Flathead Beacon
Stark Reality of U.S.-Russian Relations

In 2004, I represented COMSUBGRU EIGHT, a U.S. overseas flag command, at the BALTOPS exercise planning conference in Norfolk, Virginia, home of our country’s largest naval base. Among the audience was a cadre of Russian Federation officers, as Russia would be a participant in the exercise. What I presented caused somewhat of a stir: I suggested exploring the feasibility of a joint U.S.-Russian nuclear submarine exercise within the larger BALTOPS exercise framework.

Though U.S. and Russian ground forces had conducted joint exercises before, bringing together our nations’ strategic-level military assets had never happened. After all, each nation’s nuclear submarine force had been a fundamental leg of the “nuclear triad” that had helped keep the Cold War between the Soviet Union and America “cold,” averting war. The idea of such assets intermingling in an exercise in the Baltic Sea was a bold step with, potentially, deep impact.

Though a critic of today’s Russian Federation, I once believed in true rapprochement with Russia and contributed to that end. As a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, I studied Russian literature – from Dostoevsky to Akhmatova – and the language. In the business sector, I was an engineer based in eastern Russia working on the largest foreign direct investment project in Russia. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), I was a post-command exercise manager, with Russia being a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. I’ve traveled to Russia many times, from St. Petersburg to Moscow to Sakhalin Island – though never to meet with Russia’s foreign minister for inexplicable reasons on July 4, after Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, as U.S. Senator Daines.

Unlike Daines, I would approach U.S. relations with Russia in a way that is clear-eyed about the threat that Russia presents to America and the world. I would support our intelligence agencies, with whom I’ve worked, and rebuke efforts to politicize their conclusions.

America’s security in the 21st century depends on being honest about what the Russian Federation has become under Vladimir Putin: an authoritarian oligarchic petro-state that murders journalists, dissidents, and business competitors, invades sovereign nations, interferes in elections, and threatens Western nations with conflict, including nuclear strike.

We need to stop being naïve regarding Russia, before it’s too late. That means, however contrary to the Trump Administration:

• Demand cessation of Russian aggression, including its withdrawal from the sovereign territories it has invaded: eastern Ukraine (Donetsk), southern Ukraine (Crimea), northwestern Georgia (Abkhazia), and north central Georgia (South Ossetia).

• Improve our resiliency against Russian nuclear blackmail. Reestablish the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the Trump Administration withdrew, fortify missile defense systems, and work to reduce nuclear weapons, globally.

• Firm up America’s commitment to NATO’s Article V, which states that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on NATO itself.

• Fortify America’s electoral processes and critical facilities from cyber attacks.

• Request withdrawal of Russian forces from the former U.S. base in northern Syria, leading to the establishment of a safe zone for our (abandoned) Kurdish allies.

• Defend the Magnitsky Act and apply it towards Russian human rights abuses, including assassinations.

Perhaps these items seem too ambitious to achieve, as several would require Russia’s cooperation. Yet, Russia is fragile, as its economy is overwhelmingly dependent on oil and gas sales.

If America, with its massive energy demand, leads on clean, renewable energy, thereby placing real pressure on the Russian economy, Putin would have no choice but to come to the negotiating table on the widest range of issues.

America ought to have transitioned to clean energy the day after 9/11, as an answer to oil-funded terrorism. Given brazen Russian petro-state aggression, the continuance of oil-funded terrorism, and climate change, the case for it today could not be stronger.

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Letter to Fellow Montana U.S. Senate 2020 Democratic Primary Candidates

Dear Montana U.S. Senate 2020 Democratic Primary Candidates, The role of our U.S. Senators is very important to all of us living in Montana and the United States. There are very real and important consequences when somebody who is not qualified, or more interested in a political agenda rather than the interest of hard-working Montana … Continued

The Montana Post
Do Not Take the Bait, America: Avoid War with Iran

America’s 21st century Middle East wars have cost our country thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of injured soldiers, the burden of having contributed to nearly a million Afghan and Iraqi deaths, and, per the latest estimate, $6 trillion, over a quarter of the entire U.S. federal debt.

If that money had been wisely spent, it could have modernized America’s infrastructure, including for clean energy, creating millions of good-paying jobs. Instead, we are left with Middle East destabilization, with no benefit to our nation. Most lamentably, countless sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, would be in the thick of our communities, rather than buried or maimed.

