Left against right. Citizens against police. Black versus white. Rich versus poor. The Russians play their cards well, especially with its influence within the American media.
State official urges Senate not to politicize Russian subversion in U.S.
Russia’s aggressive influence and cyber operations targeting the United States are not aimed at supporting specific political parties but seek to sow internal divisions, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.
A. Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, also said the State Department is working to counter Russian influence operations through an interagency-backed Global Engagement Center.
Under President Trump, the administration has imposed sanctions on over 200 Russians and Russian entities, closed six Russian diplomatic posts, and expelled 60 spies, Mitchell said. In all, the United States has imposed 580 sanctions on Russia, mostly related to illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.
The testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Russia sanctions prompted criticism from some Democrats who said that while Russia’s economy is suffering under American sanctions, Moscow’s behavior has not changed significantly.
Russia continues to occupy Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and is conducting covert action to subvert Ukraine while supplying arms and military support to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow also carried out the attempted assassination of a Russian defector and his daughter in Britain. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department imposed additional sanctions on two Russian shipping companies for illicit transfers of petroleum to North Korea.
In the United States, Russia continues to utilize cyber attacks and is attempting to influence the November midterm elections.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit said on Monday that its security researchers had traced fraudulent websites to Russian military intelligence hackers who targeted the U.S. Senate, the Hudson Institute think tank, and the International Republican Institute.
The threat posed by Russia has moved beyond the military dimension.
“Our strategy is animated by the realization that the threat from Russia has evolved beyond being simply an external or military one; it includes unprecedentedly brazen influence operations orchestrated by the Kremlin on the soil of our allies and even here at home in the United States,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell, until recently president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Europe-oriented think tank, said a recent purge by Facebook against Russian subversive activities revealed Moscow is supporting “fringe voices on the political left, not just the right, including groups who advocate violence, the storming of federal buildings, and the overthrow of the U.S. government.”
“Russia foments and funds controversial causes—and then foments and funds the causes opposed to those causes,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, Russian president Vladimir Putin believes the Constitution is “an experiment that will fail if challenged in the right way from within.”
“Putin wants to break apart the American republic, not by influencing an election or two, but by systematically inflaming the perceived fault-lines that exist within our society,” he said. “His is a strategy of chaos for strategic effect.”
Understanding Putin’s motive is essential for developing responses to the threat.
“The most dangerous thing we could do is to politicize the challenge, which in itself would be a gift to Putin,” Mitchell said.
Putin is supporting the subversion in a bid to gain international dominance. To further that goal, the Russian military has been tasked, according to a handbook, “to carry out mass psychological campaigns against the population of a state in order to destabilize society and the government; as well as forcing a state to make decisions in the interests of their opponents.”
Russian influence operations include a “toolkit of subversive statecraft” first developed by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviet Union and now “upgraded for the digital age,” Mitchell said. The operations are directed from a very high level of the Russian government and backed by significant resources.
“I think what we’ve seen in the Russian approach to the United States in influence operations is very much not a partisan effort,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s a very cynical effort to pit preexisting political camps against one another.”
Full article: Russia Influence Operations Seek to Sow U.S. Division (Washington Free Beacon)