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Mattis Says no Change in Russia's Capabilities

Mar 19, 2018

Defense Secretary James Mattis said he sees no change in Russia's military capability in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent speech in which he said Russia has developed new strategic weapons systems capable of attacking the United States.

As Secretary of Defense, Mattis said his role is to make strategic assessments, and he determined that there was no change to the Russian military capability in Putin's remarks. The systems the Russian president talked about “are still years away,” the secretary said, adding that he doesn't see them changing the military balance.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lands in Kabul. (March 13, 2018.)
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lands in Kabul. (March 13, 2018.)

“They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrent posture,” confirmed Secretary Mattis.

The recent cancellation of scheduled strategic stability talks shows a Russia that's not even acting in its own best interests, he added.

Turning to Syria, Mattis noted that Russia signed up with the United Nations Security Council for a cease-fire in Homs, Aleppo, and East Ghouta. “Their partner [the Assad regime] proceeds to bomb, at best, indiscriminately, at worst, targeting hospitals,” he said. “I don't know which it is -- either they're incompetent or they're committing illegal acts, or both.”

Secretary Mattis told reporters he is aware of reports of chlorine gas use and of the bombings taking place in Syria. “It's almost like a sickening replay of what we've seen before, in Aleppo for example, and before that in Homs,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley worked with the U.N. Security Council to reach a cease-fire in Syria, and “Russia's partner immediately commenced violating it,” Mattis said. “We're working through diplomatic means; continuing to work,” he stressed. “We don't give up.”