Given the strikes against Iranian assets and people, including General Suleimani, with American blood on his hands, we ought to recall the strategic mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to which I contributed as an active-duty naval officer stationed abroad.

Alongside others readying their respective units for war, my colleagues and I coordinated the largest nuclear submarine task force in history as part of the “shock and awe” phase of OIF – a war premised on stopping Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, which turned out not to exist. Moreover, as one who worked with the CIA and SOCOM on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation, American resources were being diverted from monitoring other illicit nuclear sites in order to find the non-existent WMD in Iraq. Perhaps this is why Iran’s nuclear program, among other cases, was able to flourish as American servicepersons fought and died next door in Iraq.

Though I was disappointed that former President Obama had allowed, however inadvertently, ISIS to establish a large caliphate in Iraq and Syria, I was highly supportive of the Iran Nuclear Deal that he forged to avoid the third gulf war since 1991 (an imperfect deal but essential for the times). Similarly, I was appalled when President Trump withdrew America from the Iran Nuclear Deal (as well as abandoning our Kurdish allies in northern Syria and embracing tyrants around the world).

While the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” approach to Iran may work, it probably will not. Iran may counterstrike in a way that could kill Americans and lead to all-out war, or it could reconstitute and accelerate its nuclear weapons program, as it just implied by ending its own commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal.

We as Americans need to ask ourselves: do we want another gulf war (perhaps with tactical nuclear bombs being used, designed for Iran), or do we want to stabilize the situation and focus on value-add projects, like rebuilding our country? If our answer is the latter, then we need to – once emotions have receded from the boiling point – renew Iran’s and our commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal and get back to things that improve our nations, like job creation.

The right answer, though, may not be so apparent in the White House. Domestic and foreign special interests – including Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman who loathes Iran and may have financial ties with President Trump and his family, those seeking a distraction from President Trump’s impeachment, oil companies which need higher prices from a Middle East war to stay financially solvent, certain segments of the military-industrial complex that prefer war to peace, AIPAC and Israel’s Netanyahu (non-representative of all Israel) who needs a distraction from corruption charges, and even Russia and China who may see a third U.S.-led gulf war as the death-knell of America as a superpower – may be pushing, behind the scenes, for war against Iran.

We, as citizens, must not let that happen.

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Billings Gazette
Why I support food security for all Americans

At the U.S. Naval Academy, as a plebe, our squad leader, a future Navy SEAL, asked our table: “Who here believes in the concept of food stamps?”

Of ten plebes, each of us seated on the front two inches of our seats, our backs ramrod straight and our chins and necks conjoined into what is referred to as a “brace”, only an Irish-Catholic New Yorker and I put out our “paws”, signaling that we did.

I was asked how I could defend that position. I replied: “Sir, because without food stamps as a kid growing up in Montana, I probably wouldn’t be here at Annapolis.” Food assistance programs – from food stamps to free school lunches – enabled my talent to become realized, facilitated, as well, by excellent Montana public school teachers.

On Dec. 4, 2019, with Thanksgiving just past and Christmas approaching, the Trump Administration passed a rule via the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ostensibly supported by U.S. Senator Daines and U.S. Representative Gianforte, that will deepen cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – our food stamp program — worsening hunger and food insecurity in Montana and throughout America. Based on analysis, the cuts – however couched in base-appealing, partisan rhetoric – will impact nearly 50,000 Montanans receiving SNAP and 20% of SNAP recipients nationally.

President Trump, Daines and Gianforte – all of whom grew up wealthy and privileged – have never known the threat of hunger. And that’s OK – in fact, that’s the way we’d like it to be for everyone. Yet, one needn’t personally experience food insecurity to grasp the morality (including longstanding Christian morality) and talent unlocking mechanism of government food assistance. Either out of a sense of decency or a belief that society runs best when talent is not suppressed by hunger, countless Americans – rich and poor alike – support government programs, free of the constant threat of budgetary cuts, that tackle food insecurity.

Why then, during the holiday season, would such a rule be proposed that will devastate the lives of so many?

It’s important to understand that, in 2017, Daines and Gianforte voted for the Trump tax bill that gave massive tax breaks to America’s wealthiest families and powerful multinational corporations. This resulted in a record $1 trillion annual federal deficit and is projected to add trillions more to an already formidable $23 trillion federal debt.

