A senior aide to the Trump administration suggested withdrawing U.S. troops from Eastern Europe in a bid to gain favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kevin Harrington, the National Security Council’s senior official for strategic planning, proposed the move in February 2017, according to sources speaking to the Daily Beast.
The gesture was an effort to “reframe” Washington’s relationship with Moscow, Harrington said, according to the report. However, to critics the move could look like immediate repayment for Russia’s help during the election campaign.
The proposal was made in a strategy document widely circulated among senior White House officials, including Steve Bannon, but its primary audience was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose tenure ended soon after.
It is unclear if Trump read the report.
A colleague of Harrington’s, who spoke to the Daily Beast, viewed the proposal as “dangerously naive,” given it would give a green light to the Kremlin to advance its territorial aims in the region.
The strategy lacked granular details, a point one former senior aide said was the result of Harrington, a former hedge funder, having no military experience.
The proposal is more troubling in light of a recent report revealing Russian war games last September “simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato,” according to the Estonian Defense Forces.
At the time of the exercises, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the number of troops participating in the exercises had “significantly exceeded the number announced before the exercise — the scenario was a different one and the geographical scope was larger than previously announced.”
Russia has built up a large military presence along its border with the Baltic nations in recent years, sparking fears of further military adventurism by Putin.