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Russia reportedly warned Mattis it could use nuclear weapons in Europe, and it made him see Moscow as an ‘existential threat’ to the US


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During the early months of the Trump administration, Russia reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis of its willingness to use nuclear weapons under certain conditions.
It’s not clear in what context the warning was made, but both the US and Russia have stated under what circumstances they would use nuclear weapons.
Russia’s warning to Mattis came in regard to the Baltic states, which have warned of Russia’s growing interference.

At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.

According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.

According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.

Others, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pushed back, citing a lack of evidence of any violation. (Trump refused to recertify the deal in October 2017 and withdrew from it in May.)

Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.

Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.

Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”

“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.

Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.

The Baltic states have warned about what they perceive as increasing Russia activity against them, and there is evidence that Moscow is working on military facilities in the region.

Imagery released earlier this year indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.

“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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