While the White House is dealing with the media aftermath of President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, being forced to step down amid allegations of inappropriate contact with Russian officials, James Mattis is heading to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders and reassure them of the United States’ commitment to the organization, and to checking Russian aggression along the border with Europe.
Mattis seemed decidedly unconcerned about Flynn’s resignation, addressing it only in the question and answer portion of his brief meeting with the press prior to departing for Europe. Lita Baldor of the Associated Press addressed concerns about how the recent revelation of Flynn’s involvement with Russia during the election process would affect American relationships with NATO nations – an organization that was founded with countering Russian aggression as a tent pole policy from its very onset. Mattis, however, dismissed concerns about how he’d assuage fears posed by world leaders, effectively saying that he’s going to go do his job, and the manner in which he’ll do it hasn’t changed since Flynn left the administration.
“Here’s the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. I’m brought in to be the secretary of defense. I give the president advice on the use of military force.” Mattis said.
“I maintain good relations, strong relations — some of you were out with me in the Pacific — and so military-to-military relations with other ministries of defense around the world. And frankly, this has no impact. Obviously, I haven’t changed what I’m heading there for. It doesn’t change my message at all. And who’s on the president’s staff is who I will work with.”
Mattis went on to refer to NATO as the most successful military alliance “in history,” before reminding the media, and the American people, that “the first time it went to war was when America was attacked, so if anyone had any questions about the value, you have to look at that.”
His speech emphasized the need for NATO to adapt along with the changing face of warfare, something NATO has been doing for the past twenty years, according to the Defense Secretary. His tenure as the Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation while assigned to NATO as a Marine General speaks to the level of his understanding of NATO’s shifts in policy and tactics, as that role is responsible for enacting just such changes.