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“We’re watching Russia wither before our eyes,” former US defense chief says

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Former US Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized Russia’s war in Ukraine, calling it “immoral” and “operationally stupid,” while speaking Friday at the Seoul Forum 2022. 

“We have a saying in America, we say that nations with allies thrive, nations without allies wither and we’re watching Russia wither before our eyes right now,” Mattis said.

When asked what military lessons could be taken from the war so far, the former US Marine said: “One is don’t have incompetent generals in charge of your operations.” 

He also called Russia’s military performance “pathetic” and decried “the immoral, the tactically incompetent, operationally stupid and strategically foolish effort” of its campaign in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference after meeting his Indonesian counterpart at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on June 30.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference after meeting his Indonesian counterpart at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on June 30. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP/Getty Images)

Mattis spoke of previous US efforts to try and bring Russia into the “community of nations,” but said that was not possible with Vladimir Putin as leader.

“The tragedy of our time is that Putin is a creature straight out of Dostoevsky. He goes to bed every night angry, he goes to bed every night fearful, he goes to bed every night thinking that Russia is surrounded by nightmares and this has guided him,” he said.

Putin had removed anyone from his circle that would disagree with him, so he “probably thought that the Ukrainian people were going to welcome him,” Mattis added.



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