Retired Marine Corps. General James Mattis, Donald Trump’s
pick to lead the Defence Department, said during his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday that the current world order is “under the biggest attack since World War II.”
“That’s from Russia, from terrorist groups, and with what China is doing in the South China Sea,” Mattis replied when asked by Arizona Sen. John McCain what he thought about the current world order.
Mattis was grilled by McCain — a Russia hawk and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — about how he thinks the US should deal with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
“Putin will never be our partner, including in fighting ISIL. He believes that strengthening Russia means weakening America,” McCain said. “We must proceed realistically on this basis.”
Mattis replied that, while “history is not a straitjacket,” he had “never found a better guide for the way ahead than studying the history.”
“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.”
Mattis also called NATO “the most successful military alliance, probably, in modern world history, maybe ever,” appearing to break with Trump, who has called NATO “obsolete” and questioned its value to American security.
“We must recognise the reality that Putin is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance,” Mattis said, and “take the necessary steps to defend ourselves where we must.”
Early on in the hearing, Mattis said that while he supports Trump’s desire to engage with Russia now, “when we identify other areas where we cannot cooperate, we must confront Russia’s behaviour and defend ourselves if Russia chooses to act contrary to our interests.”
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