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

·2 min read

WASHINGTON (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 State Department alleges in a newly released cable.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who signed the cable released Tuesday, 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 U.S. 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 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 U.S. presidential elections.

A senior administration official declined to say how much money Russia is believed to have spent in Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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 U.S. financing of media and political initiatives around the world. Putin was spending huge sums to “manipulate democracies from the inside,” the official said.

The State Department took the unusual step of releasing a diplomatic cable that was sent on Monday to many U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, many of them in Europe, Africa and South Asia, laying out the concerns.

The cable, which was marked “sensitive” and not intended for foreign audiences but was not classified, contained a series of talking points that U.S. diplomats were instructed to raise with their host governments regarding alleged Russian interference.

Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press