Contrary to widespread belief, the number of jobs created under Trump has lagged that added during the Obama administration (given the same amount of time), many must work multiple jobs just to put food on the table, and economic inequality is soaring. In addition, publicly-traded corporations used most of the tax cut largess to buy back their own stock or increase their dividends, rather than invest in capital projects and hiring, resulting in an artificial boost to the U.S. stock market, mostly benefiting the ultra-wealthy, including foreign investors.

I believe in tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses. But the 2017 tax bill was an unpatriotic act, burdening us and countless future generations with a runaway federal debt without improving our nation.

President Trump, Senator Daines, and Representative Gianforte, among others, convinced Americans that the 2017 tax bill would result in lower federal deficits and big corporate investments in people. Yet, it was merely a once-in-a-lifetime cash grab by America’s wealthiest families and multinational corporations.

Now, they are scrambling to make cuts everywhere, including to SNAP right before Christmas, in order to appease their base and cover their fiscally negligent tracks before election day.

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Helena Independent Record
Montana Communities deserve to keep their minor league teams

As a boy growing up in Helena, I’d often go to Kindrick Legion Field to watch Helena’s minor league baseball team – first, the Phillies, then Gold Sox, then, lastly, Brewers – do battle against other teams, but also, pre-game, to watch my great-uncle, Denny Dunn, get the field ready for play. Uncle Denny, a groundskeeper at Kindrick Legion Field, was committed to ensuring that the field was in impeccable shape for Helena’s teams. Even after he had been diagnosed with emphysema, well into his later years, I recall him sitting in the riding mower, covering every square inch of the outfield.

When the Brewers left in 2018, that was a big blow to Helena, another whittling down of the institutions that glue, empower and inspire our Montana communities.

Now, Major League Baseball (MLB) has proposed eliminating 42 minor league teams across the nation, including the three remaining Pioneer League teams in Montana – the Billings Mustangs, Great Falls Voyagers, and Missoula PaddleHeads. Indelibly, there are reasons for the proposed drawdown. MLB, whose teams are collectively worth more than $50 billion, has estimated that it can save $21 million per year, or less than $1 million per MLB team owner. In addition, higher-order statistical tools – think “Moneyball” – may have identified other methods by which to develop MLB talent.

That said, as the next U.S. Senator from Montana, I will not take the elimination of Montana’s three minor league baseball teams and the 42 teams overall lightly. I approach this not out of political opportunism, but a deep-seated belief that large, influential organizations in the 21st century – whether corporations like Amazon and Facebook, nonprofits like the National Football League, or pass-through businesses like MLB – should make America’s communities stronger.

After all, our small Main Street businesses, frequently under assault by mega-corporations, are meaningfully contributing to our communities. They hire locally and pay taxes. Their workers volunteer in the community. Many such businesses serve as meeting points, bringing people together, breaking down divisions, entertaining and informing.

ssive organizations like MLB should do more. Indeed, some may argue that showcasing a 7-game World Series as good as this year’s and a 162 game-long season is more than enough. I won’t disagree. In fact, MLB, as a legal business entity, has the right to provide society nothing beyond adhering to the rule of law and its core, profitable offerings.

But, likewise, the United States of America, vis-à-vis Congress, has no obligation to extend the anti-trust exemption conferred to MLB, nor to minimize the taxes incurred by pass-through entities like MLB. Should MLB move forward with eliminating Montana’s three minor league teams – indispensable community institutions that also connect MLB to rural America, a key source of its talent – I will join, if elected as U.S. senator, the others in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives whom object to MLB’s plan (already, publicly, more than 100 members) to rescind MLB’s sweetheart tax and monopoly privileges.

Similarly, our country has no duty to protect the special interest-built regulatory framework that enables Amazon to, again, pay no federal taxes, Facebook to algorithmically itemize our citizens into echo chambers, maximizing disinformation and division, or JP Morgan to create and sell the next-generation of economy-cratering financial derivatives, as it did prior to the 2008-09 Great Recession.

Our country’s continued greatness necessitates holding even the most powerful of organizations, however admired, accountable. I expect MLB, a recipient of political largess, to care every bit as much about America’s communities as my great uncle – Greatest Generation, U.S. Navy veteran, and Kindrick Legion Field’s groundskeeper – did.

