A Pentagon memorandum prepared for the defense transition team of President-elect Donald Trump lists the team’s top priorities but makes no mention of Russia as a major concern for the incoming administration. The Dec. 1 memo, obtained by Foreign Policy, says Trump’s “defense priorities”—as detailed by transition team member Mira Ricardel—are defeating ISIS, eliminating sequestration caps on military spending and improving force readiness, developing a strategy for cyber defense, and finding “greater efficiencies” in the Department of Defense. While North Korea and China are briefly mentioned elsewhere in the document, Russia is not. In recent months, DOD officials have consistently ranked Russia among the top potential threats to US security, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in September that Russia poses “the most significant challenge and potentially the most significant threat to our national security,” in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Trump has come under criticism for hiring staff that have pro-Russia connections. During the election, Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned days after news reports surfaced that he had previously lobbied for pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. More recently, questions have been aimed at Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who conducted business deals with pro-government Russian corporations during his business career and has ties to many current Russian officials, reported Reuters.