Former Defense Secretary William Cohen told RT’s Larry King what he thinks of President Trump’s Cabinet picks, why he is uncomfortable with the president’s decision making, and what he thinks of putting Iran on notice.
Cohen Group chairman and CEO William Cohen explained to Larry King:
“A possibility that a nuclear bomb will destroy an American city…or a city anywhere in the world,” keeps him awake at night just as it did when he was at the Pentagon.
“Once that happens, the likelihood of an existential threat to our existence on the planet becomes more real.
Bill Perry, my predecessor in office, who’s a physicist, the father of stealth technology, has written a book about it, Going to the edge of this abyss, that was saying rather than focusing on how we can reduce the number of weapons.
We have our president talking about maybe South Korea should have its nuclear weapons, maybe Japan should have its nuclear weapons, maybe the Saudis should have their nuclear weapons.
The more nuclear weapons we have in existence, the greater the danger is to our existence. That keeps me awake at night,” he said.
In January, former Maine Senator and Secretary of Defense Cohen introduced and endorsed Trump’s nominee for Defense, retired General James Mattis at the confirmation hearing.
“I know Secretary of Defense Mattis because he worked for me as a young colonel when I was at the Defense Department. I got to know him. I watched him over the years. I’ve stayed in closed touch with him over the years,” Cohen said. “Not only…he is a great warrior, but he is a great scholar. He reads a lot; he has some 6,000 books in his library, most of which he has read, unlike many people who have other thousands of books. He is constantly studying world affairs; philosophy, the art of combat; and the art of negotiating. So I felt very, very comfortable having a man like him in that position, given the very difficult times we live in.”
He also explained why Mattis, with all his intellectual capabilities, is called ‘Mad Dog’: “there was no one who was fiercer in battle.”
“He is a warrior who – I hate to use the phrase leading from behind – but he is leading from ahead. He was always in the heat of the battle. He went to be with his men on the battlefield,” the former Pentagon chief said.
In Cohen’s opinion, Mattis is among the best Cabinet picks by President Trump.
“I have enormous respect for Rex Tillerson, as well. Don’t know him as well, but I have served with him on the board of the CSIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and I’ve been impressed. Obviously, no one gets to be chairman of Exxon Mobil for as many years as he has with the responsibilities he had as CEO, without being a man of great substance,” he explained.
“But I would say between the two of them we’ve got two very, very substantive and, I would say tried individuals. I think they can work together very well. Normally there is some tension between State Department, Defense Department. I was able to work with Secretary Madeleine Albright – work out our differences. Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Mattis are going to be terrific together.”
Before the election, Cohen said he would be uncomfortable with President Trump making decisions on existential issues since he lacked the necessary knowledge of the military world, history and global affairs.
Not much has changed since then; he said “other than the fact he appointed good people – I take comfort in that.”
“My concern is whether or not he will listen to them, or whether he will be tempted to do what he has done as a businessman. That is to make decisions on his own – based upon what he feels is right,” Cohen told Larry King.
“My hope is that he has surrounded himself with really great people and that he will take their advice. We saw some of that, where he has come out in favor, for example, of waterboarding and more torture.
Mattis said: “No, that is not the way to go.” And what the President has said: “Well, you hear what my view is, but I defer to the Secretary of Defense. That is good news, but it is highly unusual. Usually, the Secretary of Defense is someone who defers to the President, and not the other way around,” the former Defense Secretary said.
Commenting on the US putting Iran on notice following Teheran’s testing of a ballistic missile, Cohen said the US has to be careful if that is seen as a red line.
“We went through this process when President Obama drew a red line that had the Syrians ever used chemical weapons – they would have to face serious consequences from the US. We know how that story ended, where we made the pledge, and we backed away from it. That certainly had an impact on our allies. And it certainly had an impact, as far as President Putin was concerned, in terms of our seriousness under those circumstances. So here we have to take great care,” he said.
In Cohen’s opinion, “the Iranians are going to do whatever they can to irritate the US.”
“They will test up to the point where they can claim that it is not illegal for them to test these types of missile… The question then becomes: if you lay down a marker saying: ”You’re on notice,” the next question: “What do we do about it?..” he said.
Nine countries together possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning.
Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
The failure of the nuclear powers to disarm has heightened the risk that other countries will acquire nuclear weapons. The only guarantee against the spread and use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them without delay.
Although the leaders of some nuclear-armed nations have expressed their vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, they have failed to develop any detailed plans to eliminate their arsenals and are modernizing them.
How many nuclear weapons are there in the world?
|COUNTRY||NUCLEAR PROGRAMME||SIZE OF ARSENAL
|United States||The first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to have used them in war. It spends more on its nuclear arsenal than all other countries combined.||6,800 warheads|
|Russia||The second country to develop nuclear weapons. It has the largest arsenal of any country and is investing heavily in the modernization of its warheads and delivery systems.||7,000 warheads|
|United Kingdom||It maintains a fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines in Scotland, each carrying 16 Trident missiles. Its parliament voted in 2016 to overhaul its nuclear forces.||215 warheads|
|France||Most of its nuclear warheads are deployed on submarines equipped with M45 and M51 missiles. One boat is on patrol at all times. Some warheads are also deliverable by aircraft.||300 warheads|
|China||It has a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia. Its warheads are deliverable by air, land and sea. It appears to be increasing the size of its arsenal at a slow pace.||260 warheads|
|India||It developed nuclear weapons in breach of non-proliferation commitments. It is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal and enhancing its delivery capabilities.||110–120 warheads|
|Pakistan||It is making substantial improvements to its nuclear arsenal and associated infrastructure. It has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal in recent years.||120–130 warheads|
|Israel||It has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence. As a result, there is little public information or debate about it.||80 warheads|
|North Korea||It has a fledgling nuclear weapons programme. Its arsenal probably comprises fewer than 10 warheads. It is not clear whether it has the capability to deliver them.||<10 warheads|
The wider problem
Five European nations host US nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement, and roughly two dozen other nations claim to rely on US nuclear weapons for their security.
Furthermore, there are many nations with nuclear power or research reactors capable of being diverted for weapons production. The spread of nuclear know-how has increased the risk that more nations will develop the bomb.
|Nations with nuclear weapons||United States, Russia, Britain,
France, China, Israel, India,
Pakistan, North Korea
|Nations hosting nuclear weapons||Belgium, Germany, Italy,
|Nations in nuclear alliances||Albania, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada,
Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia,
Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Japan,
Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg,
Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania,
Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea,
Spain (plus the five host nations)
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