National Security

Russia Missing From Trump’s ‘Defense Priorities’ Despite Pentagon Warnings

Donald Trump
Donald Trump in the Oval Office / AP

Russia is not listed among President-elect Donald Trump's "defense priorities" despite senior military officials warning that Moscow ranks as the No. 1 threat to America, according to an internal Defense Department memo.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon prepared the memo, dated Dec. 1, based off of communications with Mira Ricardel, a former Bush administration official and co-leader of Trump's Pentagon transition team, Foreign Policy reported Tuesday.

McKeon wrote the president-elect's staff had outlined four priorities for the incoming Trump administration that included the defeat of the Islamic State, the elimination of budget caps to help build up defense, the development of a "comprehensive" cyber strategy, and finding "greater efficiencies" in the Pentagon.

Evelyn Farkas, a former senior Pentagon official who worked on Russia policy, told FP that Defense Department officials "would be pretty concerned" to see Moscow missing from the list.

Top officials in the Pentagon and intelligence community have ranked Russia as the top threat to the U.S. for years given its "vast nuclear arsenal, sophisticated cyber capabilities, recently modernized military, and willingness to challenge the United States and its allies in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and other regions," according to FP.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress last year warning that Moscow posed the greatest existential threat to the U.S. Dunford, who will remain in his role under Trump, listed China, North Korea, and ISIS as the next biggest threats, in that order.

An unnamed Trump transition official told FP the memo was "not comprehensive."

"For the media to speculate that this list of issues represents all of the president-elect's priorities is completely erroneous and misleading," the official said.

Trump has vowed to reset relations between the U.S. and Russia, often speaking favorably of President Vladimir Putin. The president-elect continues to deny the intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow directed cyber attacks into U.S. political systems in an attempt to sway the presidential election.