By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Never before has the political atmosphere in Washington been more poisonous and divided by the partisan rancor from both sides of the political spectrum. A new report by Senate Democrats only adds to this division.
Last Wednesday, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a detailed report acknowledging the threat to Western democracies posed by Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin. Most importantly, the report documented the Russian threat to the United States.
Current Administration Is Ignoring Russian Threat
The report goes into great detail about the threat from Russia. It offers explicit examples of how Putin continually threatens Western democracies and tries to reestablish Russia as a global power at the expense of U.S. national security.
The report was prepared to show how President Trump has continually ignored the threat that Russia poses to democracy worldwide. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) wrote in the report: “Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president.”
The report makes no mention of the current investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. But ABC News and NBC News referred to U.S. intelligence agencies detailing the scope of Russian efforts in January 2016. This reference was extremely misleading.
News Media Erred in Reporting US Intelligence Agencies’ Participation
The same month, news sources reported that out of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies cited as agreeing with the probe, only four agencies actually participated. Moreover, analysts from the four intelligence agencies were handpicked, which goes against all standard procedures. Last June, the New York Times and the Associated Press issued corrections about the actual number of agencies that approved the intelligence assessment.
According to the Senate team that put the report together, its purpose was to highlight and give detailed examples of the continuing threat Russia poses. The report’s aim was to prevent Moscow from any further attempts to influence U.S. elections.
“What we saw in the 2016 election was not an isolated incident, and for anyone who thinks that the threat posed by Russia is limited to the hacking of emails or one election in America, you’re missing the full story,” an unnamed Democratic staff member involved in writing the report told ABC News. “If you don’t understand the scale and the scope of that threat and exactly how they use what we’re calling this asymmetrical arsenal, you can’t prevent that from happening again.”
How Did Russia Try to Influence the 2016 Presidential Election?
We still don’t fully know how Russia tried to influence the election beyond targeted ads on Facebook. Nor do we know if Moscow actually hacked the Democratic National Committee’s server because federal investigators have been unable to obtain access to the server in question. Nothing has been verified.
The report goes into detail regarding:
- Full-scale military invasions
- Comprehensive disinformation campaigns
- Support for fanatical political groups
- The use of energy as a weapon
- Support for organized crime
- The extensive use of corruption as a state tool
The report also describes how Russia used all of these tools in 19 European countries and gives detailed examples of Moscow’s capabilities.
The Democratic staff put together a report of over 200 pages utilizing open-source material, inquiries of foreign governments and various fact-finding missions. No one would disagree with its findings.
However, Cardin’s assertion that Trump has abdicated his presidential mandate by ignoring the report and other evidence is a stretch and only adds to the partisan division. For example, all the examples cited in the report occurred in the waning days of the Bush administration and throughout President Obama’s eight years in office.
The seeds that led Putin to believe he could carry out his bellicose behavior were planted in 2008, when the Bush administration failed to openly confront the Russian invasion of Georgia.
Despite Inaugural Address, President Obama Was Weak toward Russia
In his first inaugural address, President Obama stated: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
In September 2009, Obama removed a missile defense shield from Eastern Europe to which Russia had objected. The Obama administration wanted to “reset” relations with Moscow, secure cooperation for additional sanctions against Iran and gain Putin’s support for the multilateral nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
In the “The Will to Lead,” former NATO Secretary General and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: “I am convinced, for example, that the reason President Putin annexed Crimea and launched an undeclared war in Ukraine and a declared one in Syria is that he thought the United States would allow him to get away with it.”
No one considered Russia a geopolitical threat when Mitt Romney was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Obama ridiculed Romney in their third debate. “When you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not Al-Qaeda, you said Russia,” Obama said. Then he added, “The Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
Even in March 2012, Obama was caught on an open mic with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a summit in South Korea.
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama told Medvedev, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev said.
“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility,” Obama added.
“I understand,” Medvedev replied. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Trump’s Behavior and Messaging Suggests He Is Soft on Russia
Now Trump is his own worst enemy. His statements always get him into trouble.
For example, he made offhanded comments about how he would deal with Russia. He suggested that he would soften or lift some of the sanctions imposed on Russia after Moscow annexed the Crimea and invaded Ukraine. So far, he hasn’t done any of that.
The report makes recommendations about what the United States can and should do to confront the Russian threat. Such recommendations should not come in a partisan manner; nor should the report suggest that Trump has placed U.S. national security at risk.
Much more needs to be done to confront the Russian threat. However, it should be done in a bipartisan manner, not by selective partisan reports.