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(GPA) Washington – Today, in a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention, two of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks continued the American military and intelligence tradition of labeling Russia among the top threats to The United States.

In hearings on Capitol Hill today, critical opinions on US Russian relations were voiced by both Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, the man chosen to head the Department of Defense. While both men concurred with their Commander in Chiefs assessment of China as a threat they disagreed over strategies concerning building ties with Russia.

Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his confirmation hearing that he strongly considers Russia a “strategic competitor” and doubts there will be as much common ground between them and the US as Trump seems to think. Mattis said he was “all for engagement” but that US leaders have “to recognize reality in what Russia is up to, and there’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively.” Mattis gradually sounded more and more like traditional neocon war-hawks until finally seeming like a recording of John McCain when he said that Russia “will never be our partner.”

Besides breaking with Trump on Russia, Mattis also assured the senators of his feelings on the importance of continuing US commitment to NATO. Mattis said he firmly believed that “NATO is central to our defense,” and that “the alliance must harness renewed political will to confront and walk back aggressive Russian actions and other threats to the security of its members.”

Last year’s nuclear deal between the US and Iran also came up in the hearing and showcased another rift between the next head of the Pentagon and his commander in chief. Mattis said the deal was by no means “a friendship treaty” but instead “it is an imperfect arms control agreement.” Yet in spite of this, Mattis feels that “when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

According to Mattis, the world is seeing one of the most turbulent geopolitical times since World War Two. This also prompted the retired general to talk with the Senate committee about possibly lifting spending caps on the military in the near future, which was presumably music to neocon and defense contractor ears alike. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Mattis received a comfortable majority of the committee’s support to issue the waiver for his military service, so it’s unlikely anything will stop him from leading the US military.

The second Russophobe to have a confirmation hearing was Mike Pompeo, member of the US House of Representatives and Trump’s pick to head the CIA. Pompeo started his hearing by saying that he trusted the reports from the multiple intelligence agencies that accused Russia of interfering in the US presidential election.

Pompeo sounded similar to an Obama State Department employee when he said that Russia is “reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe,” and essentially “doing nothing” to combat the Islamic State. In fact, to further prove just how establishment Pompeo is, former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole was in attendance to speak on his behalf.

Today’s developments might disappoint many observers across the political spectrum who felt that, if nothing else, Trump was going to bring a much needed change to the bipartisan consensus of US foreign policy. Trump said himself that he’d be “hiring the best people” for his cabinet and since he’s apparently using the criteria set by the imperialists it seems the “best” people are just who Trump considers to be the best of the usual suspects.

Image: Flickr – Gage Skidmore

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