While an increasing number of military officials express their belief that Russia is the top threat to the United States, a memo obtained by Foreign Policy shows that Russia doesn’t even make the list of defense concerns for the incoming Trump administration.
According to Foreign Policy, “Top cabinet officials at the Defense Department and the intelligence community cited Russia as the foremost threat because of its vast nuclear arsenal, sophisticated cyber capabilities, recently modernized military, and willingness to challenge the United States and its allies in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and other regions.”
Yet, Donald Trump – who just eeked out an Electoral College victory with an assist from Moscow – thinks Russia really isn’t worth wasting time on. Imagine that.
More from the report:
Steven Pifer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who spent 25 years as a State Department diplomat, said the memo was “both surprising and concerning … given what the Russians are doing against Ukraine, their military modernization effort, the bellicose tone we’ve heard from Moscow the past three years, and NATO’s effort to bolster conventional deterrence and defense capabilities in the Baltic region.”
Last February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper emphasized that the Islamic State terrorist group isn’t nearly as threatening to U.S. interests as Moscow. The Islamic State “can’t inflict mortal damage to the United States,” he said. “Russia can.”
That outlook is reflected in how the federal government has directed billions of dollars of defense spending. The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer earlier this month said that U.S. defense budgets are now focused primarily on countering Moscow.
The White House earmarked an extra $3.4 billion in the 2014 defense spending bill to deploy two more U.S. Army brigades to eastern Europe — along with hundreds of tanks and heavily armored vehicles pre-positioned for use in case of war with Russia.
While those in the Pentagon and the current administration have been working to put the necessary resources in place to defend against the growing threat that Russia poses, the incoming president seems not only unconcerned about Moscow but even friendly with them.
As Foreign Policy noted, the Trump administration is likely to take a softer stance on Russia than the current White House. The president-elect may even scale back the defensive measures currently being put in place.
And, of course, Trump’s secretary of state pick and Putin best friend Rex Tillerson is likely going to be a major part of this pending pro-Russia shift in America’s foreign policy.
None of this should come as a surprise to those who spent the campaign listening to Trump heap praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even now, the president-elect won’t admit what the FBI and CIA both are saying – that Russia, under Putin’s direction, was behind a cyber attack meant to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump.
There’s no concrete evidence showing that Trump is returning the favor to Russia, but this is probably what it would look like if he was.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.