Trump tension with intel community worsens threats of Russia and China

Trump tension with intel community worsens threats of Russia and China
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This past week, United States intelligence officials testified to the Senate during the annual hearing on the global threat assessment. While the hearing revealed a number of concerning international developments pertaining to our American national security interests, none was more important than the demonstrated increase in cooperation between Russia and China. According to the National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats, the countries are now “more aligned than at any point” since the 1950s.

The severity of this problem cannot be overstated. It is detrimental not just to the United States, but to the entire world, with the potential for catastrophic consequences if Russia and China are not aggressively countered. Shortly after the hearing, President TrumpDonald TrumpDC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' Taylor Greene defends 'America First' effort, pushes back on critics MORE lashed out at his intelligence agency chiefs, calling them “passive and naive” in a tweet. “Perhaps intelligence officials should go back to school,” he continued, clearly upset that his intelligence officials were testifying in diametric opposition to his characterization of Russian and Chinese relations.


Just 36 hours later, the president walked back these statements after an Oval Office meeting with the intelligence officials. In a tweet, he declared that they were all “on the same page,” but he did not admit to changing his opinion on risks posed by Russia and China, the Iran nuclear deal, or the Islamic State. His failure to recognize global threats, even at the behest of intelligence officials, has left our government nearly impotent in the effort to address our most crucial foreign policy needs.

Indeed, the report published by intelligence officials rang the alarm bell very loud and clear. Russia and China are cooperating, and their military, political, and cyber capabilities should not be underestimated. For the first time, the United States government has detailed that both Russia and China now have the “ability to launch cyberattacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure, such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline” for days to even weeks in the United States.

While these intelligence assessments are intended to be worrying, as they inform the country of where it stands from a national security perspective, the backlash and concern that arose from the testimony was exponentially increased by how the president reacted. The fact that he publicly denied and attacked his own intelligence services is dangerous, unprecedented, and particularly concerning given the specific threats intelligence officials were pointing to. The territorial, political, and cyber threats posed to the world by Russia and China cannot be underplayed or underestimated.

These complex threats require collaboration between the commander in chief and intelligence officials, not disjointed public statements and off the cuff tweets. As it stands now, only 35 percent of Americans approve of the foreign policy of President Trump, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press and National Opinion Research Center. While both President Bush and President Obama achieved over 50 percent approval in their handling of international affairs during both their first two years in office, President Trump has never broken 41 percent, according to Gallup. As our politics hobbles along, Russia and China continue to be resurgent.

Indeed, Russia is gaining power in parts of the former Soviet Union, and China is becoming more economically dominant in the South China Sea and across Asia more generally. Both countries have substantially placed more money in their military budgets, and both have become increasingly nationalistic and aggressive. Meanwhile, the United States has become more inner directed and arguably even isolationist on the world stage.

A deeply concerning passage in the report said that some American allies are “seeking greater independence from Washington in response to their perceptions” of our changing foreign policy. As Russia and China grow stronger together, the United States is weakening critical relationships. Even some Republicans are weary. Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism MORE said in a rebuke, “I would prefer that the president stay off Twitter, particularly with regard to these important national security issues where you have people who are experts and have the background and are professionals.”

In a Republican Party that has rarely criticized President Trump publicly, these remarks are notable. It is time for Congress to regain bipartisan consensus and control over American foreign policy. For the past two years it appears that as a nation, we have lost the shared conviction that the United States is rightly engaged with the world in defense of others who share our convictions. Standing up to Russia and China is central to our national strength and vital to the peace and security of the world.

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 “Putins Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”