Mattis has a realistic view of the Russian threat
...Putin is pretty open about wanting to return Russia to its Soviet-era dominance of the region and its ability to thwart US policy in trouble spots. So far, he has largely been showing off antique military hardware which might still be able to pack a lethal punch in some cases. However, his aircraft carrier off the coast of Syria has been a disaster for Russia already losing two planes.
“There is the potential, I believe, that Putin has unleashed forces that he will be personally unable to control,” the former four-star general said.
He raised the possibility that Mr. Putin is “delusional” and “breaks all the rules” by, in just one instance, sending heavy nuclear-capable bombers off the U.S. coast.
“The person who threatened on their national news one night to turn America to radioactive ash was promptly promoted by Putin and put into the government ministry of information,” said Mr. Mattis, who would have a critical role in checking Mr. Putin’s military moves. “So this is where miscalculations can happen.”
He painted a bleak picture of Russia economically, demographically and socially under Mr. Putin’s long rule, only matched in modern times by Josef Stalin.
“There is nothing Russia can do to reverse its demographic decline. It’s arithmetic at this point,” Mr. Mattis said. “They do not see having democratic nations on their borders as a good thing. They want security through instability.”
That stark assessment aligns Mr. Mattis with the dominant view among the U.S. military’s top brass. As he was stepping down as America’s NATO commander earlier this year, now-retired Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said Mr. Putin’s forces were deliberately bombing civilians in Syria to drive more refugees into Europe in a bid to destabilize the West.
Mr. Putin’s jet fighters do not use precision weapons, and human rights groups have blamed Russia for striking Syrian schools, medical facilities and civilian neighborhoods.