AFP-Jiji WASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — James Mattis, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary, on Thursday accused Russia of trying to break up NATO and said the United States needs to stand up to its old foe.
The retired Marine Corps general’s stinging criticism of Russia stands in sharp contrast to the views of his future boss. Trump has repeatedly praised the leadership qualities of its “very smart” President Vladimir Putin and advocated closer ties.
Mattis told his confirmation hearing he believed the modern world order was under the biggest attack since World War II.
“And that’s from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
His testimony came a day after Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson, said he too would take a firm line with Moscow.
Mattis noted that, like Trump, he was open to greater engagement with Russia, but stressed he only had “very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin.”
“I’m all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to,” he said.
“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia.”