Why is the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force picking a fight with Vladimir Putin? We all know that the Russian leader is a massive pain and a dictator with the biggest nuclear arsenal outside of the United States. He’s a cheerleader for a nation of wannabes hoping to return to some former glorious status, a throwback political bouncer at the global dive bar, a bigot and big shot.

But Deborah Lee James? Who the fuck is she? Yesterday, James told Reuters that she considers Russia to be “the biggest threat” to the United States. That’s unleashed tons of headlines, and of course a Russian response—she is creating “an artificial atmosphere of hostility” the foreign minister said in Moscow.

As Secretary of the Air Force and one of those interchangeable Washington political weenies, James has no authority to make policy nor influence it much. Though Secretary of the Air Force sounds impressive (and she’s only the second woman to hold the job), her duties are solely to organize, train, and equip the military service she heads. And that ultimately means a $140 billion per year fundraising program. These days that means securing a new multi-gazillion dollar bomber and new long-range weapons—a job made a lot easier by a Cold War atmosphere. It’s easy to drum up support with a villain in plain view.

James, a product of Capitol Hill, where she served for ten years as a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, has also been Assistant Secretary of Defense for both Reserve Affairs and assistant to the Secretary of Defense for legislative affairs. She is a Washington expert at turning geopolitics into budgets; this is Washington brass tacks at their brassiest and tackiest.

“This is no time to in any way signal a lack of resolve in the face of ... Russian actions,” James said after meeting with Polish officials yesterday. Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign of who can posture the most at home and abroad to be the strongest and biggest militarist. Almost seems like we might be... compensating for something?

[Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. Second image courtesy of AP.]