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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Russian Influence Operations in the US

Alex Finley. former CIA officer, writes at TNR:
Last year, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that politicians in Germany, Italy, and Cyprus were paid by Russian operatives to introduce legislation literally written by Russian intelligence officers. The OCCRP also uncovered examples of parliamentary staff members, party activists, and members of think tanks publishing articles in European press outlets under their name, while the articles were actually written by Russian handlers. One activist from Austria even complained to his handler about the quality of one article that had been coordinated with the Kremlin. “I am not a robot,” he said. Nevertheless, he published the article under his name in a Swiss media outlet.

It is naïve to think the same pattern does not exist in the United States, given the ample evidence of coordinated pro-Russian talking points from several Republican politicians. Just this week, Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke to Steve Bannon about Ukraine’s persecution of Christians, which is a Kremlin talking point aimed at boosting the pro-Moscow wing of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. The U.S. should be spending money on the border with Mexico, not on Ukraine aid? That’s a Kremlin talking point. Russia invaded Ukraine to defend itself against an expanding NATO? That’s a Kremlin talking point. Call for a cease-fire, and give Russia Crimea and eastern Ukraine? That’s a Kremlin talking point.

While we cannot say for sure if any Republican officials are on the Russian payroll in ways similar to their European counterparts, we can be sure that they’ve been approached. As the director of national intelligence wrote in 2021, Russian intelligence operatives and their proxies “sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences. These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials. They also made contact with established US media figures.”