Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said the United States is seeking to deepen relations with hemispheric partners.
The secretary told students at the Brazilian War College in Rio de Janeiro that the United States “will earn your trust daily. We want to be your partner; especially if trouble looms.”
This is Mattis’s first visit to the region as secretary. He told the students that he has deployed many times in his career and he has never been on a battlefield in a solely U.S. formation. The United States seeks allies and looks to increase cooperation among partners.
“Our native languages may be different, but four decades of military service have persuaded me that the profession of arms has a language of its own and a way of turning strangers into family,” Mattis said.
Mattis described his job to the Brazilian officers, saying that he is an advisor to the elected commander in chief. He provides military options to the president, and he provides civilian oversight of the U.S. military.
“Know what my real job is?” he asked the officers. “My real job is to try to keep the peace for one more year, one more month, one more week, one more day while the diplomats try to work out a solution to very difficult problems.”
He also described the lines of effort in the Defense Department. The first is to increase lethality of the U.S. military.
“I want any adversary to know that they are better off to deal with our secretary of state and our diplomats,” he said. “They do not want to deal with me and my soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”
Another line of effort is to strengthen and broaden U.S. relationships with allies. “It’s simple: Nations with allies thrive; nations without allies do not survive,” Mattis said.
The reason for his trip to the region is to encourage partnership. The secretary will go to the Indo-Pacific next month and Europe after that, he said. “This is not something you turn on one day, walk in, make a speech, walk out and then forget about it,” he said. “It must be sustained.”
Trust is the currency for these relationships. “When speaking with senior U.S. officers, I tell them they must learn to build harmony,” Mattis said. “If they cannot build trust across national lines, across military lines, joint service lines, civilian-military lines, if they cannot build trust and harmony of operations, then their leadership … is obsolete and they must go home, for I have no use for them.”
Listening to Allies
Mattis said senior leaders must listen to allied leaders and be prepared to take their advice. “The nation with the most aircraft carriers is not always right,” he said.
Senior U.S. military leaders seek a collaborative and secure hemisphere, “one where we individually and collectively maintain situational awareness in all domains,” he said.
Partners must share information with neighbors because hemispheric priorities must be addressed together, the secretary said.
The United States and Brazil are long-time partners. Brazil fought alongside U.S. service members in World War II and continues to serve alongside them today. Mattis is personally committed to making the U.S.-Brazil military-to-military relationship stronger.
“Together we seek to strengthen our cooperative strategic partnership that is transparent, that is trustworthy and that is steady,” he said. “I see a bright future ahead for Brazil and our hemisphere.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)