US says Russia spent $300M to covertly influence world politics

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 7, 2022. (Sergei Bobylev/TASS News Agency Host Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 7, 2022. (Sergei Bobylev/TASS News Agency Host Pool Photo via AP)

Russia has covertly spent more than $300 million since 2014 to try to influence politicians and other officials in more than two dozen countries, the US State Department alleges in a newly released cable.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who signed the cable, cites a new intelligence assessment of Russia’s global covert efforts to support policies and parties sympathetic to Moscow. The cable does not name specific Russian targets but says the US is providing classified information to select individual countries.

It’s the latest effort by the Biden administration to declassify intelligence about Moscow’s military and political aims, dating back to ultimately correct assessments that Russia would launch a new war against Ukraine. Many of US President Joe Biden’s top national security officials have extensive experience countering Moscow and served in government when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a wide-ranging campaign to influence the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.

A senior administration official declines to say how much money Russia is believed to have spent in Ukraine, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top deputies have long accused Putin of meddling in domestic politics.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity under rules set by the administration, rejected comparisons between Russia’s activities and US financing of media and political initiatives around the world. Putin was spending huge sums to “manipulate democracies from the inside,” the official says.

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