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Democratic senator urges Trump to respond to Russian aggression

Democratic senator urges Trump to respond to Russian aggression
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Justice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell ISIS militants expected to be sent to US for prosecution: report MORE (D-N.H.) is sounding the alarm over what she says is a failure of the Trump administration to adequately rebuke Russia for "escalatory aggression and harmful actions" against U.S. forces in various countries.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Brazil's OECD candidacy is best chance for reform Watch live: Pompeo news conference MORE, Shaheen pointed to incidents last month between U.S. and Russian troops, including a collision between Russian and U.S. military vehicles in Syria on Aug. 25 and an incident three days later in which two Russian planes crossed within 100 feet of a U.S. bomber over the Black Sea.

The New Hampshire Democrat, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, also cited reports from June that a Russian military unit was offering rewards to Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to kill coalition forces, including U.S. troops, in the country.

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“The policies of this administration have empowered Russia to brazenly disregard international conventions and institutions that have long been upheld by American leadership," Shaheen wrote in Thursday's letter. "Instead, this administration has given the green light to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe foreign policy canyon between Americans over China Russia ready to freeze nuclear warheads in exchange for New START extension Safeguarding US elections by sanctioning Russian sovereign debt MORE to attack American soldiers, pay bounties for their deaths, meddle in democratic elections and disregard basic human rights in Russia and around the world."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE has dismissed the reports about bounties as “fake news.” The White House has said no action was taken because officials didn’t consider the intelligence credible enough to share with the president, even though it was in a written briefing for Trump in February.

Pompeo has said that both the State Department and Pentagon have warned Russia against the suspected bounties.

Shaheen argued that because Trump has refused to take action following such reports, Russia is now emboldened to "endanger the lives of our troops in other theaters."

The recent tensions between Washington and Moscow come as Trump has ordered the Pentagon to slash the number of U.S. troops stationed in Germany by more than a third, which Shaheen said is likely to "further limit U.S. operations around the world and that the Kremlin has vocally and explicitly welcomed."

Lawmakers in both parties have harshly criticized Trump's decision, but his administration argues that Germany is no longer a front-line country, calling the move a strategic realignment of forces that had been in the works for months.

Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly referred to the move as punishment for Germany not fulfilling NATO’s goal of each member state spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.