WASHINGTON (Associated Press) – Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine as an excuse to launch a new campaign to interfere in US politics, US intelligence officials assess.
Intelligence agencies have yet to find any evidence that Putin authorized measures like those Russia is believed to have taken in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections in support of former President Donald Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition. Anonymity to discuss sensitive findings.
But given Putin’s hatred of the West and his repeated condemnations of Ukraine, officials believe he might see US support for the Ukrainian resistance as a direct affront to him, giving him added incentive to target another US election, People said. It is not yet clear which candidates Russia might try to promote or what methods it might use.
This assessment comes with the US electoral system already under strain. American public opinion remains sharply divided over the recent presidential election and the ensuing rebellion in the US Capitol, when Trump supporters tried to stop ratification of his loss to President Joe Biden. Trump has repeatedly attacked intelligence officials and claimed that investigations into Russian influence on his campaigns are political retaliation.
Tensions between Washington and Moscow have reached levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. The White House has increased its military support for Ukraine, which has waged strong resistance against Russian forces accused of war crimes, and helped impose global sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.
There is no indication that the war will end soon, which some experts say may delay Moscow from seeking revenge while its resources are awash in Ukraine. “It is almost certain that the depleted Russian army after Ukraine will once again redouble hybrid tactics to wreak havoc against us and other allies,” said David Salvo, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund’s Coalition for Assurance of Democracy.
In Ukraine and in previous campaigns against opponents, Russia has been accused of trying to spread disinformation, amplifying pro-Kremlin voices in the West, and using cyber attacks to disrupt governments.
Senior US intelligence officials are still working on plans for a new center authorized by Congress to focus on campaigns of foreign influence by Russia, China and other adversaries. Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, also recently appointed CIA officer Jeffrey Weishman to an electoral threats executive position several months after the departure of former CEO Shelby Pearson.
“Our Electoral Threats Executive continues to lead the intelligence community’s efforts against external threats to the US election,” Haines spokeswoman Nicole D. Hayes said in a statement. “We are also continuing to work on fulfilling legislative requirements for the establishment of a center to integrate intelligence on malign foreign influence.”
De Hae declined to comment on what intelligence officials think of Putin’s intentions. The Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
Foreign adversaries have long sought to interfere in US politics, according to investigations into past elections and indictments against alleged foreign agents. The United States accused Putin of ordering influence operations To try to help Trump in the 2020 election. A bipartisan Senate investigation into the 2016 election confirmed the intelligence findings That Russia used cyber espionage and information efforts to bolster Trump and disparage his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation found no conclusive evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia, but Mueller declined to rule on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Trump continues to falsely insist that the elections he lost to Biden have been stolen, with Republicans in several states following his lead and opposing election security measures.
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are constantly investigating foreign influence efforts. Last month, the Ministry of Justice indicted five men Working on behalf of China to harass Chinese dissidents in the United States and derail an unknown congressional candidate.
Experts say the proposed foreign malign influence center will provide much-needed direction for efforts across the government examining adversaries. Congress provided partial funding for the center in the budget approved last month because the budget funds the government until September, not a full year.
The center has previously been held back by questions within the Office of the Director of Intelligence and on Capitol Hill about its structure, size, and whether it will unnecessarily duplicate efforts already in place in government. Noting that some of these questions remain unresolved, Congress last month also asked the director’s office to complete within six months a report on “the future structure, responsibilities, and organizational placement” of the center.
Representative Mike Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the committee is closely monitoring the “malicious activities of our adversaries” and the proposed center may be one way to help.
“As Russia continues to use disinformation campaigns in Ukraine, we are reminded to be strategic in our response to counter their tactics,” Turner said. “It is no secret that our adversaries use disinformation to undermine the national security interests of the United States, so we must consider all viable options to protect our democracy.”
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