Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of Military.com and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

If 2016 was the bravura opener and 2017 the tension-building second act, 2018 could deliver an action-packed conclusion to the Russia imbroglio.

Or this story might still be getting started.

Even without knowing every surprise the saga might bring in the new year, there are already enough waypoints on the calendar to confirm that 2018 will ratchet up the volume yet again.

Here are four big storylines to watch.

This week in the Russia investigations: The Mueller Wars rage behind the scenes, Republicans may get their Clinton uranium inquiry, and the Senate Intelligence Committee looks into Russia and the Jill Stein campaign.

The sharks are circling

President Trump says Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is safe. Reporters shouted a question about whether he was planning to try to fire him:

"I'm not," Trump said Dec. 17.

International influence campaigns have been around for centuries, but 2017 made clear how much they remain a part of daily life.

Through court documents, congressional testimony, press reports and other sources, Americans learned not only about the extent of the "active measures" — as they're known to intelligence officers — that Russia waged against the U.S. through the presidential election.

This week In the Russia investigations: Downshift from strategic war to knife fight, top G-Men on his back foot as lawmakers engage in oversight, Trump Jr. clammed up in Congress.

Now, a knife fight

Not long ago, this saga was about Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's surveying the battlefield like a general and with one swift coup — getting Michael Flynn to turn state's evidence — changing the whole strategic picture.

Sanctions on Russia were to be "ripped up" early in the Trump administration, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn said on Inauguration Day, according to new information released Wednesday.

The new details suggest that President Trump and his aides not only were amenable to new negotiations with Russia about its bilateral relationship with the U.S — despite its attack on the 2016 presidential election — but had concluded by the time they took office that they would definitely void existing sanctions.

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