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Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski recently offered pertinent insight in an interview with RT about why Russia continues to be so vilified by the Pentagon and American media alike:

“The Pentagon needs and wants Russia to be the next big enemy that they are arming against it, budgeting against it, that they are targeting. Certainly, we have talked for a long time about China and China plays an important role as the enemy of choice for the U.S. military. But Russia is ideal in part, because we don’t import a lot of things from Russia, in part because we don’t have the debt relationship with Russia that we do with China. So, Russia makes for a very convenient enemy for the Pentagon in terms of its mission, its budgeting, and its intelligence organization.”

Russia has been denigrated by the Obama administration and mainstream media as incapable of battling the Islamic State in Syria, despite reports it has better handled the mission than the United States. Washington seems often incapable of setting aside its Cold War grudge to work in concert with the Russians in combating the extremist group. Perhaps Kwiatkowski’s theory offers keen understanding for why: the Pentagon’s absurdly bloated budget.

Without any officially declared wars — and especially considering the lack of popular support for continued fighting in the Middle East theater — the Pentagon needs to justify its projected $585 billion budget. What better way to do so than a return to adversarial posturing against Russia — an ‘enemy’ so familiar to the U.S., it virtually guarantees popular support.

“The Pentagon needs that kind of enemy,” Kwiatkowski continued. “And [U.S. Secretary of Defense] Ashton Carter, if you listen to what he says continually — even from the beginning of time he was put in office — his job is fundraising, just like the university president’s job is not education but rather fundraising. Ashton Carter’s job is also fundraising, and he fundraises through this process of identifying, pushing, and delivering up an enemy that will justify their budgets.”

As proof of the veracity of Kwiatkowski’s statements, the military conducted two test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles, less than one week apart from each other, from bases on the West coast. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told reporters that at least 15 such tests have been performed since January 2011, specifically to prove to rivals like Russia, China, and North Korea that the U.S. nuclear arsenal remains fully operational.

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“That’s exactly why we do this,” Work told the media prior to the second missile test. “We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”

In fact, in the same week, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove spoke to the House Armed Services Committee, requesting a budget allotment to, essentially, target Russia.

Russia, he explained, has “chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat” to the U.S. and its allies and partners in Europe — and Moscow has attempted to “rewrite” the agreed ‘rules.’

To counter Russia, [U.S. European Command], working with allies and partners, is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary,” Breedlove asserted. “Russia is extending its course of influence yet further afield to try to reestablish a leading role on the world stage.”

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared somewhat at odds with the Pentagon in stressing cooperation with Russia against ISIL in testimony before Congress to parse out the State Department’s budget. While Kerry stressed ISIL’s looming menace, Carter and other military officials pointed to Obama’s 2014 comments that Russia is, in fact, of much greater concern to U.S. security.

Kerry helped to hammer out a ceasefire arrangement with major players in Syria, which, as Kwiatkowski noted, placed restrictions on the Pentagon it likely resented.

Though Russia couldn’t be mistaken for an angel, the military and White House’s ostensible fears appear largely bloated and mostly artificial.