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Mattis, in London, Toes British Line on Russia

April 1, 2017 (EIRNS)—U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in London yesterday for meetings with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon; his performance there, illustrates the dangers of the so-called U.S.-U.K. "special relationship" and why re-establishing full military-to-military relations between the United States and Russia is absolutely crucial. Mattis exhibited full acceptance of the British line about Russian "aggression" and went so far as to express support for the idea that Russia "mucks around in" the elections of other countries. This would seem to be contrary to President Trump’s stated intentions to seek to improve relations with Russia.

"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, that sort of thing,"

he said, during his joint press conference with Fallon. This, he claimed is the reason why NATO is so important, on which Fallon fully agreed. Fallon declared that the United Kingdom wants to see NATO’s forward presence in Eastern Europe be as

"as persistent as the threat that it is designed to deal with, to reassure those allies on our eastern flank, and to deter the kind of Russian aggression that we’ve seen recently: military build-up, use of hybrid techniques, and indeed, interference in—in—through cyber and—and other techniques."

On the subject of NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti’s and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel’s testimony alleging Russian support to the Afghan Taliban, Mattis said,

"I would just say that we look to engaging with Russia on a political or diplomatic level. Right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor and we’re finding that we can only have very modest expectations at this point of areas that we can cooperate with Russia, contrary to how we were just ten years ago, five years ago,"

he said. "It’s no longer a cooperative engagement with them."

The U.S. and British press jumped on Mattis’s remarks in particular, as if saying he’s "seen the light" on Russia’s alleged bad behavior. But the Russian Embassy in London pushed back, dismissing Fallon’s remarks as a "string of unfounded accusations." "Russia is an independent and sovereign state pursuing its national interest as defined by ourselves," a spokesperson told the Independent, saying that it was "clearing up the mess" made by Western states in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, was more discreet. He "sought to assuage worries that the new administration would seek closer ties with Russia at NATO’s expense," according to Bloomberg News. "[T]he U.S. commitment to NATO is strong and this alliance remains the bedrock for trans-Atlantic security," Tillerson said March 31 in Brussels. "The NATO alliance is also fundamental to countering both nonviolent, but at times violent, Russian agitation and Russian aggression." He said U.S. sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea "will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions" and "we will continue to hold Russia accountable."

In response to the NATO meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that it was "astonished" at Tillerson’s remarks.

"As far as we can see, maintaining unity within a multilateral structure, like NATO which incorporates such different states, is not an easy mission,"

the ministry said.

"It requires a strong uniting motive. It did not take much effort for NATO ministers to find it, as follows from their comments. They have always on their mind one and the same thing —a myth of a ‘Russian threat’.... We were astonished at the corresponding pronouncements by U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson,"

the ministry said.

More generally, the ministry said it saw no evidence that NATO was ready to resume practical cooperation. "Actually, we are being drawn into a confrontational paradigm of relations based on the logic of military confrontation," the ministry said.

"Notably, no signs are seen of the alliance’s readiness to resume practical cooperation in the sphere of our common interests, to move towards addressing real security challenges, with regional terrorist threats among them."