Deborah James addresses Russian aggression, budgetary needs during defense forum

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James speaks during the announcement of the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force at the Pentagon Nov. 16, 2016. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein named Kaleth O. Wright as the Air Force’s next senior enlisted Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James speaks during the announcement of the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force at the Pentagon Nov. 16, 2016. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein named Kaleth O. Wright as the Air Force’s next senior enlisted Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson)


US Russian relations continue to be global news. As the Kremlin pushes its interests Westward, the incoming Trump administration is showing its willingness to work with world leaders while at the same time assuring voters of its commitment to increase defense budget and capability.

With Russia’s increasing presence throughout the Middle East and its onward expansion through Europe, military leadership is becoming increasingly concerned and are putting into motion budget strategies aimed at keeping the “bear” in hibernation.

At the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, Air Force Secretary Deborah James told Reuters, “Russia is the No. 1 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.”

It’s not just the secretary voicing concerns.

Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson and Pentagon chief arms buyer Frank Kendall are both expressing concerns about Russia’s increasing military expansion and aggressive behavior. Kendall also said that US policy, which had previously been focused on threats in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, is now being focused more on Russia.

None of the officials gave details during the forum about how these concerns could possibly affect the fiscal 2018 budget request, but defense officials have recently said there’s the need to focus on areas such as cyber security, space, nuclear capabilities and missile defense, where Russia has developed new capabilities in recent years. Richardson told Reuters that increased Russian naval activities are taking place across the globe. He cited Moscow’s deployment of a carrier strike group to the Mediterranean, missile launces from ships in the Caspian Sea, increased submarine activities in the northern Atlantic and a growing naval presence in the Pacific.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the defense forum Russia is aiming to counter NATO and undermine its credibility while limiting the ability of the US military to project power around the world. “They are operating with a frequency and in places that we haven’t seen for decades,” he said, adding that the buildup should be viewed in the context of its actions in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria, where they have already stepped up air attacks on eastern Aleppo.

According to Reuters, Pentagon officials are close to finalizing work on a fiscal 2018 budget request, but it is likely to be modified substantially once Trump takes office. Officials expect that budget to be submitted in April at the earliest, and possibly later. Typically, budgets are submitted in early February.

An increased strategic missile defense posture in Poland, open dialogue between world leaders and an increased build up of America’s military could possibly be the keys to ushering in a new era of peace through deterrence and diplomacy.

“More communication with Russia would be a valuable thing,” Richardson told Reuters, noting that he had regular contact with his counterpart in China, but not with those in Russia or Iran.

However, if diplomacy doesn’t yield intended results, a robust increase to military spending could be the order of the day.

In a report aired today on Fox News, Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush said, “It is absolutely vital we understand that Russia’s capability has been reinvigorated and that they have certain interests that are divergent from ours. We need to understand their capability and understand strategically what they intend to do so that if required, we can counter that.”

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