Ex-spy chief alarmed at Trump’s Russia links
The former US director of national intelligence, James Clapper (pictured), says current events are more serious than Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal of the 1970s, and Donald Trump’s links with Russia must be exposed.
Clapper told Australia’s National Press Club that Trump’s decision to cultivate ties with Russia and share intelligence with President Vladimir Putin was “very problematic”. He called Trump’s firing of the FBI director Jim Comey “egregious and inexcusable”. “Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we’re confronting now,” he said.
Clapper told the audience in Canberra that it was “absolutely crucial for the United States, and for that matter for the world, for this presidency, for the Republicans, for the Democrats and for our nation at large, that we get to the bottom of this”.
“Is there a smoking gun with all the smoke? I don’t know the answer to that. I think it’s vital, though, we find that out.”
Meanwhile, Russia scrambled a fighter jet this week to intercept a nuclear-capable US B52 strategic bomber it claimed was flying over the Baltic Sea near its coast.
A Moscow Foreign Ministry spokesman said the appearance of a plane which first came into service in the 1950s in Europe would not help ease tension.
An ex-Russian air force commander called the move “disrespectful”.
The long-range bomber was flying over neutral waters parallel to the Russian border when a Sukhoi Su-27 jet was sent to intercept it, Russia’s defence ministry announced.
“The Russian SU-27 crew, having approached at a safe distance, identified the aircraft as an American B52 strategic bomber and escorted it,” a ministry statement said.
Russia said the SU27 took off from its Baltic Fleet air defence unit detachment in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.
The US military said its bomber was in international airspace.
“We can confirm that the US Air Force B52 was operating in international airspace but we don’t have any information to provide at this time regarding the behaviour of Russian aircraft,” said Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder.
Nato members such as the UK regularly report scrambling jets to intercept Russia’s nuclear-capable bombers flying close to their air space.
US forces are engaged in various exercises with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and other allies as part of the Saber Strike military exercises. The Pentagon is also taking part in the annual BALTOPS naval training exercise in the Baltic Sea which ends on June 16.
Picture credit: Flickr