CABINET/DEFENSE/JAMES MATTIS: "At the top of the hearing, Mattis took a hard stance against Russia and Putin in answering a question from anti-Russia hawk, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.
The topic has been one of the greatest sources of Republican criticism of President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly spoken favorably about Putin and for months denied Russia's role in a hacking and misinformation campaign designed to influence the election.
'I've watched three presidents commit themselves to new relationships with Vladimir Putin. All three have been an abysmal failure,' McCain said, asking Mattis what he would do.
'I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with (in) Mr. Putin,' Mattis said. 'We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps, the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps, working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.'
He identified Russian aggression, terrorism and Chinese actions in the South China Sea as the biggest security issues since WWII."
– “Defense nominee Mattis emerges with strong support,” CNN Politics online, Jan 12, 2017, Tal Kopan, 1/12/2017