- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2016

Pentagon officials at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, this weekend all seemed to have one nation on their mind: Russia.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made headlines in March 2012 when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” Politicians, including President Obama, mocked him for the statement. Now, military officials in 2016 concur.

“Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James told Reuters Saturday. “We have a number of threats that we’re dealing with, but Russia could be, because of the nuclear aspect, an existential threat to the United States.”

Ms. James said that she Russian President Vladimir Putin was overseeing “very dangerous airmanship” around the world.

The analysis comes in conjunction with skyrocketing arms sales by Moscow. CNN Money reported Monday that Mr. Putin is on pace to spend $700 billion on military upgrades by 2025.

“They are operating with a frequency and in places that we haven’t seen for decades,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the conference’s attendees.

It is unclear how Russia’s increased spending will affect the fiscal 2018 budget Pentagon officials are crafting for Congress. Lawmakers will likely receive a submitted budget in April or later, Reuters reported.

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