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Explained: Renewed talk of Russian interference as US elections approach

Bernie Sanders said he received the briefing a month ago, a piece of information, which was made public after a report in The Washington Post yesterday revealed that Trump had also been informed of Russian involvement.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: February 23, 2020 2:17:54 pm
Explained: Renewed talk of Russian interference as US presidential elections approach US Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has condemned Russia and asked it to “stay out of US elections”. (File)

US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has warned Russia not to meddle in the elections after he was briefed by officials that Russia was trying to help his campaign.

Sanders has condemned Russia and asked it to “stay out of US elections”. Sanders said that he received the briefing a month ago, a piece of information that was made public after a report in The Washington Post revealed on Friday (February 21) that President Donald Trump too, had been informed of the Russian interference.

Senior intelligence officials have also briefed the House Intelligence Committee about Russia wanting to see Trump get reelected.

The fight within the Democratic Party

President Trump and his aides have alleged that the Democratic Party elite have been deliberately planting false information about Russian interference because they do not want Sanders to win the nomination.

Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, and his positions on a range of issues, though favoured by a large section of younger Americans, are considered too far left by the establishment Democrats.

On Twitter, Trump said: “MSDNC (Comcast Slime), @CNN and others of the Fake Media, have now added Crazy Bernie to the list of Russian Sympathizers, along with @TulsiGabbard & Jill Stein (of the Green Party), both agents of Russia, they say. But now they report President Putin wants Bernie (or me) to win.

“…The reason for this is that the Do Nothing Democrats, using disinformation Hoax number 7, don’t want Bernie Sanders to get the Democrat Nomination, and they figure this would be very bad for his chances. It’s all rigged, again, against Crazy Bernie Sanders!”

History of Russian interference

The US intelligence establishment sees the Russian interference in the 2016 election as the continuation of Moscow’s strategic competition with the US, with the aim of re-establishing Russia as a strong global power.

A Department of State document from 1981 mentions three examples of the (then) Soviet Union’s “active measures” (aktivnyye meropriyatiya in Russian) against its “main enemy” (US) that sought to discredit and weaken the American leadership as part of the furtherance of its Cold War foreign policy goals.

Broadly, these measures included written or spoken disinformation, efforts to control media in foreign countries, use of communist parties and front organisations, clandestine radio broadcasting, blackmail (political and economic) and political influence operations.

A December 1987 FBI report on active measures, which was declassified in 2013, said Soviet political influence operations utilised “several types of agents of influence”, and that “The US citizens involved in political influence operations are not usually recruited agents in the strict sense of the term.

“Often times, these individuals are unaware that the Soviet citizen they are dealing with, who they believe is a religious leader, trade representative, journalist, UN official, or diplomat, is in fact, covertly working for the Soviet intelligence services.”

During the 1968 presidential elections, the Soviet Union had reportedly offered to subsidise the campaign of Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee against Richard Nixon.

In 1976, Service A of the KGB adopted active measures against anti-Soviet Democratic Senator Henry Jackson.

Political meddling by the Soviet Union was also witnessed during Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential campaign, according to US intelligence officials and analyses by American think tanks.

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