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Top House Democrat raises concerns about Biden’s likely defense secretary pick

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A Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee expressed concerns on Tuesday about President-elect Joe Biden‘s likely pick for Secretary of Defense, retired General Lloyd Austin. Fox News reported Monday night that Biden is set to make the announcement this week.

In a Twitter thread, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) wrote that picking Gen. Austin, a retired four-star general, “just feels off,” saying that the cabinet position is traditionally reserved for civilians. Slotkin is a former CIA analyst who served three tours of duty in the Iraq War during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“I have deep respect for Gen. Lloyd Austin. We worked together when he commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, when he was vice chief of the Army, and when he was the CENTCOM commander,” Slotkin said in a Twitter statement. “But choosing another recently retired general to serve in a role designed for a civilian just feels off.”

“The job of secretary of defense is purpose-built to ensure civilian oversight of the military,” Slotkin stressed. “That is why it requires a waiver from the House and Senate to put a recently retired military officer in the job.”

“And after the last 4 years, civil-military relations at the Pentagon definitely need to be rebalanced,” she added. “Gen. Austin has had an incredible career––but I’ll need to understand what he and the Biden Administration plan to do to address these concerns before I can vote for his waiver.”

Previously during the Trump administration, retired four-star Gen. Jim Mattis served for a period of time as Secretary of Defense. President Trump also appointed former Marines Corps Gen. John Kelly to be his Secretary of Homeland Security and then his White House chief of staff, as well as retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security advisor. Significantly, Mattis was the first retired military officer to serve as defense secretary in seven decades.

This public statement comes from a member of Biden’s moderate wing of the Democratic Party, a congresswoman who is also a military veteran and member of the intelligence community,.

If Austin is in fact appointed, he will need a special waiver approved by both chambers of Congress because of a federal law that bans retired officers from serving as secretary of defense for at least seven years after they retire from the military. After this approval, Austin would then need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He would be the first Black American to serve in this cabinet position.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Trump: Tanks to Ukraine could escalate to use of ‘NUKES’

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Former President Donald Trump stated bluntly on Truth Social,  “FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES. Get this crazy war ended, NOW. So easy to do!”

Trump was referring to the escalation of war in Ukraine. He, like many other commentators and lawmakers, are warning that the decision to continue sending weapons – and now tanks – could potentially lead to the use of “nuclear weapons.”

It’s mission creep and it’s dangerous, they say.

Why? Because Russian President Valdimir Putin has indicated in two different speeches that he would use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, if needed. Those warnings are not just bluster but a very real possibility.

And the escalation of war is visible.

Russia launched 55 missiles strikes across Ukraine Thursday, leaving 11 dead. The strikes come one day after the United States and Germany agreed to send tanks to Ukraine in an effort to aide the country. 47 of the 55 missiles were shot down according to Ukraine’s Air Force command.

Eleven lives were lost and another 11 were injured additionally leaving 35 buildings damaged in the wake of the attacks. According to The New York Times, Denys Shmyhal, said in a post on Telegram. “The main goal is energy facilities, providing Ukrainians with light and heat,” he said.

Ukraine is now demanding that they need F-16 fighter jets. In a post on twitter Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksiy Goncharenko said, “Missiles again over Ukraine. We need F16.”

The US has abstained from sending advanced jets in the chances that a volatile decision could foster more dangerous attacks like former President Trump’s post on Truth referred to. If the US did authorize the decision to lend Ukraine the F-16 jets Netherlands’ foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, would be willing to supply them. According to The New York Times, Hoekstra told Dutch lawmakers, “We are open-minded… There are no taboos.”

F-16 fighter jets are complex to work on, they are not the average aircraft that can be learned in a matter of weeks. It can take months for pilots to learn how to fly these birds. European and US officials have the concern that Ukrainian forces could potentially use the jets to fly into Russian airspace and launch attacks on Russian soil.

Western allies are trying to avoid such a provocation, because that could lead to nuclear warfare in reference to what Putin has said he would do to defend his country.

 

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