Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services committee that Russia is America’s greatest threat to national security. Despite the evidence, Secretary of State John Kerry disagrees.
“My assessment today, senator, is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,” declared Dunford. “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. And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner fired back that Kerry does not agree, even though Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and delivers veiled threats against ex-Soviet states, most of which are NATO members.
“The secretary doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly,” retorted Toner. “You know, these are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues, despite any disagreements we may have with them. Certainly we have disagreements with Russia and its activities within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat.”
Kerry has also made similar claims, despite working close with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the past 16 months. Kerry denied many times that Russian soldiers are stationed in east Ukraine until February, even though he constantly faced a mountain of evidence. He added more pain to American allies when he admitted Russian propaganda worked on him.
“The question asked earlier about… how they present things and the lies about their presence in Ukraine and the training, I mean, you know, it’s stunning but it has an impact in places where it isn’t countered,” he said. “Propaganda works.”
Kerry claims this, even though the military tracked and intercepted Russian bombers off the coast of California and Alaska on Independence Day. A military official told CNN they believe the “intercepts were routine,” but the Pentagon also believes the Kremlin were “sending a message.” Ironically, at the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama to congratulate America on another year of independence and express hopes that the two nations can work together. In 2014, NATO intercepted more Russian military vehicles than any other year, including a ship that sailed a little too close to Portugal’s waters.
Dunford placed Russia above China, North Korea, and the Islamic State because of its “rapidly expanding military.” Putin believes Russia faces intense threats on its border and must upgrade its army for protection, even though his threats towards Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia forced those countries to reinforce their defenses on the border.
Putin promised new military graduates plans “to spend 22 trillion rubles (over $400 billion) through 2020 to give the armed forces dozens of navy ships, hundreds of new planes and missiles and thousands of tanks and other weapons.”
Relations between Russia and America dipped to Cold War levels in March 2014. The Kremlin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea after their pro-Europe parliament ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. America and the European Union passed numerous sanctions against Russian oligarchs and businesses. The biggest name on the list is Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, which is Russia’s largest petroleum company. Rosneft holds many lucrative deals with BP and ExxonMobil. Sechin is also considered Putin’s right hand man.
In mid-June, Putin announced that Russia will own 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015. The move forced NATO to review its nuclear weapon policy.
“There is very real concern about the way in which Russia publicly bandies around nuclear stuff,” explained a NATO diplomat. “So there are quite a lot of deliberations in the alliance about nuclear [weapons], but it is being done very slowly and deliberately. We need to do due diligence on where we are.”
But the program is delayed, which means the first missile will not be available for several months. There are no specific details regarding why it is taking so long.
Putin also claimed that Moscow can plant nukes anywhere in their territory, including Crimea. Under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), five countries, including Russia, may plant “nuclear weapons anywhere in its territory.” However, the United Nations and NATO still consider Crimea a part of Ukraine. In May, NATO lashed out against Russia’s buildup in Crimea. They also repeated to Moscow that none of them recognize their annexation of Crimea.
Russian officials apparently do not believe any other nation should react to these moves, as they reacted negatively when America announced more defense for NATO allies in Eastern Europe. It is the first time America has increased its presence in Europe since the end of the Cold War. The U.S. will spread weapons and 5,000 troops in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Poland. All of these countries were once Soviet states or satellite states. Russian officials warned of retaliation if America places tanks and weapons near Russian borders.
“If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War,” exclaimed General Yuri Yakubov, the Russian defense ministry official. “Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front.”