John Mues is a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, former naval officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Montana high school teacher, and senior engineer in the business sector with London Business School MBA.

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Billings Gazette
Let’s honor U.S. heroes with action, not just words

I’m no hero, but I’ve been privileged to have served alongside heroes.

One such man is Mike “Groove” McGreevy. We completed the arduous Pre-Mini BUD/S training together at the U.S. Naval Academy, during our Second Class (or, Junior) year as midshipmen. That training took me a full month to recover. McGreevy, conversely, ran the Marine Corps Marathon at a brisk pace soon afterwards. He then, some years later, went on to lay down his life for our nation in Afghanistan as a Navy SEAL officer of a Quick Reaction Force trying to help four fellow SEALS under siege from hundreds of Taliban. Mike is a hero and is immortalized in the memories of his Naval Academy classmates, SEAL team-mates, and in the Naval Academy’s hallowed Memorial Hall and Arlington Cemetery.

Jeff McDonald is another. He and I served together at Submarine Group Eight at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom and coordinated the largest nuclear submarine task force in our nation’s history, paving the way for the ground invasion of Iraq. After two and a half years at Group Eight, Jeff and I were sent back to an operational submarine. He was assigned to the USS San Francisco and I was vectored to the USS Asheville, both of which were being deployed overseas. We were both in the Western Pacific Theater, under the operating authority of Task Force 74, when Jeff’s boat ran into, at flank speed, an un-surveyed, newly formed underwater mountaintop. Almost everyone aboard the ship was injured, including Jeff, and one killed. Jeff hobbled his way to the Control Room, as the boat barely resurfaced after an emergency blow of its main ballast tanks, and manned the bridge as Officer of the Deck, safely navigating the ship, with devastated hull.

In Guam, while my own boat was getting some maintenance done, Jeff and I spent hours together and deliberately avoided talking about the deadly accident, though, after a pint or two, he’d return to that day and the ubiquitous blood found throughout the submarine from forward to aft. Had it not been for Jeff’s stewardship in the bridge, the USS San Francisco and its 120 crew members may have slipped permanently beneath the Pacific’s waves.

Montana, of course, punches well above its weight in supplying our nation with patriotic young men and women. In fact, Montana, outside of Alaska, has the highest rate of military service in the nation, and our heroes range from the posthumous Medal of Honor-winner Travis Atkins of Bozeman to, though our politics differ, Robert O’Neil of Butte, who helped hunt down Osama Bin Laden, to those like Bud Campbell who survived the Bataan Death March of World War II, the Korean War’s Newton Old Crow Sr., and the Vietnam War’s Bob Jewell.

Veterans Day gives us all a chance to reflect on those who have served our nation in uniform. It has also given me, as a U.S. Senate candidate, the opportunity to develop the policies that will help our veterans: protecting and fortifying the Veterans Administration, destigmatizing and treating war’s hidden injuries, including PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury), expanding rural Montana’s access to high quality health care, incentivizing the hiring and training of veterans, solving veteran homelessness, and tackling our state’s suicide epidemic head-on.

In other words, it is important to honor our veterans’ sacrifice through smart, empathetic, and high-return investments, responsive communications, and inter-agency collaboration rather than just symbols and words.

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Bill Basl Endorses John Mues

A leading advocate for national service and former national director of AmeriCorps at the Corporation for National Service, Bill Basl, is formally endorsing the candidacy of John Mues to serve as the next U.S. Senator from the State of Montana.   With his endorsement of John Mues to be elected to the U.S. Senate, Bill Basl … Continued

Montanans Are Paying the Price of the Trade War with China

In traveling throughout Montana as a U.S. Senate candidate, I can attest that our farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and everyday consumers are being hurt by the poorly conceived trade war with China.  Companies have gone bankrupt, grain is being dumped on the ground outside of bins, train cars are sitting idle on railroad tracks, and … Continued

Kelly McCarthy Endorses John Mues to be Elected to the U.S. Senate

  “I’m honored to endorse my friend and fellow veteran, John Mues, to be the next US Senator from Montana.  He is our first best choice to make sure Montana remains The Last Best Place.” -Kelly McCarthy  Air Force veteran and former Montana House of Representatives leader from Yellowstone County, Kelly McCarthy, announced his endorsement … Continued