Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in his nomination hearing as Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis pushed for the US to remove spending caps and increase military, arguing the nation needs to be ready to “confront Russia” militarily.
Mattis largely appeared to reject President-elect Donald Trump’s talk of normalization with Russia, insisting the US needs to “recognize reality” and accept that there are a “decreasing number of areas” in which the US can even theoretically cooperate with Russia.
Mattis went on to argue that Russia is trying to “break” NATO, and that the US needs to build up military power in Eastern Europe to reassure NATO members in the area. Mattis argued NATO remained necessary because the US has had so few succcesses engaging with Russia since Yalta.
Gen. Mattis did not offer specifics, beyond increasing spending, which seems materially the same policy that the Pentagon has had for years. That Mattis followed State Dept. nominee Rex Tillerson in laying out a much more hostile position toward Russia than the one Trump has suggested is noteworthy, however.
Tillerson insisted he had not discussed Russia at all with Trump, and while Mattis didn’t mention that one way or the other, it seems that there are some dramatic disagreements between the policy Trump has laid out of normalization, and the one his cabinet is putting forward, which seems to continue the march toward the new Cold War.