National Security

Mattis, Tillerson Call Out Russia for ‘Aggression’ and ‘Mucking Around’ in Elections

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called out Russia on Friday for "aggression" and "mucking" around in the election during separate overseas remarks.

Mattis joined the United Kingdom defense secretary Michael Fallon in London where they answered questions on Russia and North Korea.

One of the reporters asked Mattis about last month's alleged Russian violation of the I.N.F Treaty, which was signed by former president Ronald Regan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The 1987 treaty that Russia is accused of violating "bans the testing, production and possession of American and Russian intermediate-range missiles based on land," the New York Times reported.

"Do you think it's time for the United States to exit that treaty?" the reporter asked.

"Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record from what happened with Crimea to other aspects of their behavior in mucking around inside other people's elections and that sort of thing," Mattis said.

Mattis went on to say that the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) stands "united," and that Article 5 will continue to be the bedrock of the NATO alliance.

"Secretary Mattis, one of your generals has said that Russia may be arming the Taliban in Afghanistan and there is also the presence of Islamic State in the country," a Daily Mail reporter asked. "How concerned are you by these factors and what will you do about it?"

Mattis responded by saying that the Russian activity "gives us concern," but he couldn't say whether activity had manifested into weapons yet.

"We look to engaging with Russia on a political or diplomatic level, but right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor," Mattis said. "And we are finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point in areas where we can cooperate with Russia contrary to how we were just 10 years ago, 5 years ago."

"It's no longer a cooperative engagement with them right now. It's when we're going to have to carve out diplomatically some kind of maneuver room here assuming Russia can change its behavior and act in accordance with international norms and international law," Mattis added.

Tillerson also delivered remarks at a NATO meeting in Brussels, where he said that U.S. sanctions against Russia will stay in place until Moscow "reverses the actions" it has taken against Ukraine, CNN reported.

"American and NATO support for Ukraine remains steadfast. As we have repeated at every ministerial and summit since Russia launched its campaign of aggression against Ukraine, NATO allies stand firm in our support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Tillerson said.

"We will continue to hold Russia accountable to its Minsk commitments. The United States sanctions will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions," Tillerson added.

"We want to see the US foreign policy, not just quotes," a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said in response to Tillerson's remarks.