Feb. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis ruled out military collaboration with Russia at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
"We are not in a position right now to collaborate on a military level. But our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward where Russia, living up to its commitments, will return to a partnership of sorts, here with NATO," Mattis said after a meeting with NATO defense ministers.
Mattis added that it is up to Moscow to "prove itself" in complying with international law. His comments came after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia is "ready to restore cooperation with the Pentagon," and as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held their first face-to-face meeting in Bonn, Germany.
The NATO bloc showed concern in recent months over U.S. President Donald Trump's admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, mentioned during Trump's presidential campaign and in his first days in the White House. Trump has expressed interest in reviving cooperation between the two countries; U.S. military collaboration ended in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Mattis' trip to Brussels is, in part, designed to calm fears of NATO allies worried about the Trump administration's contacts with Russian officials; earlier this week Michael Flynn, U.S. national security adviser, resigned after misrepresenting discussions he had with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.
Putin said Thursday he hoped NATO countries will seek to cooperate with Russia. He told the Russian Federal Security Service, "It's in everyone's interest to resume dialogue between the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and other members of NATO."