Pentagon officials near unanimously denounced Russia as the top threat to the U.S. at the Ronald Reagan defense forum Saturday and Sunday.
These officials told the conference they are reconfiguring the U.S. defense budget to counter the Russian threat, with particular concern for Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
“Their behavior has caused us … to rethink the balance of capabilities that we’re going to need,” the Pentagon’s chief arms acquisition’s officer elaborated.
“Russia is the number one threat to the United States. We have a number of threats that we’re dealing with, but Russia could be, because of the nuclear aspect, an existential threat to the United States,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James told Reuters.
“They are operating with a frequency and in places that we haven’t seen for decades,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told the audience. Dunford cited Russian actions in Crimea, its surreptitious war in Ukraine, and ongoing bombing campaign in Syria. Russia and the Syrian Regime have undertaken a relentless bombing campaign across Syria, and stands accused of war crimes in several instances.
President-elect Donald Trump indicated throughout the 2016 campaign he would pursue some sort of cooperation with Russia in Syria. “More communication with Russia would be a valuable thing,” Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson conceded.
Officials also said they were troubled by increasingly confrontational manuvers by Russian aircraft and ships. Russian aircraft came within 30 feet of a U.S. destroyer in a high profile May incident. “It’s all for public consumption,” Richardson said of the maneuver, indicating the Russians filmed the episode to broadcast on domestic television.
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