On Thursday, retired General James Mattis sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a confirmation hearing to become the next Secretary of Defense. During his testimony, Gen. Mattis answered questions from the Chairman of the Committee, Senator John McCain, about whether or not the United States military was currently capable of defeating threats like Russia and China.
“No, sir,” Mattis told McCain. The retired general went on to discuss the state of the world order.
“I think it’s under the biggest attack since World War II, sir, and that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea,” he told McCain.
McCain asked if there were lessons that could be learned from the history the United States has had in dealing with Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin. Mattis referred to the Yalta Conference in 1945 which took place in Russia during World War II in which American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin discussed the future of the postwar world.
“Chairman, history is not a straitjacket,” Mattis replied, “but I’ve 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. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.”
Mattis went on to acknowledge that while diplomatic relations with Russia have faltered through the years, the United States must focus on international alliances as they are the true solution to a strong nation.
“In addition to ensuring collaboration across government and the adoption of an integrated strategy, we must also embrace our international alliances and security partnerships. History is clear: Nations with strong allies thrive and those without them wither,” he said.
In the same regard, General Mattis called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “the most successful military alliance, probably, in modern world history, maybe ever.”
He added that he would “see us maintaining the strongest possible relationship with NATO.”