• The Russians Don’t Want To See Us Dead, Terrorists Do, Marine Corps Commandant Nominee Says

    Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, in his confirmation hearing to become 37th commandant of the Marine Corps, said that although Russia presents the greatest threat to the U.S. in terms of capability, violent extremists belonging to organizations like Islamic State are far more willing to see Americans dead.

    “If you’re asking me about a country…then I would agree with Gen. Dunford that Russia has the most increasing capable force and their actions, and the fact that they have strategic forces make them the greatest potential threat, although I don’t think they want to fight us,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee, answering one of Sen. Joe Manchin’s favorite questions.

    Although relations continue to worsen between the two countries, Neller did not think an attack against the U.S. was a likely outcome.

    “Right now, I don’t think they want to kill Americans. I think violent extremists want to kill us. And their capability is not that great, but their intent is high and the fact that they seem to have a message that resonates around the world, not just in this country but in other countries in the western world, they concern me equally.”

    Although he gave an additional caveat, Neller’s remarks fall into line with the recent views of other nominees for top positions, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva and Army Gen. Mark Milley. (RELATED: ANOTHER General Backs Romney)

    But while Neller believes dialogue with his military counterparts in Russia is a good idea to develop mutual understanding, he doesn’t necessarily think dialogue is sufficient, giving the example of a meeting he once had with Chinese officers. “I’ve met with Chinese officers and we didn’t agree on much. But we did have a nice lunch,” he noted.

    Where dialogue ends, actions like support begin. In response to a question from Sen. John McCain, chairman of the committee, Neller stated that providing weapons to the Ukrainian would make them “more capable of defending their territory.”

    After further pressing from Sen. Jim Inhofe, Neller said that although he has never been to Ukraine, he has been to Georgia.

    “They’ve made similar requests,” Neller said. “I think what I’ve heard at least from the Georgians, they’re looking for defensive weapons, anti-tank, guided missile-type of weapons.”

    Committee members also took the time to ask Neller about the recent shooting in Chattanooga, and whether he supports arming military recruiters.

    “I know that there are a number of studies and investigations ongoing about increasing force protection. There are some things we can do right away…that could include arming individuals,” Neller said.

    “I think we need to take a look at it. I have some concerns. There are some practical matters. I believe that will all come out in the investigations and planning going on right now. I’m not going to discount it, but I think that that’s probably the most extreme measure we could take.”

    The White House tapped Neller for the position of commandant on July 1. Neller, a 40-year infantry officer, commanded Marines in Iraq from 2005 to 2007.

    If confirmed, Neller will replace Gen. Joseph Dunford, who himself is set to replace Gen. Martin Dempsey for the role of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (RELATED: Robert Neller Picked As Next Marine Corps Commandant)

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