Testimony from President Obama’s nominee to serve as the next top general at the Pentagon has raised two fundamental questions in foreign policy circles: What constitutes an existential threat to the United States, and who counts as one?
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., selected to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified on Thursday during his confirmation hearing that he saw Russia as the greatest threat the United States faces. He cited Moscow’s aggressive actions in eastern Europe and the nuclear weapons they possess as causes for concern.
“In Russia, we have a nuclear power,” said Dunford, the current Marine Corps commandant. “We have one that not only has capability to violate sovereignty of our allies and… to do things that are inconsistent with our national interests, but they’re in the process of doing so.
“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” he added. “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
Dunford was asked later in the hearing by Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) where the Islamic State, North Korea and China fall in regard to being a danger to the United States. The general answered the question directly, saying that if he had to “rack and stack” them, he would rank Russia first, China second, North Korea third and the Islamic State fourth.