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John Kerry: Daesh biggest threat to US, not Russia

July 11, 2015 at 10:39 am

The top U.S. diplomat doesn’t agree that Russia poses the greatest threat to the U.S., a State Department spokesman said Friday.

“Certainly, we have disagreements with Russia and its activities along or within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat,” said Mark Toner.

“Secretary [John Kerry] doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly.”

Toner’s comments were in response remarks by Joseph Dunford, nominee to become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said during his confirmation hearings that Russia presents the greatest threat to U.S. national security.

“What the secretary does consider an existential threat is the rapid growth of extremist groups like Daesh, particularly in ungoverned spaces,” Toner said.

The analysis of Russia comes amid one of the worst periods in Russian-U.S. relations since the Cold War concluded in 1991, prompted in large part by Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Daesh and al Qaeda’s “ability to attract foreign fighters” present “real and tangible threats” to the U.S., Toner said.

FBI Director James Comey said Thursday that more than 200 Americans have travelled to or attempted to travel to Syria to fight in the conflict there.

The State Department previously said the U.S.’s focus inside Syria was fighting Daesh.