by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
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.