe the exercise that we are about to undertake and that we have undertook this year. It encompasses an extremely ambitious set of exercises. The fact that we have over 30 countries participating here this week shows that our goal of operating together on ground, at sea or in the air is not just advantageous but it is achievement.

And seeing the flags of our countries on the uniforms at those training side by side, sends a powerful message to our friends as well as to our adversaries, that our nations will not be deter from protecting our friends and our allies.

The task of ensuring we can deter conflict, preserve peace and keep our nations safe, is not an easy one but it can and must be achieved. It will require an immense amount of effort and problem solving as you create recent and relevant training exercises, all while completing real world missions.

We should build upon the successes as well as lessons learned from Defender Europe 2021, to ensure that Defender ’23, and ‘22 in fact, are as useful as possible. Throughout your time here in Albania I trust you’ll get to experience the same hospitality, warmth and beauty of Albania that I have witnessed. Albania, much like countries represented in this country, is committed to its NATO allies and has shown time and time again to be a true and courageous friend and ally of the United States.

We couldn’t ask for better.

I hope every soldier, sailor, airman will keep in mind that you all are like me in this moment, Ambassadors of our own country. I hope you’ll take advantage of that moment to see the country, to represent the best of America and to represent the best of Albania back to our country when you leave.

Thank you for your continued work in making our nations safer. I look forward to seeing you and your soldiers, sailors and airman back in Albania for Defender ‘23.

Thank you very much!