By Lisa Ferdinando
The United States needs a strong but balanced approach to Russia, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Carter also discussed the recent U.S. intelligence community assessment of alleged Russian activities and intentions in the November presidential election. The intelligence community did a “painstaking” and “careful” job in coming to its assessment, Carter said.
The intelligence community on Friday released a declassified assessment that alleged Russia carried out an “influence campaign” aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Those alleged actions included cyber activities against targets, according to the assessment.
The intelligence community, according to Carter, was “very clear — they were very unequivocal about the judgement.” The situation raises questions about U.S. overall strategy with respect to Russia, he said.
“It’s an aggressive act against our very democracy,” he said, adding, “That’s why I think all Americans need to regard it very seriously.”
A U.S. response does not have to be limited to cyber, or to a military response, he explained, emphasizing the importance of trying to work with Russia “where we can.”
Carter, who leaves his post later this month, said he thinks “the steps that have been taken so far probably represent a beginning and not the end — a floor, not the ceiling — obviously being up to the next administration and the next congress to take those steps.”
Regarding Russia in Syria, Carter said Moscow has done “virtually zero” in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and has instead made “the ending of the Syrian civil war there harder.”
On other topics, Carter described the North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defense programs as a “serious threat” to the United States.
The U.S. has taken a number of steps to stay ahead of that threat, he said, including upgrading the number and type of its missiles; deploying missile defenses in South Korea, Japan and Guam; and having 28,500 troops in South Korea who are ready to “fight tonight.”