McKeon: Defense budget cuts empower Putin

Obama’s smaller defense budget will leave the U.S. weaker and unable to challenge its adversaries around the world, said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. 

"Putin's not a dummy. He looks at it and says, 'Hey, America's cutting back their defense, I can push here,' " Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said at breakfast with defense writers. "China's [leaders] are not dummies." 

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"It's a dangerous world, and we're making it more so by cutting defense," McKeon said. "We weaken ourselves, and that is how you get into wars. You don't get into wars if you're strong."

McKeon said the belief that the U.S. should not be going around the world interfering in other countries' affairs "works pretty good, until you get a Hitler or until you get a Putin."

Under the Pentagon's 2015 budget request, the active-duty Army would shrink from about 520,000 troops to between 440,000 and 450,000; the Marine Corps would go from 190,000 to 182,000. Those numbers could be reduced further after 2015. 

McKeon said under the cuts, the Marines would not be able to defend ally South Korea, if it were attacked by North Korea, and handle another battle at the same time. 

"The Marines are planning on going down to 21 infantry battalions. Twenty are called for in the plan to defend Korea,” McKeon said. “That leaves one battalion to handle Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt," McKeon said. 

"This is serious stuff,” he added. "We're playing like it's monopoly money."