On Friday’s Breitbart News Daily, SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam asked retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin about defense secretary nominee James Mattis’ advice during Thursday’s confirmation hearings to “confront” Russia. Kassam wondered what sort of confrontation Mattis had in mind.
“What I think he’s talking about is a quiet diplomacy, to begin with,” said Boykin. “Anything that we do openly, as has been the pattern of the Obama administration, is only going to encourage the Russians to be more bold. So I think there’s a quiet diplomacy that has to occur here.”
“I do think, though, that we’ve got to take a very serious look at some of the things that Obama has done, like canceling a treaty that took three years to negotiate with the Czechs and the Poles for missile defense,” he continued. “That was canceled in the first hundred days by Obama, even though George W. spent three years negotiating that, and then it was canceled. That was a very strong message to our allies, as well as to Russia. I think that’s got to be re-looked.”
“I think we’ve got to provide lethal aid to the folks in the Ukraine. That’s not advocating that we take on the Russians. But I also think that we’ve got to go back and look at how we beef up NATO. Mattis talked extensively about NATO. NATO is still a very critical ally, and I think the fact that we’ve been drawing down in NATO, now that there’s a Russian expansion means that we need to re-look that, and probably put more troops back in there, and maybe even up in the Baltic region,” he said.
Conversely, Boykin also recommended “quiet diplomacy” to “really put pressure on these NATO member nations to pay their share” because “none of them are living up to their obligations under the NATO charter.”
He dismissed the notion of a European Union army as a “failure from the beginning,” noting that effective military action in postwar Europe has required the one thing that would be lacking in an EU army versus NATO: American leadership.
“Remember that we’re living in the 21st century, but there are a lot of traditional allies with histories of conflict there, and it is the U.S. presence and U.S. leadership that is the glue that sort of holds NATO together,” Boykin advised.
Kassam asked Boykin about a nomination that has received somewhat less media attention than other Trump picks, that of David Shulkin for secretary of Veterans Affairs. “There are some mutterings that promoting from within this organization, when it has been failing veterans for so very long, is perhaps not the best of ideas,” he said.
“I will tell you that I was surprised by the nomination,” Boykin replied. “I think that Shulkin has an incredible background. But keep in mind, this is the second-largest bureaucracy in the administration: 300,000 employees that serve about nine million veterans a year. I’m surprised by this nomination.”
“That said, Shulkin has quite a background, a lot of experience. He has turned around a couple of major medical centers in the past,” Boykin noted. “This requires leadership. Medical skills for the leader of the VA, the secretary, are far less important than leadership. I’m going to take a wait-and-see attitude, but it did strike me as being rather odd that someone inside the VA was identified as the best guy to lead that – given the, I think, abysmal situation at the VA.”
Boykin said he’s heard rumors Kassam brought up, to the effect that Shulkin was nominated to please interest groups that do not want significant reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I’ve heard that a couple of the key nominees were people who wanted to privatize the VA, and that was rejected by some of the veterans groups,” Boykin said. “There are a lot of rumors flying around right now. But again, all I can say is I’m going to wait and see here.”
“Donald Trump made a pledge to really clean up this mess at the VA. I hope that the selection of David Shulkin is the right selection because when you have veterans that can’t get colonoscopies that would save their lives, and illegal immigrants can walk into a medical center and get care without any waiting time, that’s really a black mark on the character of this nation,” he said.
“John Kennedy said you’ll know the character of a nation by the way it treats its veterans. I think Trump made some strong pledges, and I hope this is going to result in following through on those pledges that he made to the veterans,” Boykin concluded.
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