Defense Secretary James Mattis didn't mince words on Saturday, as he never does, in speaking about Russian interference with American elections. Speaking Fox News anchor Brett Baier at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, Mattis not only said that Russia attempted to interfere in our 2018 mideterms, but that the U.S. won't tolerate their interference and will do what it takes to stop them.
“This is a very complex situation because Mr. Putin is clearly a slow learner,” said the former Marine General. “He is not recognizing that what he is doing is actually creating the animosity against his people. He's not acting in the best interest of the Russian people, and he is actually causing NATO to rearm and to strengthen...the unified stance of all the democracies together.”
"What we are seeing Putin do, with his ripping up of international agreements, violating in the Kerch Strait this last week, a joint statement, agreement between Ukraine and Russia,” he continued. “We are dealing with someone that we simply cannot trust."
Asked by Baier if the relationship has worsened in the last few years, Mattis said "there is no doubt the relationship has worsened."
"[Putin] tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we're seeing a continued effort along those lines," said Mattis.
He said that Russia makes deceitful statements which don't stick and that they are the ones making the relationship deteriorate.
Baier asked about cyber warfare more generally. "Why did you feel like the U.S. had to go on the offense to battle Russia and China in cyber? has the threat increased significantly?
"I don't know that the threat is increased, it is continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended."
Baier pressed for Mattis to say that would include going on the offense.
"We'll do whatever is necessary to defend them," said Mattis.