Retired Navy admiral: Russia and China are going against the 'global operating system'

James winnefeldUS Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel HintonVice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. speaks after receiving a Commander de L Ordre National du Merite medal from French Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud in Washington May 11, 2015.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs warned on Wednesday that Russia and China were going against what he called the “global operating system” of order, rules, and alliances.

“This system is under attack,” Adm. James Winnefeld (Ret.) told attendees of the AFCEA West 2017 conference. “They have thrown away the rules, and we’re not ready for it.”

In his keynote address, Winnefeld outlined the current security environment for the United States, which included mentions of Russian interference in elections, China’s moves in the South China Sea, and Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions, among other items, which he called “ongoing disruption in our national security landscape.”

“Historical change can be difficult to see when you’re actually living through it, but that kind of disruption may be what we’re seeing today,” he said. “If we are going to restore the strategic balance, to maintain the edge, we have to work much harder.”

Winnefeld brought up four variables that contribute to global stability — ends, ways, means, and the security environment — but, he suggested, all four were out of whack today. “That is pretty dangerous,” he said.

The ends, he said, were the choices that policymakers go with on what interests are protected and which are not. He explained the means were focused mostly on budgeting and acquisition for the military, and ways were how the military actually executes on policy.

Though Winnefeld tried to keep his talk apolitical, he said President Donald Trump’s approach of ‘America First’ seemed to go after only security, discounting other variables.

“I, for one, am not ready to give up on the global operating system just yet,” Winnefeld said. “It’s too important.”

Though the admiral outlined a somewhat grim picture in his talk, he offered praise for the national security team that was shaping up in the Trump administration, with retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis taking the helm at the Pentagon, and Marine Gen. Joe Dunford remaining as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

He was also optimistic about Army Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was recently named as the president’s national security adviser.

“I really believe in the guy, and I think he’s going to do well for us,” Winnefeld said.

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