Washington (US): President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he will review the US force presence in the Middle East to address challenges from Russia and China.
“If confirmed, I will review our force presence to ensure it is properly balanced to address the broad range of challenges in the Middle East – including from China and Russia – with global requirements and the health of the joint force,” Austin said in a written statement to the US Senate.
Austin said he would also review the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw a significant number of US troops from Germany as part of the incoming Biden administration’s review of the United States’ military posture around the world.
In addition, Austin said he supports the provision in legislation to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine.
Austin mentioned the United States may cooperate with Russia in the Arctic but expressed concern about a military build-up in the region.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also pressed Austin on cybersecurity, including the latest cyber-attack against IT company SolarWinds. Austin said Russia should be held responsible if found to be the culprit behind the recent cyber intrusion.
Some pundits instantly blamed Russia, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted claims that Russia was behind the cyberattack.
In addition, Austin said he would encourage the accelerated development of intercept capability for hypersonic missiles.
Austin also said extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia is in the national security interest of the United States.
Regarding China, Austin said the United States holds a competitive edge, but the gap has closed significantly, adding that the United States’ goal should be to expand that gap going forward.