The current world order is under its greatest threat since World War II due to provocations from Russia, terrorism and other international actors, according to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of defense James Mattis.
Mattis’s comments followed a question from GOP Sen. John McCain during the former Marine Corps general’s confirmation hearing Thursday.
“Do you believe that … world order is now under more strain than its ever been?” asked McCain.
“I think its under the biggest attack since World War II, sir,” replied Mattis. “And that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China sea.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 12, 2017
Mattis added that he thinks “deterrence is critical” to confronting the multi-pronged threat, and that it requires the “strongest military.”
“Do you think we have a strong enough military today in order to achieve that goal?” asked Mattis.
“No, sir,” responded Mattis.
As the former commander of U.S. Central Command, Mattis is intimately familiar with the threats facing the U.S., specifically terrorism and Iran.
Regarding Iran, Mattis noted that the nuclear deal struck in July 2015 was a flawed arms control agreement, but despite his concerns, it was important to continue to work with it.
“When America gives her word, we have to live up to it,” said Mattis, responding to a question from Sen. Jack Reed.
That said, Mattis also said the U.S. needs to publicly display what Iran is up to, specifically regarding its support of terrorist proxies and multiple cyber attacks. Mattis once requested to engage in a retaliatory strike against Iran after it was discovered the country was providing rockets to Iraqi insurgents, which were killing more than a dozen troops a month in 2011. The Obama administration subsequently denied the request, as officials felt it would escalate tensions with Iran. Administration officials were engaging in secret negotiations with Iran at the time.
Mattis also touched on the threat posed by Russia, and noted that the U.S. has a “relatively short list of successes” when trying to reset with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He warned that Putin is trying to “break” NATO, and that the U.S. must push back.
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