Gates sat down with Mike Allen at the National Archives Building Thursday to discuss his experience leading the DOD, the CIA, and Texas A&M. They talked about Gates' role in Tillerson's nomination, sending strong messages to military aggression, and upcoming challenges for Trump's Administration in geopolitics.
- Gates recommended Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State: As he said he told Trump, "an unorthodox choice and person I would recommend is Rex Tillerson. I've known Rex for a number of years, actually through the Boy Scouts where... after these meetings Rex and I would stay up late into the night talking about the world… I felt he had a great understanding of geopolitics and geo-strategy. He wasn't going to need a briefing book to know about Indonesia or South America or the Middle East or Russia…. I later learned from the press that was the first time he had heard Tillerson's name."
- On Tillerson's relationship to Putin: "Just because somebody has done business with Vladimir Putin doesn't make them friends."
- On Russian fighters coming within feet of American ships and aircraft: "If I were secretary of defense… when that Russian plane flew within 20 or 30 feet of an American warship, I would have sent a message. I would have asked the president to send a message to Putin, 'the next time your forces come that close to one of our ships, we will paint it, and we will shoot.'"
- On sending messages to Iran in the Persian Gulf: "You guys get closer than a half mile to one of our ships… I would've sent the message: we're going to react. Just know it. And you're not going to win."