Gen. Joseph Dunford said Thursday that despite conflicts in the Middle East with terrorist groups, Russia poses the greatest threat to the United States today.

“My assessment today is that Russia poses the greatest threat to our national security,” Gen. Dunford told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing to consider his nomination to be the next chairman of the joint chiefs. “if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

Gen. Dunford said Russia’s nuclear capability, as well as the country’s threat to the sovereignty of American allies, makes the country a larger threat than the Islamic State.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee largely praised Gen. Dunford, who currently serves as the commandant of the Marine Corps, for his 38 years of service that include time leading troops in Afghanistan, but used the hearing on his nomination to lead the joint chiefs speak out against other problems facing the department like the Islamic State, what the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will look like in the future and across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.

Asked if he would advise the president to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan as planned by the end of 2016, Gen. Dunford said his experience there has taught him that assumptions often don’t come true, especially when they’re time-related.

“I can assure you if I’m confirmed I’ll provide advice to the president that will allow us to meet our current end state goal and that’ll be based on conditions on the ground,” he said.

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