Rebecca Grant: 'Russia experts' too busy railing on Trump to see real threats right in front of us

The latest revelations are dismaying because they show how smart people in Washington have become so mesmerized by their dislike of Trump that they ignore the real-world problems Russia is creating.

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Hey Russia experts — please stop trying to convince us President Trump is a Kremlin foil, and dig in on the real Russia challenges springing up all over the world.  

This week, Washington learned that the highly respected Brookings Institute had a supporting cast role in the now-debunked Steele dossier, which propelled FBI investigations of Trump’s campaign.  A major source of the faux dirty gossip was Igor Danchenko, a Ukrainian-born American resident who once worked at the Brookings Institute. 

As you recall, the Clinton campaign paid for the dossier via front law firms, and FBI agents then used it to get surveillance warrants. Heading Brookings at the time was Strobe Talbott. Talbott shared a house in Oxford in 1970 with future President Bill Clinton, who scrambled eggs while Talbott translated Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs from the Russian. 


Wow, just wow. Brookings is a major Washington think tank, where I’ve been a guest at meetings over the years and spoke on airpower in February.  

The latest revelations are dismaying because they show how smart people in Washington have become so mesmerized by their dislike of Trump that they ignore the real-world problems Russia is creating. We’re getting rants instead of scholarship.

Books galore are on the way, because they just can’t stop. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok has a book coming out in September. Strzok will say he’s still convinced “that the commander in chief had fallen under the sway of America’s adversary in the Kremlin.”

Talbott’s book lands in late August and will say Trump has “defiled” America’s origin and soul, in part because Trump is playing patsy for the Kremlin, or at least that’s what Talbott said on Twitter in December 2019.   

What a shame. Talbott’s an experienced Russia hand who could give us valuable insight on the real-world problems of Russia right now. 

Russia remains a very real threat. Talbott, Strzok and others are in a small group of Americans who have spent big chunks of their professional lives learning Russia inside and out. I’d like to hear their insights on Russia’s global power grabs. A lot has happened just this month.

Russia’s trying to gain a foothold in Libya

Libya is in a civil war, and Russia is supplying weapons to a paramilitary band known as the Wagner group, whose operatives have fought in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Huge Russian military cargo planes are flying in supplies, and Russian fighter jets have also been spotted in Libya.

The Pentagon said last week that “Russia continues to play an unhelpful role in Libya by delivering supplies and equipment to the Wagner group,” according to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. “Imagery continues to unmask their consistent denials,” Gering added. 

Russia’s Red Navy  

Last Sunday, July 26 was Navy Day and Russia celebrated with a nautical parade of 200 warships in St. Petersburg. Back in mid-July, Putin had the gall to preside over the keel-laying of new navy ships in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. “Russia's unauthorized construction of warships on sovereign Ukrainian territory, which it seized by force, violates international norms once again,” stated the US Embassy Ukraine.

Hypersonic weapons

And as Putin is keen to point out, Russia’s ships and planes will deploy hypersonic weapons.  These are bad, dangerous systems built to undercut American missile defenses. Putin is still angry about the U.S. exit from missile treaties 15 years ago. 

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Hypersonic missiles popping up on Russian places and ships forces new challenges on U.S. military defenses around the world and makes U.S. home territory more vulnerable, too.

Nord Stream II

Congress is poised to put sanctions on any companies helping to complete Russian Gazprom’s big beast pipeline to Europe. Russia started an oil price war in February that whacked the U.S. stock market just before coronavirus took over. The point is, Russia’s proven it will use energy as a weapon both short and long-term.  

Coronavirus espionage


On top of this came Russia’s coronavirus hacking attempts. “It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said July 16.  

Don’t forget Syria


Russia set up permanent military bases there in the Obama years, a subject Washington’s Russia pundits now rarely discuss.

The real Russia rot is not in the Oval Office. It lies with those hung up on chasing the Trump/Kremlin mirage to the point they can’t give us straight critiques of Russia’s misdeeds – and the real threats they pose to America and allies around the world.