Mattis: NATO “will never turn off dialogue”, but US needs nukes

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NATO will never cut off communications with Russia despite Moscow’s alleged interference in US and European elections, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters en route to Belgium.

“NATO will never turn off dialogue with Russia,” Mattis said on Wednesday, pledging that “NATO will never turn its back on trying to improve relations with Russia.”

However, improving Russia-NATO relations is hampered by the Kremlin’s interference in US and European elections and its “changing the borders of Europe by force of arms”, Mattis claimed without providing any evidence for these allegations.

The US Defense Secretary added that Russia, from NATO’s perspective, has more in common with the alliance in terms of the future, but that it has been extremely difficult to find common cause with Russia.

Mattis’ claims come ahead of NATO’s defense ministers’ meeting on Thursday and Friday to prepare for NATO’s July summit, which will focus on approving a new command structure that could boost the number of civil servants by 1,200.

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Earlier, US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison revealed that the alliance’s defense ministers will focus on approving a new simplified command structure for the faster response and deployment of forces to crisis areas in the alliance of 29 countries.

Back in February, Mattis claimed that the United States had been “absent” from nuclear weapons development in recent years, unlike Russia, China, and North Korea.

“The development of nuclear supply systems over the past eight years shows a number of breakthroughs from Russia, China and North Korea over the near absence of such activity from the United States,” the secretary said in a hearing before Congress.

Mattis further explored the nuclear issue, claiming that “competitors and opponents” have developed 34 new nuclear systems, “compared to only one for the US – the F-35.”  However, the underlying message is that the US feels privileged to dictate North Korea’s nuclear policy, while the US does not disallow the possession of nuclear weapons itself.

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