American diplomatic expulsions put Russian aggression on full display

American diplomatic expulsions put Russian aggression on full display
© Getty Images

Last week, Russia announced that it will expel 60 American diplomats, as well as envoys from several other nations. The move was an act of retaliation to the United States, following our nation’s expulsion of the same number of Russian diplomats after the likely involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom.

But these expulsions are more than just tit-for-tat and are not isolated. Last May, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi-Trump feud: 'Put this crap aside' and 'work together for America' Meghan McCain says Ben Carson should be developing brain cancer treatment, not working at HUD Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE (R-Ariz.) said that Putin is the “premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS. I think ISIS can do terrible things. But it's the Russians who tried to destroy the fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.”

ADVERTISEMENT
While many ignored the threat, McCain’s words rang true then and still do today. The persistent threat posed by Russia and America’s to properly respond, beyond diplomatic expulsions, will only continue to strengthen Putin’s regime. Putin has aggressively undermined the United States and its allies, supported tyrannical regimes around the world, and established Russia as a regional and global menace.

According to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerGraham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' House progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller MORE — and many American intelligence experts — Russia clearly meddled in the 2016 election. The Internet Research Agency, which was funded by a Kremlin-linked oligarch, set up a trolling team, payment systems, and false identities in order to widen divisions in America and to tilt the vote in 2016 from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Poll: Nearly half of Clinton's former supporters back Biden Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE to Donald Trump.

U.S. intelligence officers already believe Russia will continue meddling in the 2018 elections. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy Experts are studying mannerisms of 2020 candidates to help offset threat of 'deepfake' videos Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report MORE, the director of national intelligence, said, “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

These attacks towards democracy are not limited to the United States. Europe has been targeted, too. It is thought that Russia has financed extremist politicians, hacked computer systems, organized marches, and spread lies through social media. Russia has also supported some of the most ruthless authoritarian leaders in the world, including Bashar Assad in Syria and Kim Jong Un in North Korea.

In the United Nations Security Council, Russia has blocked 11 resolutions relating to the Assad regime. In January, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE even said, “What China is helping us with [in North Korea], Russia is denting … It’s probable that what China takes back, Russia gives.”

Perhaps even more concerning is Russia’s unchecked aggression in its own region. With few consequences, the Russian military has involved itself in the affairs of Georgia, where it helped the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia win independence, and Ukraine, where unmarked soldiers helped Russia annex the territory of Crimea.

There has been, rightly, a good deal of concern about these actions. For instance, Stephen Blank, a former professor at the Army War College and an expert on Russia, called Putin’s actions in Ukraine “the most naked form of aggression in Europe since World War II.” And yet, Russia continues its pattern of aggression, amassing troops along its borders with NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all while conducting massive military exercises heightening concerns of a new conflict.

Making things all more complicated, Putin at a recent press conference claimed that Russia has developed a new type of nuclear weapons that cannot be stopped by U.S. defenses. Additionally, his presentation of the technology used an animation showing the new missile striking Florida, invoking more fears of a new Cold War. Let me make one thing clear: Russia is a threat that we are not prepared for. It is vital that America and its allies recognize this and work to contain Putin’s aggression.

President Trump’s recent appointment of John Bolton as the new national security adviser is promising in efforts to combat the increasing threat of Russia. Bolton has taken a hardline approach towards Russia and said after last summer’s Group of 20 summit, “Trump got to experience Putin looking him in the eyes and lying to him, denying Russian interference in the election.”

Bolton continued, “It should be a highly salutary lesson about the character of Russia’s leadership … and it should be a firebell-in-the-night warning about the value Moscow places on honesty, whether regarding election interference, nuclear proliferation, arms control or the Middle East: Negotiate with today’s Russia at your peril.”

Bolton is an indicator that the president understands the threat that Russia plays. His appointment at the White House gives hope that Trump and NATO will hold strong against Russia, push back against its recent advancements and diminish its global influence.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”