Washington (CNN)US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power on Tuesday rapped President-elect Donald Trump for his defense of Moscow and delivered a stark warning about Russian efforts to undermine the international order.
Obama UN rep rips Russia, rejects attack on intel agencies
Power's remarks, at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, are just the latest warning by outgoing Obama administration officials of the need to be wary of Russian intentions as Trump repeatedly asserts his desire for better ties with Moscow, sometimes criticizing US intelligence services in the process.
Power made indirect reference to Trump, who denigrated US intelligence agencies after their conclusion that Russia had hacked the US election in an attempt to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
"What is not healthy is for a party or its leaders to cast doubt on a unanimous, well-documented assessment of our intelligence community that a foreign government is seeking to harm our country," Power said.
The UN Ambassador described Russia as "a major threat facing our nation" and, in the clearest attempt yet by the outgoing administration to draw a line on Moscow, she systematically laid out a case for US cooperation with Russia where possible, but with the understanding that an outright embrace runs counter to American interests and global stability.
Citing Russia's invasion of Crimea, its interventions in Syria and Ukraine, as well as its interference in European democracies and elections, Power warned that "our values, our security, our prosperity, and our very way of life are tied" to a rules-based international order that Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, is working to weaken.
Asserting that Putin has had journalists, activists and members of the opposition "murdered," Power went on to say the "United States and its closest partners must come together to prevent Russia from succeeding."
"Russia's actions are not standing up a new world order," Power said, "they are tearing down the one that exists. This is what we are fighting against -- having defeated the forces of fascism and communism, we now confront the forces of authoritarianism and nihilism."
Power said there should be high-level contacts between the US and Russia, but cautioned that the relationship "can't be one that glosses over the past or papers over the fact that you have a leader who has his own opponents intimidated and in some cases killed."
She warned against "allowing history to be erased" by forgetting or overlooking what Russia has done, and cautioned against easing sanctions on Russia -- a possibility Trump has floated.
In what amounted to a call for continuity in US foreign policy, Power said that "easing punitive measures on the Russian Government when they haven't changed their behavior will only embolden Russia -- sending the message that the best way to gain international acceptance of its destabilizing actions is simply to wait us out."
Not only would that spur more dangerous actions by Russia, Power said, it would embolden "other rule-breakers like Iran and North Korea, which are constantly testing how far they can move the line without triggering a response."
Power's remarks come after John Brennan, the Director of National Intelligence, delivered a thinly veiled warning to the President-elect on FOX News this week.
"I don't think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions, and actions they are undertaking in many parts of the world," Brennan said. "I think he has to be mindful that he does not yet, I think, have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road, as well as making sure he understands what he's doing."
Trump, who likened the intelligence community to Nazi Germany, has said often that he seeks a better relationship with Russia and praised Putin. The Russian president, speaking in Moscow on Tuesday, said that there was clearly an ongoing effort "to undermine the legitimacy of the elected president."