At Senate Appropriations Hearing, Senator Collins Questions Defense Secretary About the Missile Defense System in South Korea, Russia’s Provocative Position on Montenegro

The Maine National Guard helped Montenegro meet NATO requirements

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A at the Appropriations Subcommittee hearing
Note to assignment editors and news directors: Click HERE for high-quality video of Senator Collins’ Q&A at the Appropriations Subcommittee hearing

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, questioned U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Department of Defense’s budget request for fiscal year 2018. Senator Collins and Secretary Mattis discussed a number of issues, including South Korea’s decision to delay the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system and Russia’s hostility to Montenegro joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“I was…very concerned about the news last week that you mentioned in passing that the new government in South Korea will apparently be delaying the implementation of the THAAD missile defense system,” said Senator Collins. “How important is this missile defense system for defending both South Korean and American service members, as well as the 300,000 Americans living in Seoul?”

Secretary Mattis acknowledged that South Korea had decided to suspend the deployment of THAAD due to the current political climate within the country, but he assured Senator Collins that the U.S. military has “not been asked to remove the system or its two launchers.” Although the United States has “several other launchers…in Korea” that “have not been deployed,” Secretary Mattis expressed optimism that the two countries would be able “to find a way forward.”

Senator Collins also expressed concern about the hostile and provocative actions Russia has made in response to Montenegro recently joining NATO. She told Secretary Mattis that continued funding for the European Reassurance Initiative as well as state partnership programs—such as the partnership between the Maine National Guard and Montenegro—is “absolutely vital.”

“Montenegro became the 29th member of the NATO alliance earlier this month,” said Senator Collins. “The Maine National Guard has a longtime state partnership with Montenegro and actually helped them get ready for accession into NATO, something I am very proud of.”

“Not only have [the Russians] tried to interfere with Montenegro’s elections, but [they] put out a statement saying, that in light of the hostile course chosen by the Montenegrin authorities, the Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures,” Senator Collins continued. “That’s truly provocative language, and I just want to encourage you to keep sending the right signals to our NATO allies…”

Secretary Mattis affirmed the importance of NATO, noting that “if we didn’t have NATO today we would create it, because it’s fit for its time.”

Click HERE for the full transcript of Senator Collins’ Q&A with Secretary of Defense Mattis.