Shortly after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine in 2014, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., called on the Obama administration to level retaliatory sanctions on Moscow, actions that “would require our foreign partners to make a choice between America and Putin.”

Three years later, Coats has to make his own choice. The reported pick to be national intelligence director, the Hoosier (if confirmed) may find himself having to choose sides between the intelligence community and the Trump administration. The outcome will provide a good microcosm of the GOP’s budding bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Director of national intelligence is more than an honorary post for old diplomats and retired generals. As the country’s top intelligence official, Coats would oversee sixteen agencies, direct the National Intelligence Program and directly advise the president. When that White House phone rings at 3 a.m., it’ll be Coats calling.

In short, his job would be national security, work that President-elect Trump keeps making harder, if not impossible.

Trump wants things both ways when it comes to Moscow’s influence in American elections. During a call with the New York Times Friday, Trump dismissed the focus on Russian hacking as “a political witch hunt.” But later that afternoon, the incoming executive announced he wants a plan in place to address cybersecurity threats within 90 days.

As Trump oscillates in the Oval Office, Coats will be the one leading the investigation. Clearly, the two-time senator and former ambassador to Germany is qualified. But unlike the president, he won’t be able to play it both ways.

The coming investigation will either be serious or ceremonial. And It won’t be hard to find out which Coats picks. He was one of the most aggressive defense hawks in the Senate and took a hard edge against Putin that eventually got him banned from Russia. But by accepting a position in the Trump administration, he’ll be under tremendous pressure to turn a blind eye to Russian meddling.

Coats decision will be clear once Trump’s cybersecurity plan is unveiled three months into his presidency. Either the former senator will have persuaded the Trump to take the Russian threat seriously or he will lend a veneer of credibility to a grab bag of half measures.

Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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