By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told CNN that he would not lose sleep over U.S. military forces in China and Russia and dismissed accusations by some conservative politicians and media figures that the latter U.S. military recruiting efforts to attract more diversity and be more inclusive are weakening the United States. security.
The U.S. military will never be “soft,” Austin told CNN’s Barbara Starr in an exclusive, extensive Memorial Day interview, adding that U.S. adversaries, such as China and Russia, “would like to take advantage discussion points like that “.
“I will not waste a minute of sleep on what the Chinese leadership says or what (Russian President) Vladimir Putin says. What I will focus on and what I am focused on is defending this nation and making sure that we have what it takes to be successful, ”the defense secretary said in the exclusive interview aired Monday.
The comments of the retired army general as the nation observes Memorial Day reinforce the Biden administration’s efforts to return America (and its foreign policy) to its more traditional role on the world stage and to prioritize diversity. as a key to the creation of strong American forces.
The U.S. military earlier this month released an ad recruitment campaign designed to attract Generation Z, with stories of five soldiers on how they responded to the call to service. The series is a “different departure from previous army campaigns,” given its use of “intimate” animation and portraits, and turns “what was a one-dimensional view of army service into something more relatable.” , the army said in a press release.
Criticism of the ads spread, including conservative media and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who responded to the ads by tweeting, “Holy shit, maybe an awake, awake military is not the best idea.”
Cruz’s comments responded to a Twitter video of a Russian military announcement and part of the U.S. announcement with Cpl. The story of Emma Malonelord, who says she was “raised by two mothers” and “marched for equality.”
“We have the biggest military on earth, but Democratic politicians and the awakened media are trying to turn them into thoughts,” the Texas Republican senator added.
In his interview with CNN, Austin said the U.S. military is the “best army in the world today,” not just for technology, but for the people who “populate our ranks.”
“I think we are doing a great job in terms of recruiting the right kind of people, providing access to people from all corners, from all walks of life in this country. As long as you are fit and able to qualify, there is room for you in this team, ”he said.
Austin argued that a diverse U.S. military force “should be part of who we are.”
“We represent the United States of America. We should look like America and not just in the ranks, ”he told Starr. “But our leadership should look like America.”
In the same interview, Austin told CNN that the United States has “offensive options” to respond to cyberattacks after another major attack that is believed to have been carried out by the Russian group behind the SolarWinds hack.
Austin, who served in the military for more than 40 years, also reflected on the sacrifice made by American troops as the nation nears the end of its longest war in Afghanistan and contemplates an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Prior to being Secretary of Defense, Austin held various leadership roles, including the Commander of the United States Central Command, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. forces in Iraq.
“I’ve had a front row seat … in the biggest phase of our history in terms, you know, of being able to see our troops in action and see the things they’ll do for each other, the sacrifices they make for this country and for each other, “Austin told Starr.” And I’ll tell you that while we can make great movies and write a lot of books, you can’t adequately describe the things I’ve seen during this period of 20 years. years, why will these young people do to each other, what they will do for their country is absolutely amazing. “