President Trump’s first official National Security Strategy classifies Russia as a growing threat to the United States, in spite of his own well-documented personal admiration for Vladimir Putin and reluctance to concede that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
Just Sunday, Putin personally thanked Trump for a CIA tip that foiled a bombing in St. Petersburg. The two also spoke several days earlier, when Trump called Putin to thank him for admiring the growth of the U.S. economy.
The 68-page document released Monday outlines an “America First” national security approach that prioritizes strengthening U.S. borders, beefing up the military, pursuing “peace through strength,” and negotiating trade deals that benefit the U.S.
But the document’s stance on Russia is the most glaring departure from the president’s past statements in office and on the campaign trail. The document clearly identifies Russia as a dangerous rival and acknowledges the Kremlin’s interference in politics outside of its own country — a change from Trump’s previous views of Moscow.
“Through modernized forms of subversive tactics, Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world,” the document stated.” The combination of Russian ambition and growing military capabilities creates an unstable frontier in Eurasia, where the risk of conflict due to Russian miscalculation is growing.”
“Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies,” the document later added.
Trump has denied Russian meddling in the U.S. election despite major intelligence agencies saying otherwise. He also once thanked Russia for cutting the U.S. diplomatic mission in Moscow. It appears he’s had a change of heart, however, and is now calling out Russia for its wars.
“With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrated its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region,”the document stated. “Russia continues to intimidate its neighbors with threatening behavior, such as nuclear posturing and the forward deployment of offensive capabilities.”
The framework for America’s approach to protecting the country rings back to the Cold War era of dueling powers, namely the “revisionist powers” of China and Russia, but it also notes the Islamic State and the “rogue regimes” of Iran and North Korea as threats to the U.S.
Even after the defeat in Iraq and Syria, terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS remain persistent threats, the document noted, and the U.S. will work to prevent radicalization in American communities.
In another departure from the Obama administration and his own Pentagon, Trump’s national security plan does not mention climate change. The Pentagon, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, has repeatedly acknowledged climate change as a national security threat, but Trump has made it clear he does not believe in it.