Robert Gates welcomes the prospect of ‘the U.S. not being so reliably passive’

David Ignatius writes: Bob Gates has worked in senior national security positions for the past five presidents, Republican and Democratic. So it’s noteworthy — and to me, encouraging — that he is advising President-elect Donald Trump, too.

Gates, a former defense secretary, CIA director and deputy national security adviser, spoke with me by telephone Wednesday about the advice he’s giving Trump and his team — and the opportunities and pitfalls ahead.

At the top of Gates’s to-do list is striking the right balance between improving relations with Russia and appearing too cooperative with a belligerent President Vladimir Putin.

“I think the challenge for any new administration would have been how to thread the needle — between stopping the downward spiral in U.S.-Russian relations, which had real dangers, and pushing back on Putin’s aggressiveness and general thuggery,” Gates said.

“If you only want to stop the downward spiral, you empower Putin to feel that he can do whatever he wants. I worry that if you don’t have pushback — let him know there are limits, and that the U.S. will react, militarily, if necessary — then the chance of being taken advantage of is larger.” [Continue reading…]

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