President-elect Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary made it clear Thursday that he believes Russian Federation is no friend to the USA, calling the country a "principle threat".
"I'm all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russian Federation is up to", Mattis added later. Mattis retired from his uniformed role as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013. And when asked about women and gays in the military, especially in combat roles, he said usa forces must be the "most lethal in the world".
When asked about the role of allies in dealing with China's behaviour in the South China Sea, Mattis replied: "My view is you always want more allies with you than fewer".
Committee members had expected to be able to question Mattis before the vote. In Afghanistan, he said the Taliban has eroded some coalition successes.
He said he believed the US's strategy to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State would work but needed reviewing, and may need to be more aggressive.
Asked by McCain whether the military was strong enough to deal with the myriad threats it faces around the world, he emphatically said no.
As a leadership figure in the armed forces, Mattis' visits to Israel may have brought him more often to Tel Aviv, where Israel's defense ministry and defense forces are based, than to Jerusalem, where its parliament and prime minister sit. The only senators to vote against the waiver were Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).
Prior to Thursday, there was little opposition to the waiver, even among Democrats.
Even some of Mr Trump's strongest critics say Mr Mattis merits the exception.
"I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement", Mattis told members of the Armed Services Committee.
Washington Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House committee, told Politico, "I'm going to urge all House Democrats to vote no on the waiver".
He said he would ask Congress to have a joint committee to oversee the implementation of the accord, boost intelligence community monitoring and have "a combined missile defense, air and missile defense capability, for our Gulf allies". John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee has said.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said it was his understanding the Trump transition team had blocked Mattis from testifying. "We are committed to holding the incoming administration accountable and ensuring all who serve, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the support and respect they need and deserve". "I don't think that is a message we should have accepted". If passed by the full Congress, it would be just the second time such a waiver was granted in USA history.