A Strong and Balanced Focus on Russia

The Pentagon has taken steps to respond to Russia’s hacking and influence in the presidential election as laid out in last week’s report by the intelligence community, and more steps will come. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking Tuesday at his final press conference in office, would not say Russian actions were an “act of war,” like some in Congress have said. “Whatever you call it, it’s an aggressive act,” he said. The steps already taken by the Defense Department should be regarded as “a start, and not an end.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the military was made aware of the Russian activity in October. While the incoming Trump Administration has called for warming relations with Russia, the current Pentagon still has “serious differences” and it is not an issue of trusting Russian President Vladimir Putin, but instead understanding if their interests coincide with or go against US interests, Carter said. Russia’s actions to support Syrian President Bashar al Assad have been “backwards,” along with its incursion into Ukraine. “Our approach to Russia is one that is both strong and balanced,” Carter said. He mentioned working with Russia on issues of North Korea and Iran as positive examples. Dunford said, from a military perspective, he has serious concerns about Russia’s nuclear modernization, cyber capabilities, maritime activities, and possible aggression in the space domain.