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Mattis: Putin 'Attempts to Undermine America's Moral Authority' and 'Shatter NATO'

Defense Secretary James Mattis addresses U.S. Naval War College class of 2018 graduates during a commencement ceremony in Newport, R.I., on June 15, 2018. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

Defense Secretary James Mattis warned graduates at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., today that Russian President Vladimir Putin “seeks to shatter NATO” as “he aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority.”

“His actions are designed not to challenge our arms, at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” Mattis said in his commencement address.

While President Trump declared this week on Twitter that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Mattis said that “while a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, we remain vigilant regarding pursuit of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.”

He noted that Russia is “the nation closest to us in nuclear parity, and proven willing to use conventional and irregular power in violation of international norms.”

“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,” he said.

Mattis also highlighted the potential danger from “China harboring long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order.”

“The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states, kowtowing to Beijing; espousing One Belt, One Road, when this diverse world has many belts and many roads; and attempting to replicate on the international stage their authoritarian domestic model, militarizing South China Sea features while using predatory economics of piling massive debt on others,” he described.

“After World War II, our Greatest Generation, in collaboration with our allies and partners, built the open international order that has benefited global prosperity, it’s unrealistic to believe, today, that China will not seek to replicate its internal authoritarian model elsewhere, as it expands globally,” he warned.

“China has benefited enormously from the open international order, but it had no say in drafting it. Today, how we engage with China and how the Chinese choose to collaborate by its dictate to the world will provide the roadmap for our future relationship.”

Mattis told students that the Lafayette, Rochambeau, Kosciuszko and von Steuben statues in Lafayette Square across from the White House are a reminder that America does not stand alone.

“No single nation resolves security challenges in this world,” he said. “For all the times that I was privileged to fight for America, I never fought in a solely American formation as a U.S. Marine.”