Defense Secretary James Mattis Confirmed Russia Tried to Meddle in November Elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. President Vladimir Putin says the claims of Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election are designed to distract public attention from real issues.(Maxim Blinov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“Moderate Dog Mattis,” formerly known as “Mad Dog Mattis,” confirmed that Russia tried again to interfere in the midterm elections. In a Saturday interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Secretary Mattis said, “There is no doubt the relationship has worsened. He tried again to muck around in our elections this last month. We are seeing a continued effort around those lines.”

“This is a very complex situation because clearly Mr. Putin is a slow learner,” Mattis said. “He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating the animosity against his people. We’re dealing with someone we simply cannot trust.”

Mattis did not discuss the nature of the interference, however, former Trump Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Nadia Schadlow “described during a separate panel at the forum how Russia has used internet trolls and bots to spread disinformation through ads on Facebook and other social media platforms.”

Mattis also denounced Putin’s “duplicitous violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia, which prohibits the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles)…In October, Trump proposed pulling out of the treaty altogether.”

Mattis said “The United States is in full compliance with the treaty. Russia is not. A treaty that is respected by only one side cannot be effective and will not keep us safe. We will re-energize our arms control efforts, but the onus is on Russia to come into compliance.”

President Trump recently cancelled a meeting with Putin scheduled to take place at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, citing Russia’s naval aggression against Ukraine. The Hill’s James Bowden reported that “Russian officials on Friday cast doubt on President Trump‘s official reason for canceling a planned bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the “U.S. domestic political situation” was the reason for Trump’s decision to not meet with Putin.” They were referring to the news of Michael Cohen’s plea deal with Robert Mueller.

At a press conference on Friday,  a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova said: “Was the provocation organized by Kiev in this region the real reason for cancelling. Publicly, we heard just such an explanation, we took note of it. Is this a reality? I think that you still need to look for answers in the U.S. domestic political situation.”

In the face of Putin’s never-ending stream of provocations, Trump is standing strong against Russia. No doubt he will be criticized for not engaging with the Russian President just as he was overwhelmingly criticized for projecting “weakness and submissiveness” at the now infamous Helsinki press conference with Putin in July.

The White House has confirmed that a brief, informal meeting between Trump and Putin did take place, but did not offer any details.

Putin gave a press conference and said Trump had questioned him about the seizure of three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors last week. Putin said:

I answered his questions about the incident in the Black Sea. He has his position. I have my own. We stayed in our own positions.

It is unfortunate that we can’t hold a full-format meeting. I think it is very much needed, in connection with issues of strategic stability, especially after [Trump] announced that the United States plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.