US officials warn that Putin could use the war in Ukraine to interfere in US politics | american politics

Vladimir Putin could use the Biden administration’s support for Ukraine as a pretext to order a new campaign of interference in US politics, US intelligence officials have said.

Intelligence agencies have found no evidence that Putin authorized actions like those Russia allegedly took in the 2016 and 2020 elections to support Donald Trump, according to several people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. .

But given Putin’s antipathy to the West and his repeated denunciations of Ukraine, officials believe he may view US support for Ukrainian resistance as a direct affront, giving him more incentive to aim for another election. American, the people said. It is not yet clear which candidates Russia might try to promote or what methods it might use.

The assessment comes with the US electoral system under pressure. The American public remains sharply divided over the last election and subsequent uprising on the US Capitol, when Trump supporters tried to prevent certification of his loss to Joe Biden. Trump has repeatedly attacked intelligence officials and claimed investigations into Russian influence on his campaigns are political vendettas.

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 mounted a vigorous resistance against Russian forces accused of committing war crimes, and helped impose global sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy.

There is no sign that the war will end soon, which some experts say could prevent Moscow from continuing its retaliation as its resources are bogged down in Ukraine.

But “it is almost certain that a Russian army exhausted after Ukraine will again redouble its hybrid tactics to wreak havoc against us and other allied countries,” said David Salvo, deputy director of the Alliance for securitization. of Democracy from the German Marshall Fund.

In Ukraine and in past campaigns, Russia has been accused of trying to spread disinformation, amplify pro-Kremlin voices and use cyberattacks to disrupt governments.

Top U.S. intelligence officials are still working on plans for a new center authorized by Congress and focused on foreign influence campaigns by Russia, China and other adversaries. Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, recently appointed a career CIA officer, Jeffrey Wichman, as director of election threats several months after the departure of the previous director, Shelby Pierson.

“Our Election Threats Executive continues to lead the intelligence community’s efforts against foreign threats to the U.S. election,” said Nicole de Haay, spokeswoman for Haines. “We also continue to work to meet the legislative requirement to create a center to integrate intelligence on malign foreign influence.”

De Haay 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 American politics. The United States has accused Putin of ordering influence operations to try to help Trump in 2020. A bipartisan Senate investigation into the 2016 election confirmed intelligence findings that Russia used the cyber espionage and information efforts to boost Trump and disparage his opponent, 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 pass judgment on whether Trump obstructed the justice.

Trump continues to falsely insist that the election he lost to Biden was stolen, with Republicans following his lead and opposing election security measures.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies continually investigate foreign influence efforts. The US Justice Department last month charged five men with acting on China’s behalf to harass Chinese dissidents in the United States and derail a little-known candidate for Congress.

Experts say the proposed malignant center of foreign influence would provide much-needed direction to the government’s efforts to study adversaries. Congress provided partial funding for the center in the budget passed last month.

The center has been delayed due to questions within the Office of the Director of Intelligence and on Capitol Hill about its structure and size and whether it would unnecessarily duplicate efforts that already exist. Last month, Congress directed the director’s office to complete a report on the center’s “future structure, responsibilities, and organizational placement” within six months.

Mike Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the committee is watching “malicious activity by our adversaries” closely and the proposed center could 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’s 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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