By Laurie Kotka
Following Monday’s requested resignation of Trump national security advisor, Michael Flynn, a Russian spy ship was spotted Tuesday in international waters, roughly 70 miles off the coast of Delaware. The same day, The New York Times reported Russia deployed a cruise missile in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman stated, “Russia’s deployment of nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the INF treaty is a significant military threat to U.S. forces in Europe and our NATO allies.” McCain then called on the Trump administration to assure readiness of U.S. nuclear forces.
Last Friday, Russian warplanes buzzed the USS Porter in three separate incidents in the Black Sea. Navy Captain Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, explained that their approach at high speed and low altitude unprofessionally risked accident. The Russian Defense Ministry denied the reports.
This coincides with last week’s announcement from the Kremlin that amid increased fighting in the Ukraine resulting in the death of more than 30 people, U.S. efforts to broker an end to Russo-Ukraine tensions would end in failure.
The same day, the White House addressed a report that Trump lacked knowledge of a U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty specifically discussed during a call with Vladimir Putin. The New START treaty gives both the United States and Russia until February 2018 to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550. Putin sought to extend that timeline and before responding, Trump reportedly requested identification of the treaty from an aide. In reply, Trump marked the treaty as an Obama failure that favored the Russians. This is the same treaty Trump previously cited as START-up during one of the 2016 presidential debates, claiming its terms amounted to Russia outwitting U.S. negotiations.
While Flynn’s resignation was initially downplayed by the Kremlin, some Russian legislators have stated that it is indicative of “Russophobia” that has filtered its way throughout the entire Trump administration.
Now, despite Trump’s intention to better ties with Russia, their most recent military displays suggest they are testing a Trump administration that has been weakened by a dysfunctional National Security Council, chained to the authority of Trump Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon.