U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he's not overly concerned about what's being said about the United States by the leaders of China and Russia.
He also told CNN's Barbara Starr, in a Memorial Day interview, that he rejects complaints from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans, that the military's latest recruitment efforts make the armed services appear "soft."
"I will not lose one minute of sleep about what the Chinese leadership is saying or what (Russian President) Vladimir Putin is saying," Austin said in the interview. "What I will focus on, and what I am focused on is the defense of this nation, and making sure that we have what's needed to be successful."
He also told Starr that the military's highly criticized recruiting efforts, aimed at attracting more diversity, are not weakening the armed forces and that China and Russia, "would like to capitalize on talking points like that."
Earlier this month, the Army released recruiting ads that featured soldiers talking about how they answered the call to join the military. The Army said in a press release that the series of advertisements are "a distinct departure from previous Army campaigns" and makes a "one-dimensional view of Army service into something more relatable."
"I think we're doing a great job in terms of recruiting the right kinds of people, providing access to people from every corner, every walk of life in this country. As long as you're fit and you can qualify, there's a place for you on this team," said Austin. "We represent the United States of America. We ought to look like America and not only in the ranks. Our leadership should look like America."
Cruz, one of the critics of the new campaign, tweeted "holy crap, perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea."
His post was in response to a Twitter video of a Russian military ad and a portion of an Army ad that featured Cpl. Emma Malonelord's story, who says in it that she was "raised by two moms" and "marched for equality."
"We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies," the Texas Republican senator also said.
Austin served for more than four decades in the military and on Memorial Day reflected on the sacrifices U.S. troops have made.
"I've had a front-row seat ... at the greatest stage in our history in terms of, you know, being able to watch our troops in action, and watch the things that they will do for each other, the sacrifices they make for this country and for each other," said Austin, who before becoming defense secretary held several leadership roles including as commander of U.S. Central Command, the vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Despite the fact that we can make great movies and write a lot of books, you can't adequately describe the things that I've seen over this 20-year period, what these young people will do for each other, what they'll do for their country is absolutely amazing," said Austin.
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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