Secretary of Defense James Mattis was naturally front and center on his first visit to NATO headquarters at Brussels for a Defence Ministerial in his new position;yet as Russia seemed to be challenging America's new President,Donald Trump,in manifold ways,the SecDef became a figure even larger than life than he already was.Defence Ministers and journalists alike crowded round him and carefully weighed his words as a nervous world craved a sense of certainty regarding the US role in international politics today under a controversial populist president:
The first time NATO went to war was when the US was attacked,so if anyone has any questions about the value,you have to look at that,General Mattis told reporters flying to Europe with him on an E-4B airborne national command post.More importantly,it prevented war in Europe following two destructive wars,and we clearly see the value in deterring war.So this is a historic and,as you know,it's also a very important meeting.I wouldn't miss it,obviously.So our commitment remains to NATO and,in terms of NATO's life,it's in the midst of transformation.Why?You've watched as the character of war over these last dozen years has changed itself;and as the character of war changes,so must the character of the militaries that address it.
To show NATO's commitment to this,you'll notice that the only NATO command headquartered in the US is the Supreme Allied Command for NATO Transformation.The whole point of that command is to transform NATO,so we rightly go to Brussels where we all talk together;we talk about that transformation;we guide it.NATO has transformed over these past 20 years and it must continue to transform,but,in that regard,it's clearly in NATO's best interest to adapt to what happened in 2014-2014 was a watershed year when most of our hopes for some kind of partnership with Russia were finally shown to be unavailing.So what we've got to do is adapt and make certain that the Transatlantic bond remains strong;and I think that,in going there,what we're also doing is proving that we can once again adapt to those changing circumstances.
I'm going to listen.I've been absent from active duty for three and a half years;I'm going to listen and see where everyone's thinking is at out there.Listen first;learn what other people face;help them if I can,because they've been allies,they've stood by us-New York was attacked,and so many decades before that and since,and so many of them have lost boys,lads and women in fighting the enemy that attacked America-and then lead;America has a leadership role.*
The context of this trip to Europe is an egregious violation by Russia of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 in deploying their new nuclear capable ground-based cruise missile,the SSC-8,after nearly a decade of illegal development and testing.As well,Russian fighter aircraft dangerously buzzed a US Navy guided missile destroyer,the USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea with their identification transponders turned off and disregarding repeated calls from the Porter.On top of this,the Russian spy ship SSV-175 Viktor Leonov had cruised farther north along the US coast than ever before,loitering 30 miles south of the US Navy nuclear submarine base at Groton,Connecticut today,15 February.It had
ventured near another nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay,Georgia on a previous voyage.All this leads one to conclude that Russia is currently testing new President Donald Trump's will,and that of NATO as a whole.