Russian aggression demands an American response

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The President’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said it is “incontrovertible” that the Russians intervened in America’s 2016 elections. The President rebuked McMaster for the statement. Daniel Coats, appointed by the President last year as Director of National Intelligence, joined other top American intelligence officials in warning that the Russians will continue interfering in our elections.

More recently, the head of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, testified that Russia would continue its hostile actions against the United States because it has paid little price for its past aggression. Our top intelligence and security officials say they have received no directives from the President to protect America.

For reasons apparently known only to him, the President has taken no punitive action against Putin’s Russia, nor has he even acknowledged that they committed acts of aggression against the United States. This, even though the U.S. Congress, by an overwhelming vote, passed legislation urging and authorizing the President to punish Putin and his cronies for violating American sovereignty. What gives?

It is possible that the substantial Russian election interference documented in the Mueller indictment changed the outcome of the election, but that is beside the point. No matter what, the election will stand. There is absolutely no reason for the President to continue to deny Russia’s hostile acts against America. And, absolutely no reason to hold off on taking action to counter further Russian cyber aggression.

I grew up in a Republican Party that took the Russian threat to America very seriously. By countering Soviet aggression wherever it rose its ugly head, we were able to prevail against the USSR. Had we meekly rolled over and allowed it to continue its dirty work unchallenged, the outcome would likely have been very different. Back in my Republican days, anyone who denied clear-cut aggressive Russian action against American interests would have been branded an out-and-out traitor.

Now, Putin is trying to reconstitute what President Reagan called the “Evil Empire.” He has developed new cyber weapons to use against us and also renewed the old Soviet nuclear threat against our country. But, our President absolutely refuses to protect this great country from those threats. That is not likely to make America great.

Rather than disputing the indisputable, the U.S. should be vigorously building its cyber defenses and developing a tough offensive capability. We are at a juncture in the electronic era much like we found ourselves in during the infancy of the rocket age. The Soviet Union caught our attention with the launch of its Sputnik satellite, demonstrating it had the lead in a new technology with military applications. We had to up our game in that arena. Now, the Russians have shown their expertise in the offensive use of cyber systems and it is incumbent on this country to take steps to counter that threat, not to deny it.

The time has come for top administration officials to clearly speak out about the danger of failing to counter Russian aggression. The words and deeds of McMaster, Coats, Rogers, and others demonstrate that they understand the seriousness of the new Russian threat and want decisive American action to punish past actions and prevent future aggression. If behind-the-scenes entreaties will not work, those officials must publicly step forward to protect America’s vital interests.

Furthermore, members of both parties need to stand up and demand decisive action to counter Russia’s hostile actions against the United States. Congress must demand that the President carry out the punitive measures it enacted into law last year. It is time for our Congressional delegation to take action to protect the security of our country. It should not be a difficult decision to stand up for America.

• • •

Jim Jones is former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court and a frequent contributor to the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls Press.

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