Mattis open to meeting with Russian defense chief: report

Mattis open to meeting with Russian defense chief: report
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE is reportedly open to meeting with his Russian counterpart in upcoming months to increase cooperation and communication between the two countries' militaries.

Two senior U.S. officials told Reuters that, while Mattis has indicated that he is open to talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a first step to higher-level political talks between the two nations, Mattis is not currently actively seeking communication with Shoigu either in person or by telephone.

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Shoigu is a top critic of U.S. foreign policy in Russia and last week told an Italian newspaper that Russia would work to counter America's “neocolonialism strategy.” 

The news comes after President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, where the two leaders held a bipartisan summit after which Trump again appeared to cast doubt on Russia's role in spreading misinformation and sowing discord during the 2016 election.

The president said at the White House Tuesday that he misspoke during a joint press conference with the Russian leader, and told reporters that he instead meant to say that he didn't see any reason why it "wouldn't" have been Russia that interfered in the U.S. election — not "would."

His initial remarks supporting Putin's denial spurred a flurry of outraged statements from Democrats and Republicans, who condemned the president for appearing to side with Moscow over his own intelligence agencies.