22 March 2018

Trump removes Russia from list - Gesture

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Pentagon memo outlining the incoming Trump administration’s top “defense priorities” identifies defeating the Islamic State, eliminating budget caps, developing a new cybersecurity strategy, and finding greater efficiencies as the president-elect’s primary concerns. But the memo, does not include any mention of Russia, which has been identified by senior military officials as the No. 1 threat to the United States. reports citing to Foreign Policy.

“People there now would be pretty concerned to see Russia not on the list,” said Evelyn Farkas, a former senior Pentagon official who worked on Russia policy before leaving in 2015.

For years, 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.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will remain in that role after Trump takes office Jan. 20, told Congress last year that no other threat is more serious.

“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” Dunford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.” He listed China, North Korea, and the Islamic State as the next biggest threats, in that order.

The memo, dated Dec. 1, was written by Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon to employees in his office. In it, McKeon said the four-point list of priorities was conveyed to him by Mira Ricardel, a former Bush administration official and co-leader of Trump’s Pentagon transition team.

Besides placing an emphasis on budgetary issues, “force strength,” and counterterrorism in Iraq and Syria, the memo noted other briefings between the Defense Department and the Trump transition team on China and North Korea. But Russia was not mentioned.

A Trump transition official declined to say where Russia fits into the president-elect’s defense priorities, but said the memo is “not comprehensive.”

“For the media to speculate that this list of issues represents all of the president-elect’s priorities is completely erroneous and misleading,” said Jessica Ditto, a transition spokeswoman.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the incoming Trump administration’s priorities, but said the transition team had been briefed on issues related to Russia.

“We would leave it up to them to describe their priorities,” Gordon Trowbridge, the deputy Pentagon press secretary told FP. “We have provided them with multiple briefings that touched on Russia policy. That’s the extent of our knowledge on their priorities.”

2016.12.21 / 14:36
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