Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 5:57 pm

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis: “Look! A squirrel!”

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote both of my congresscritters, demanding to know what they were going to do about Trump letting Russia get away with putting bounties on the heads of U.S. service members in Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, who says he will retire after the 2022 elections, responded almost immediately but said he was still waiting to find out more about the situation. Inasmuch as he is chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I seriously doubted that there was much more he needed to know, but at least he responded — a low bar, but significant for a guy who’s retiring.

My junior senator, Thom Tillis, who’s running for re-election this year, took a while longer to write back. And I’ll let you read what he wrote verbatim:

Dear Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the reports that Russian military operatives offered bounties to Taliban and Taliban-affiliated militants to attack United States and coalition servicemembers in Afghanistan. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on June 26, 2020, the New York Times published an article alleging Russian GRU operatives provided “bounties” to Taliban and Taliban-affiliated militants as payment for attacking U.S. and other Western coalition forces deployed in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times article, the anonymous American officials based their assessment primarily on intelligence obtained from interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.

While American Intelligence agencies have not yet been verified these reports, I take them incredibly seriously. No nation or terrorist group should escape retribution after targeting American troops or civilians.

Therefore, I called for the United States to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, if the intelligence community corroborates and verifies the allegations made in the New York Times report. Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terror is one of the strongest actions the administration could take against Putin, and it would instantly force Russia into pariah status with the international community.

As the intelligence community works to verify the intelligence, I will continue to carefully monitor the U.S. operations in Afghanistan and our national security interests in the broader region. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will continue to attend any classified briefings on this matter.

Moving forward, it is imperative the United States continues to oppose Putin’s destabilizing tactics designed to divide and mislead us. Russia remains an authoritarian police state committed to undermining the interests of the United States and our allies and partners. In recent years Putin has illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula, waged expansionist wars against Georgia and Ukraine, attempted to interfere in elections in the United States and other democracies. He now threatens our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. Russia has also shamefully chosen support the foremost state sponsor of global terror, Iran, a regime that continues to support war criminal Bashar al-Assad and his grip on power in Syria.

For these reasons, I support taking tough punitive actions against Russia, including the use of crippling financial sanctions to pressure Putin to stop continued Russian aggression.

Thank you again for contacting me, and I will keep your views in mind. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me again about other issues that are important to you.

 

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis

U.S. Senator

We’ll talk in a minute about what he said, but first I’d like to talk about what he didn’t say.

He never mentioned Trump’s name.

He never mentioned the president in any way.

He basically ignored the thrust of my question in the hopes that I wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care.

In so doing, he made it clear that he is ride-or-die Trump, that there is nothing Trump could do that would cost him Tillis’s support.

Uh-oh. I noticed. (And now, so have you.)

And there is nothing Tillis can do that would lead me to do anything but vote for his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham. If you can’t vote for Cal, please send him money. This race could dictate control of the Senate come 2021. And I don’t have to tell you how important that is.

 

 

 

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