The conservative think-tank known as the Heritage Foundation has released their “2017 Index of Military Strength,” and it says that the greatest threat to the United States does not come from ISIS – it comes from Russia.
Heritage, whose blueprint for military spending was adopted in part by President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign, diverges with Trump when it comes to Moscow. In their new report, Russia alone is categorized as a “formidable” threat to the United States in terms of military capability. Last year, Heritage said that Russia was merely a “gathering” threat. Their new analysis is in accord with many U.S. military leaders, who ranked Russia as the greatest threat facing the country earlier this year.
While most Republicans are on the same page regarding Russia, the Trump administration has signaled a different path forward. Trump made no secret of his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign, and he has reiterated his desire to hit the “reset” button on U.S.-Russian relations since winning the election.
The report’s analysis of the Russian military threat is only one aspect of the index. Heritage researchers found that Iran and the group collectively referred to as “Middle Eastern terrorism” have both become more capable and dangerous since last year’s edition. North Korea, meanwhile, has been downgraded from their previous “hostile” category to “aggressive,” which is probably little comfort to those wary of the nuclear-armed dictatorship.
The heart of the report, an overview of U.S. military readiness, is not optimistic. Heritage found that tightening budgets and shrinking employment numbers had weakened all branches of the armed forces. Researchers said that there were times over the past year when only 43% of the Marines’ aviation fleet was prepared for combat.
According to Sen. John McCain, the report should act as a wakeup call to Congress.
“The Heritage Foundation’s outstanding work on the 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength serves an important reminder that we cannot move fast enough to put an end to sequestration once and for all, and return to a strategy-based defense budget that gives our service members the resources, training, and equipment they need to meet current and future threats,” McCain said.
His views on Russia aside, Trump campaigned vigorously on a message of strengthening our military. Republicans in Congress should be happy to help him do just that.