Trump’s defense secretary slams Putin: ‘He attempts to undermine America’s moral authority’

  • Defense Secretary James Mattis tore into Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday for undermining NATO.
  • Mattis singled out Putin's seizure of Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine which resulted in Moscow's removal from the G-8.
  • The remarks from the Pentagon chief fall out of step with President Donald Trump who has repeatedly called for Russia to rejoin the G-7 group.
Defense Secretary James Mattis waits outside of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2018.
Department of Defense photo
Defense Secretary James Mattis waits outside of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2018.

Defense Secretary James Mattis tore into Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday for assaulting Western democracy and undermining one of the most powerful U.S. alliances, amid President Donald Trump's repeated calls for Russia's return to the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

"Putin seeks to shatter NATO," Mattis said during his remarks at the U.S. Naval War College graduation. "He aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America's moral authority."

Mattis singled out Putin's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014.

In response to Putin's actions, the United States, the European Union and a number of other nations imposed sanctions against Russia.

And the G-8 nations kicked Russia out of the group, marking a return to the G-7 format, made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan.

"For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine, while pursuing veto authority over their neighbors' diplomatic, economic and security decisions," Mattis said.

"His actions are designed not to challenge our arms, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The remarks from the Pentagon chief fall out of step with Trump, who has repeatedly called for Russia to rejoin the G-7 group.

"They threw Russia out, they should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table," Trump said last week as he prepared to leave for the G-7 summit in Quebec City.

"I think it's better to have Russia in than to have Russia out. Because just like North Korea, just like somebody else, it's much better if we get along with them," the president added.

Trump reiterated his position at the G-7 summit and did so again on Friday, while casting blame on former President Barack Obama.

"President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine," Trump told reporters outside the White House.

Trump added that he may meet with Putin this summer.