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McMaster. Photo: Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

Speaking at an Atlantic Council event celebrating the U.S.-Baltic partnership, outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster denounced Vladimir Putin over what he called Russia's efforts to "undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability.“

Between the lines: McMaster's was some of the most blistering rhetoric toward Putin thus far from the Trump administration, and included an acknowledgement that the West has "failed to impose sufficient costs" on the Kremlin. It came in his last speech before being replaced by John Bolton.

  • "For too long, some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly, and implausibly denies its actions, and we have failed to impose sufficient costs. The Kremlin’s confidence is growing, as its agents conduct their sustained campaigns to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another.”
  • “Mr. Putin may believe that he is winning in this new form of warfare. He may believe that his aggressive actions in Salisbury, in cyberspace, in the air and on the high seas can undermine our confidence, our institutions and our values. Perhaps he believes that our free nations are weak and will not respond to his provocations. He is wrong."
  • "We might all help Mr Putin understand his grave error. We might show him the beaches of Normandy, where lingering craters and bullet holes demonstrate the West’s will to sacrifice to preserve our freedom. We might bring him to our concert halls and theaters where the music and art of our people reveal our freedom to create, imagine, and to dream."

Worth noting: McMaster made no criticism of President Trump during his speech. He praised the recent sanctions against Russia and the expulsions of Russian diplomats, and cited some of Trump's speeches as examples of speaking the truth about authoritarianism.

Go deeper

Virginia governor orders probe into pepper-spraying of Army officer

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va. in 2019. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Sunday he's ordered the state police to conduct an independent investigation into a traffic stop during which two officers pepper-sprayed and drew guns on an Army lieutenant.

Driving the news: Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is suing the police officers over the incident, which attracted widespread criticism after video footage emerged. Northam said in a statement he found the incident "disturbing" and that it angered him.

Biden pollster urges blunt tax talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The top pollster for Joe Biden's presidential campaign is advising the White House to do something that often makes Democrats nervous: Talk loudly and proudly about raising taxes on the rich.

Why it matters: John Anzalone tells Axios his extensive polling and research has found that few issues receive broader support than raising taxes on corporations and people earning more than $400,000 a year.

On the front lines of the growing border crisis

A migrant mother and her children sit in the dirt at a temporary processing center under the Anzalduas International Bridge in McAllen, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

At night, parents with young children march through the brush after crossing the Rio Grande River in the pitch black. By day, unaccompanied kids arrive at shelters, in one instance 17 of 17 testing positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: Axios accompanied a delegation of Republican lawmakers to South Texas last week — followed by a unilateral visit to El Paso — to see in real-time the challenges fueled by a border surge, the effects of actions taken by the previous administration, and the lagging response by the new one.