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Robert Gates on Russia and his meeting at Trump Tower

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.

  1. 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."
  2. On Tillerson's relationship to Putin: "Just because somebody has done business with Vladimir Putin doesn't make them friends."
  3. 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.'"
  4. 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."