By Debbie Gregory.
The Marine Corps commandant thought to be taking over the Joint Chiefs of Staff told lawmakers that he felt that Russia was the “greatest threat” to US national security.
“Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,” Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military post in the US, acting as the chief military adviser to the president, the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense. Obama nominated Dunford for the job in May, after the current CJCS, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced his retirement.
With its large nuclear arsenal, destabilizing role in Ukraine and threat to NATO nations on its borders, Russia presents a significant challenge to the U.S., even as it faces threats like that of ISIS.
Other top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Secretary Deborah James have also voiced similar concerns. James said that NATO members should honor the promise they made to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, in order to combat the alleged threat from Moscow.
When asked about other top challenges, Dunford said that China has been increasingly assertive in the South China and East China Seas. He said that China has been building up artificial islands for possible military use, and asserting territorial rights disputed by their neighbors, most of whom are American allies.
Also on the list were ISIS and North Korea, since North Korea has ballistic missile capabilities.
If confirmed, Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps and former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will face an uncertain budget environment for the armed services, with the threat of forced cuts through sequestration looming later this year.
“What keeps me up at night is our ability to respond to the unexpected,” General Dunford told the Senators. “On balance, our force can deal with the challenges that we have now. But there is very little residual capability.”
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