Is Russia a Threat? Not a Trick Question
Is Russia a Threat? Not a Trick Question
After President Trump’s disastrous gaffe/non-gaffe about believing Russia’s Vladimir Putin over his own national security apparatus and the subsequent retraction of those comments, the President seemed to have doubled down yesterday. “There’s no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting at the White House, according to Reuters, showing a tragic lack of insight and historical context about US-Russian relations over the years, especially given our strategy during Reagan’s and Bush’s terms in office that led to the end of the Cold War.
Now, to be fair to the President, his administration hasn’t exactly been lax when it comes to Russia. They have upheld the sanctions imposed on Russia by Executive Orders under the Obama administration, which designated scores of individuals and companies Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has found to have been involved in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine, and they have designated additional entities and individuals – especially those who are close to Putin – for interfering in our 2016 elections.
These are all good things. Russia needs to be punished for its continued meddling in the affairs of other sovereign states, and whatever money the oligarchs and their associated companies lose because of those designations, Putin will need to make up from the state coffers or from his own pocket.
That said… No President has ever been as tough as Trump has been on Russia? Not sure what the President is smoking here, but that’s got to be some good shit!
Whose policies brought down the Soviet Union? That would have been Ronald Reagan’s.
Who was it that stood up to Russia by sending ships into the Black Sea and airlifting Georgian soldiers from Iraq back to their home bases, while helping deny Russia’s efforts to overthrow the government of Georgia? That was President George W. Bush.
Even Barack Obama was damn tough on the Russians – although, in my opinion, not as tough as he should have been. Under the four Executive Orders (13660, 13661, 13662, and 13685) relating to Ukraine, the Obama Administration sanctioned HUNDREDS of Russian individuals and companies, including a seemingly small bank known as “Putin’s wallet” – Bank Rossiya – weapons manufacturers such as Kalashnikov and Uralvagonzavod, and powerful oligarchs such as Gennadiy Timchenko, cutting them off from the US dollar and much of the global financial system through multilateral actions with our allies.
So let’s not pretend that Trump holds the record for that event.
And while Trump has been pretty tough with Russia, he still seems to refuse to fully acknowledge what his intelligence community has been telling him: that Russia still targets us, that Russia is still manipulating us, and that Russia still considers us its primary national security threat.
“We’re doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia. And there’s been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia,” Trump said before a Cabinet meeting at the White House, adding that Putin “understands it and he’s not happy about it.”
Asked by reporters whether Russia was still targeting the United States, Trump shook his head and said, “No.”
This prompted Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to step in and clarify the President’s remarks – again. No, that’s not what he meant! That wasn’t the question to which he was responding.
Let me clarify this for you, in case you had doubts: Russia is, in fact, still a threat.
Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has recently confirmed that the Russians’ efforts to target the US continue unabated.
“The warning lights are blinking red again,” Mr. Coats said as he cautioned of cyberthreats. “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”[…]
The government’s national security agencies, particularly the intelligence agencies, have been far more concerned about Russia’s 2016 interference campaign — and efforts still underway.
And Seth G. Jones, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agrees.
“Russia continues to be aggressive across the board,” Mr. Jones said. “Much as the Soviets did in the Cold War, the Russian active measures are much bigger than just elections.”
Gee… doesn’t that sound like something… someone… said just a few days ago regarding the Russians’ intent? Who could that have been, eh?
It’s quite clear that the intelligence community continues to be concerned that Russia’s campaign of interference remains a grave threat – and it’s not just the tactical goals in the elections. Russia’s goal is to fundamentally change the way Americans view their government and view media reports, as well as alter the way we analyze information and interact with our government officials. Fact is, they want to erode our state institutions and weaken our country, and frankly, I’m sick and tired of those who refuse to read and understand this very fundamental truth because they’re too busy derping about the “Deep State” claiming it’s just another conspiracy among our intelligence agencies to strip Trump of his accomplishments and power.
The DHS Secretary also agrees with this assessment and says that the threat from Russia targeting US elections has not gone away.
Nielsen said the intelligence community has also observed “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople, and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people — though not necessarily focused on specific politicians or political campaigns.”
Look, as much as you may or may not like those in leadership positions in our government’s national security community, fact of the matter is that intelligent, dedicated, informed line analysts are the ones who provide briefings to the President and all the policy makers. They are the ones who work around the clock to ensure that every word accurately portrays exactly what they want to say and cannot be misconstrued. Yes, they learned a lot from the debacle that was the National Intelligence Estimate of 2002 on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and yes, the intelligence community has taken steps to correct shortcomings in that estimate by implementing rigorous analytic standards.
So when you malign our intelligence community and its concerns and assessments with regard to Russia, you are maligning committed, brilliant analysts who are working their butts off to ensure our nation is protected from all threats – including the Russian one.
DNI Coats isn’t some partisan hack. He is briefed daily by intelligence analysts who understand the threats we face, who have access to some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence to inform their judgments, and have been following those threats for years.
Let’s be realistic about the threats we face without political considerations.