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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Matt Pottinger, the former assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor, during today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on United States’ strategic competition with China. 

A partial transcript of Senator Fischer’s exchange at today’s hearing is below:

Senator Fischer: Mr. Pottinger, throughout the Cold War there were those who argued that United State defense spending stimulated Soviet spending on defense and I recall that then Secretary of Defense Harold Brown’s rebuttal of that argument was his famous line “When we build; they build; When we cut, they build.” Do you believe that the U.S. defense spending stimulates China’s investment in its military, and do you believe reducing U.S. spending or force posture in the Indo-Pacific would result in positive changes in Chinese behavior or reduce their military spending?

Mr. Pottinger: Thank you, Senator. I think 30 years ago you could argue after China watched us mop up Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Gulf War that we did stimulate some Chinese spending. That was 30 years ago. China now spends more than all of the countries of Asia combined. It is the largest peace-time military build-up certainly in the modern era. Maybe one of the largest in history. So I do not think that we are driving that. I think that it’s actually incumbent upon us to have a counter strategy to actually more effective spend to be able to deny China’s ability to be able to, for example, forcibly subordinate Taiwan, including through some kind of a fait accompli attempt. So I agree with the sentiment that you quoted.