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Russia aims to undermine support for Ukraine during US election, intelligence warns

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Russia plans information campaigns to sow division in the U.S. society and undermine support for Ukraine in swing states during the upcoming presidential race, American intelligence officials told journalists on July 9.

When asked whether Moscow seeks to boost a specific candidate, an official of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said that they have “have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections, given the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia.”

Russia has been accused of using social media disinformation, bot farms, and other means to back Donald Trump against his Democratic opponents – Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden – during the 2016 and 2020 elections.

President Biden is most likely going to face Trump again in the November vote.

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WTF is wrong with Russia?

“We are beginning to see Russia target specific voter demographics, promote divisive narratives, and denigrate specific politicians,” the ONDI official said.

Moscow is “undertaking a whole-of-government approach to influence the election, including the presidential race, Congress and public opinion,” the official added.

“To accomplish this, Moscow is using a variety of approaches to bolster its messaging and lend an air of authenticity to its efforts. This includes outsourcing its efforts to commercial firms to hide its hand and laundering narratives through influential U.S. voices.”

The U.S. Justice Department announced on July 9 that it had uncovered close to 1,000 accounts on X linked to a Russian bot farm disseminating disinformation in the country.

The result of the election could have a profound impact on Ukraine as it faces Russia’s full-scale invasion.

The Biden administration positioned the U.S. as the leading force in the pro-Kyiv coalition, albeit attracting some criticism from allies over the president’s incremental approach to providing weapons and restrictions on the use of American arms.

While Trump criticized the aid for Kyiv in the past, he has been evasive in public regarding his stances toward Ukraine as the election drew near.

The former president repeatedly promised to end Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine within 24 hours, with several media reports suggesting this could involve blocking Ukraine’s NATO accession or forcing the country to cede territory to Russia.


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US intelligence official indicates Russia prefers Trump as election victor

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WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. has not seen Russia shift on its preference from previous U.S. presidential elections on who it prefers to win this year, a U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday, indicating that Moscow again favors Republican Donald Trump.

The official, briefing reporters on U.S. election security, did not name the former president and presumptive Republican nominee when asked who Moscow wants as the next U.S. president.

But he indicated that Russia favored Trump, saying the U.S. intelligence community had not changed its assessments from previous elections.

Those assessments had found that Moscow tried through influence campaigns to help Trump win in 2016, opens new tab against Hillary Clinton and in 2020 against President Joe Biden.

“We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections, given the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia,” said the official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The Russian embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Trump campaign responded by saying Biden was weak on Russia, as evidenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“When President Trump was in the Oval Office, Russia and all of America’s adversaries were deterred, because they feared how the United States would respond,” Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, said in a statement.

Trump frequently has criticized the scale of U.S. military support for Ukraine – some $60 billion since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 – and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “the greatest salesman ever.”

Two of Trump’s national security advisers have presented him with a plan to end U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless it opened talks with Russia to end the conflict.
On policy toward NATO, Trump has said he would “encourage” Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any alliance member that did not spend enough on defense and he would not defend them.

The NATO charter obliges members to come to the defense of members that are attacked.

The ODNI official conducted the briefing on condition of anonymity with ODNI colleagues and officials from the FBI and the National Coordinator for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, an agency that conducts cyber defense for the government and works with private industry.

He defined election influence as efforts to shape the outcome of polls or undermine democratic processes, while interference constitutes efforts to disrupt the ability of the U.S. to hold a free and fair vote.

The U.S. has not monitored plans by any country to “degrade or disrupt” the country’s ability to hold the November elections, he said.

But Russia, he continued, through social media and other means has begun trying to influence specific groups of U.S. voters in battleground states, “promote divisive narratives and denigrate specific politicians,” whom he did not identify.

“Russia is undertaking a whole of government approach to influence the election, including the presidential, Congress, and public opinion,” he said.

Moscow “determines which candidates they’re willing to support or oppose largely based on their stance toward further U.S. aid to Ukraine and related issues,” said the official. “It’s all the tactics we’ve seen before, primarily through social media efforts” and “using U.S. voices to amplify their narratives.”

A new intelligence community assessment published this week on the ODNI website said Russia “remains the primary threat to our elections” and that unidentified “Russian influence actors” secretly plan to “sway public opinion” in swing states and “diminish U.S. support for Ukraine.”

Russia recently has been seeking to influence U.S. audiences through “encrypted direct messaging channels,” said the official. He did not elaborate.

China is assessed as currently not planning “to influence the outcome of the presidential race,” the official said.

