In a visit Thursday to Washington State University, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis acknowledged the elephant in the room: the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting war.

Mattis, the first in-person speaker in the Foley Institute’s distinguished lecture series since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, took questions primarily on the war in Ukraine, but also China, national stability and other related issues. He spoke to an audience that included students and military servicemembers in the Bryan Hall Theatre.

“I think it’s going to be tougher now than it ever was, and we’re just going to have to find ways to do it,” Mattis said of U.S.-China relations. “That’s why I hope some of you are studying diplomatic history and military history here … because we need young people to come in with fresh ideas that can help guide us through this perilous time.”

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