Putin critic will handle Russia for Trump’s National Security Council

Olivier Knox
·Chief Washington Correspondent
President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. (Photos: Jim LoScalzo / Pool via CNP / MediaPunch/IPX, Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. (Photos: Jim LoScalzo / Pool via CNP / MediaPunch/IPX, Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

A former intelligence official who has warned that the West dangerously underestimates Russian President Vladimir Putin will manage Europe and Russia on President Trump’s National Security Council (NSC), a White House aide confirmed to Yahoo News.

Fiona Hill, who followed Russia and Eurasia for the National Intelligence Council from 2006 to 2009, is going through the clearance process to become Trump’s senior NSC director for Europe and Russia, the aide said on condition of anonymity.

The news that Trump was bringing the Brookings Institution scholar aboard was first reported by Foreign Policy magazine. The word came as the administration wrestled with its latest controversy over alleged contacts with Russia, this time focused on Attorney General Jeff Sessions misleading senators at his confirmation hearing by denying conversations with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.

After a presidential campaign in which Trump and top aides repeatedly said they wanted better relations with Russia, Hill’s writings stand out for their blunt assessment of that country’s leader and of how the West must respond.

“Putin’s operational aim will continue to be to find the weaknesses, to goad, and intimidate, and to make sure everyone knows he will make good on his threats,” she wrote a week before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. “The onus will now be on the West to shore up its own home defenses, reduce the economic and political vulnerabilities, and create its own contingency plans if it wants to counter Putin’s new twenty-first century warfare.”