Putin May Cite Russian War Over Ukraine To Interfere in US Politics
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin may use the U.S. President Joe Biden administration’s support for Ukraine as a pretext to order a new campaign to interfere in American politics, U.S. intelligence officials have assessed.
The assessment comes with the U.S. electoral system already under pressure. The American public remains sharply divided over the last presidential election and the insurrection that followed at the U.S. Capitol, when supporters of Trump tried to stop the certification of his loss to President Joe Biden. Trump has repeatedly assailed intelligence officials and claimed investigations of Russian influence on his campaigns to be political vendettas.
Given Putin’s antipathy toward the West and his repeated denunciations of Ukraine, officials believe he may see the U.S. backing of Ukraine’s resistance as a direct affront to him, giving him further incentive to target another U.S. election, the people said. It is not yet clear which candidates Russia might try to promote or what methods it might use.
Tensions between Washington and Moscow have reached levels not seen since the end of the Cold War. The White House has increased military support for Ukraine, which has mounted a robust resistance against Russian forces accused of committing war crimes, and helped impose global sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy.
There’s no sign the war will end soon, which some experts say could delay Moscow from pursuing retaliation while its resources are mired in Ukraine. But “it’s almost certain that a depleted Russian military after Ukraine is going to again double down on hybrid tactics to wreak havoc against us and other allied countries,” said David Salvo, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Russia has been accused of trying to spread disinformation in past campaigns
In Ukraine and in past campaigns against adversaries, Russia has been accused of trying to spread disinformation, amplifying pro-Kremlin voices in the West and using cyberattacks to disrupt governments.
Top U.S. intelligence officials are still working on plans for a new center authorized by Congress focusing on foreign influence campaigns by Russia, China and other adversaries. Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, also recently appointed career CIA officer Jeffrey Wichman to the position of election threats executive several months after the departure of the previous executive, Shelby Pierson.
Intelligence agencies have so far not found any evidence that Putin has authorized measures like the ones Russia is believed to have undertaken 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 of anonymity to discuss sensitive findings.