James Mattis has held his opinions of President Donald Trump close to the chest, but on Thursday, the defense secretary – who is often referred to as one of the “adults” in the administration – wrote a letter of resignation that laid bare his thoughts, Business Insider reports. In a scathing message to Trump, the four-star general essentially renounced the president’s foreign policy strategies and called for American leaders, and particularly his successor, to be careful about who is considered an ally.
In his letter, Mattis set the tone for his stance on Trump’s policies by opening and closing his resignation saying that he was honored to serve the nation alongside other service members. Notably, he neglected to recognize the president. He then called for his successor to be resolved in protecting American interests from foreign adversaries.
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly at odds with our own,” Mattis said.
In particular, Mattis called for leaders to re-examine the country’s relationship with Russia and China, which has shifted under Trump’s leadership.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies,” he wrote.
Under Trump’s direction, the United States’ relationship with China has moved from one of engagement to one that is more adversarial in nature. Russia, on the other hand, has proven that it is willing to meddle in American politics in order to further its own agenda. Trump, meanwhile, has fostered a friendly relationship with Russia that many leaders, including Mattis, find unsettling.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear eyed about malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis wrote.
He concluded the letter by saying that he was stepping down because believed it was the president’s privilege to appoint someone whose views better reflect his own.
On Thursday afternoon, Trump made an announcement via Twitter that General Mattis would be retiring, shocking many in his administration and underscoring the unpredictable environment plaguing the Trump White House.
....equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Senate majority leader and Trump ally Mitch McConnell said that he was distressed by Mattis’ decision to step down and urged the president to pick a successor who equaled the general’s knowledge and experience.
Mattis is scheduled to leave the administration on February 28.