WASHINGTON — Russia’s aggressive behavior and its nuclear arsenal make it the single greatest national security threat faced by the United States, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said Thursday at a Senate hearing on his nomination as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General Dunford, the Marine commandant, appeared far more confident that the military could step in if necessary if negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran fail. Asked whether the military had the ability to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, General Dunford was unequivocal. “My understanding is that we do, senator,” he said.
The hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee ran nearly two hours, and General Dunford was peppered with questions that ran the gamut of the issues he would face as chairman: how the United States should handle Iraq and Afghanistan — he has commanded American troops in both countries — how best to manage emerging threats in Asia, what to do about modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal and its submarine fleet, and how to combat sexual assault and harassment in the military.
There were almost no personal moments. There was no talk of General Dunford’s beloved Red Sox, who are currently in last place in the American League East, and the general tried to shut down an inquiry about “Fighting Joe,” a nickname he earned during the invasion of Iraq.