U.S. Sen. David Perdue (second from left) listens as Michael Goltzman (left), the vice president for global public policy and international government relations the Coca-Cola Company speaks at a forum Aug. 25. Gen. Richard Hawley, a retired U.S. Air Force general (second from right) also attended the forum held at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead and moderated by USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer (right).

U.S. Sen. David Perdue backed President Trump’s administration’s Afghanistan strategy and said the national debt is the top threat to national security Aug. 25 at a forum on global security held in Buckhead.

During the luncheon, held at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead on Peachtree Road, Perdue said the U.S. national debt is the greatest threat to national security, paraphrasing U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, adding that he has “a lot of confidence” in Mattis.

All money spent on military and aid is borrowed money, said Perdue, who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee for Foreign Relations and several relevant subcommittees.

“We can’t solve every problem off of our budget,” Perdue said. Without adequate funding for diplomacy and aid, war is more likely, he said.

Public-private partnerships are one tactic Perdue emphasized that can provide humanitarian aid while reducing the national debt.

“The encouragement for me is…more and more dollars are coming from the private sector and other governments because of our leadership,” he said.

The forum was hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Gen. Richard Hawley, a retired U.S. Air Force general, and Michael Goltzman, the vice president for global public policy & international government relations the Coca-Cola Company also participated in the forum.

Goltzman highlighted his company’s work as an example of public-private partnerships used to provide humanitarian aid. Goltzman used Coca-Cola’s program that provides and maintains refrigerators for medicine as one example. He also noted the company’s emphasis on growing internationally and hiring locals to run those international facilities.

The USGLC, which advocates for higher spending on international humanitarian aid, is based in Washington, D.C., but has a Georgia advisory committee some locals serve on, including Dov Wilker, the regional director for American Jewish Committee in Atlanta; Stephanie Freeman, the president and CEO of the Dunwoody/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce; Anne French, the director of global missions at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead; and Katerina Taylor, the president and CEO of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, according to information provided by USGLC.

The event was sponsored by several Atlanta groups, including the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber and the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta branch which is located in Buckhead.

About 20 protesters gathered outside the hotel during the event, chanting “Where’s David Perdue?” and making chicken noises as attendees exited. The protesters object to Perdue’s lack of public town hall forums.

Perdue did not take media questions at the event, but at an Aug. 23 Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce lunch Perdue told reporters he “absolutely” feels he is in touch with his constituents without holding town halls.

During the forum, Perdue emphasized the U.S.’s role as a leader in providing humanitarian aid to the world and said other world leaders appreciate the U.S. taking that position.

“The overwhelming thing I hear from heads of state all around the world is they want the United States to lead again,” he said.“If we don’t lead for good in the world, then who is?”

Perdue is supportive of the Trump administration’s plan for Afghanistan, saying the emphasis on diplomacy is “refreshing.”

“Victory is not killing every member of Taliban, it’s to get them into a diplomatic conversation,” Perdue said.

“We are no closer to [victory] now than we were 10 years ago, but we now have a mission, we now have a definition of what victory is,” Perdue said.

Both Hawley and Perdue said they support only diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear power.

“There is only a diplomatic solution. Nothing else would solve the problem,” Hawley said.

Denuclearizing North Korea is a common goal among China and the U.S., and to get China’ assistance the U.S. will have to show the country “we are in it to solve it,” Hawley said.

“It’s going to take persistence. You can’t expect an instant solution to very complicated problems,” he said.

Perdue said he seen progress with working China and Russia on international issues, such as that neither country vetoed United Nations North Korea sanctions.

“That’s a huge step. Huge,” Perdue said.

For these sanctions to remain effective, the U.S. will have to address the national debt, he said.

“If we don’t fix some of our financial problems in the U.S., the use of sanctions will become less and less impactful,” he said.

Perdue said he feels the world is more dangerous than any other time in his life, but also said Americans will rise to the task of providing humanitarian aid.

“Americans always deal with crisis better than any other country in human history,” he said. “We don’t have to finance every dollar of aid, but we have to be the catalyst that brings it together.”

The event can be watched in full here.

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