Defense Minister Olta Xhaçka paid an official visit to the Pentagon for the second time, where she was received by the United States Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan.

During their conversation, the two senior officials recognized what is increasingly called 'the Russian threat for the Balkans region', stating that the United States and Albania are strong partners in facing this threat.

The Defense Minister described the United States as a great friend and, according to her, the fate of the region would have been different without the support of the U.S. as a strategic ally.

“We hope that, within this year, we will begin work on the first regional air base for the Alliance in Kuçova.

“This is a development, I believe, that recognizes Albania's role in stability for the region and enhances our strategic importance for the Alliance as a whole.

“You can always count on us whenever we you need it. Our soldiers are your soldiers,” expressed Xhaçka.

The United States Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, underlined the appreciation for, among other things, Albania's commitment to peacekeeping missions and the Albanian government's target of devoting 2% of the GDP towards defense.

“The relationship between our two countries is strong. I want to thank you for your contribution and the fact that you have been a model ally,” said Shanahan.

During her visit to Washington, Minister Xhaçka, signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense for the modernization of the Albanian Armed Forces, especially the Air Force, including the receipt of a number of “Black Hawk” helicopters.

This agreement also foresees the maintenance of these helicopters, as well as ongoing training to be provided to Albanian pilots and technicians.