While Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is talking about cooperation with Russia, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that one of America’s top generals, NATO Supreme commander General Philip Breedlove, is saying that the United States and its allies have to immediately address Russian military aggression.
“We see that Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership but has chosen a path of belligerence,” Breedlove is quoted by the paper as saying. “We need to readdress where we’re heading.” Breedlove is retiring as NATO supreme commander and commander of U.S. European Command.
By contrast, Trump recently gave a foreign policy address that completely ignored Russian aggression in Ukraine, leading to a warm reception in Moscow for the Republican candidate.
The curious omission by Trump is one of several actions or statements he has made on Russian affairs that led Jonathan Chait to write an article for New York magazine entitled, “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin?” Attempting to explain Trump’s statements of support for Russian President Putin, he cited evidence of “Russia’s campaign to cultivate influence in the West by corrupting members of the American media and political Establishment.”
In addition to Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East, Breedlove’s successor, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, says that U.S. military leaders “should keep everything on the table,” including a military response, if Russia engages in more military provocations directly against U.S. forces. Such incidents have included Russian fighter jets harassing U.S. Navy ships.
The general said that Putin “is deliberately trying to break up NATO,” a pro-American alliance that Trump has suggested is “obsolete.”
In its story on how U.S. military leaders are getting increasingly concerned about Russia’s aggressive intentions, the Journal explained, “In the wake of Russia’s stealthy invasion and annexation of Crimea, the U.S. intelligence community, in particular military intelligence, came under withering criticism for having failed to adequately warn policy makers and military leaders.”
The term “military intelligence” is mostly a reference to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), whose former director, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, has come under fire for his close relationship with the Russia Today (RT) propaganda channel.
AIM was the first to report that Flynn, after stepping down from DIA, went to Moscow to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration of the Moscow-funded and English-language channel known to its critics as KGB-TV. He sat at a dinner table with Putin and RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.
In a major embarrassment for Flynn, a recent article in Politico by Michael Crowley cited Flynn’s relationship with RT as “the most intriguing example of how the Russians have gone about recruiting disaffected members” of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment.
The term “recruiting” suggests using Flynn for anti-American propaganda purposes.
Crowley, senior foreign policy writer at Politico, said that Flynn’s attendance at the RT gala, which also included remarks on world affairs, “appeared to inaugurate a relationship with the network—presumably a paid one, though neither Flynn nor RT answered queries on the subject. Flynn now makes semi-regular appearances on RT as an analyst, in which he often argues that the U.S. and Russia should be working more closely together on issues like fighting ISIL and ending Syria’s civil war.”
In addition to his relationship with RT, Flynn has described himself as an informal adviser to Trump, who already has several pro-Russian aides and advisers.
“We weren’t focused on Russia when I came in three years ago because we were still trying to cast a paradigm that brought Russia into the fold of Western values,” said Breedlove, in an attempt to explain why the Pentagon was caught off-guard by Russia. He said, “Russia chose a different path or they were on that path and we didn’t recognize it.”
What he is describing is a massive intelligence failure that could stem from the work of agents of influence for Russia, or actual Russian spies.
Trump, however, continues to preach cooperation with Russia.
The scope of the intelligence failure regarding Russia was addressed recently by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who admitted to CNN’s Jake Tapper on April 12 that the U.S. government has badly “misjudged” the intentions of Putin “for many, many years.” He declared, “The biggest intelligence failure that we have had since 9/11 has been the inability to predict the leadership plans and intentions of the Putin regime in Russia.”
After the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, Rep. Nunes noted, the U.S. continued to engage diplomatically with the Russians, and “we continued to talk to the Russians, and then they invaded Eastern Ukraine.” “We missed that,” he said. “And then we completely missed entirely when they put a new base, a new base with aircraft into the Mediterranean, into Syria. We just missed it. We were blind.”
While Trump’s speech was given to an audience of foreign policy experts, including Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak—who was sitting in the front row—the former DIA director’s pro-Moscow actions and statements are also generating controversy. The Politico article on Flynn’s visit to Moscow said, “At a moment of semi-hostility between the U.S. and Russia, the presence of such an important figure at Putin’s table startled current and former members of the Obama administration. “
Politico’s Michael Crowley quoted a former Pentagon official as saying about Flynn, “It was extremely odd that he showed up in a tuxedo to the Russian government propaganda arm’s party.”
Even more significant is the verdict delivered by New York magazine’s Chait regarding Trump himself. He says that while Trump’s style and bombastic statements on foreign policy and other areas are considered controversial by some, the much bigger scandal may be that “Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge.” The story carried the implication that Trump is acting like an agent of influence for Putin’s Russia.
The failures in the intelligence community regarding Russia and the alleged penetration of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment by Russian agents seem like topics that need to be addressed by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Ultimately, however, the American people may have to weigh the evidence, since presidential candidates don’t have to pass FBI background checks to determine their suitability for public office.
Chait described the Trump-Putin relationship as “campaign-threatening,” a charge that could hand the November election to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if Trump secures the GOP nomination, and if he is perceived to be friendly with a U.S. adversary or enemy.
If Trump is perceived as an agent of influence for Putin, the Republican Party could be greatly embarrassed and Mrs. Clinton could come across as more solid in her knowledge and conduct of foreign affairs, despite her classified email scandal and foreign policy failures such as Benghazi.