The U.S. views China as its leading geostrategic rival. Beijing and Washington have been working to ease strains. The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing is trying to expand its ability to collect and monitor data from social media platforms “probably to better understand and eventually manipulate public opinion,” the official said.

The official called generative artificial intelligence a “malign influence accelerant” being increasingly used to “more convincingly tailor” video and other content ahead of the November vote.

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Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio

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Ukraine will stop Putin, Biden tells NATO in forceful speech

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WASHINGTON, July 9 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to forcefully defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion at the NATO summit in Washington on Tuesday, using the global stage to try to show allies at home and abroad that he can still lead.

Biden, 81, has endured 12 days of withering questions about his fitness for office as some of his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill and campaign donors fear that he will lose the Nov. 5 election after a halting debate performance on June 27.

“(Vladimir) Putin wants nothing less, nothing less, than Ukraine’s total subjugation … and to wipe Ukraine off the map,” Biden said in his welcome to NATO member states to the summit, referring to the Russian president. “Ukraine can and will stop Putin.”

The White House is hoping he can turn the page on a difficult period in his presidency with his highest profile policy speech since the debate, although some diplomats at the summit said the damage was hard to erase.

On Tuesday, Biden spoke off of a teleprompter with a strong and confident voice and largely avoided the verbal flubs and signs of confusion that marked his debate performance.

Biden was framed by the gilded walls of the federal hall where the treaty creating NATO was signed, his speech bookended by stirring musical performances by the U.S. Marine Corp band.

“Today NATO is stronger than it’s ever been in its history,” he said.

Biden has rebuffed calls to step aside in his race against Republican Donald Trump, 78, vowing to beat him in November. So far, he has maintained the public support of most of his party’s elite.

The U.S. president has made restoring traditional alliances abroad the centerpiece of his foreign policy after Trump challenged allies as part of an “America First” approach. The election winner in November could have a substantial impact on the future of NATO, Europe and the rest of the world.

“We don’t see how he can come back after the debate,” said one European diplomat, who dismissed Tuesday’s speech as evidence of Biden’s endurance because it was scripted. “I can’t imagine him being at helm of the U.S. and NATO for four more years.”

Trump has suggested that, given a second term, he would not defend NATO members if they came under military attack and did not meet the alliance’s defense spending target of 2% of their annual GDP. He has also questioned the amount of aid given to Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s invasion.

Biden closed his remarks by surprising NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, clasping the highest U.S. civilian award around the Norwegian politician’s neck and crediting him with reviving the 32-member alliance.

The centerpiece of the NATO summit is set to be new commitments of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the summit would “further strengthen” the war-torn country’s path to NATO membership.

Biden and the leaders of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania issued a joint statement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announcing the delivery of five additional Patriot and other strategic air defense systems to protect Ukrainian cities, civilians and soldiers.

Item 1 of 9 U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a NATO event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the alliance, in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis

[1/9]U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a NATO event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the alliance, in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis Purchase Licensing Rights, opens new tab

They said additional strategic air defense systems would be announced this year.

Zelenskiy, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday and is due to meet with Biden on Thursday, has said Ukraine needs a minimum of seven Patriot systems, a goal met by the fresh deliveries announced on Tuesday.

“We are fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine – and these are weapons and finances, political support,” he said on social media.

Ukraine ultimately wants to join NATO to ward against further future attacks by Russia but candidates have to be approved by all of the alliance’s members, some of which are wary of provoking a direct conflict with Russia.

Some members want the alliance to make clear Ukraine is moving toward NATO “irreversibly” and are keen for language in a summit statement beyond the alliance’s pledge last year that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO.”
NATO, celebrating its 75th anniversary, has found new purpose in opposing Putin’s Ukraine invasion and the grinding war will dominate private conversations between the leaders of the countries.
Those leaders, already anxious about the prospect of Trump’s return, came to Washington with fresh concern about Biden’s staying power, according to diplomats from their countries.

Biden will hold a rare solo press conference on Thursday, also aimed at quieting concerns.

As Biden tried to rally allies and domestic support, several high-ranking European officials met with a top foreign policy adviser to Trump during the summit.
NATO leaders face political uncertainty in Europe, with paralysis looming in France after gains for left and far right parties and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition weakened after a poor showing in European Parliament elections.
A U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday said that Russia prefers that Trump win the upcoming election.
New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer said as he headed to his first NATO summit that he would fulfill a campaign commitment to increase UK defense spending to 2.5% of GDP but underlined he would only do so when the country could afford it and after a review of defense strategy.
A senior NATO official said on Tuesday Russia lacks the munitions and troops to start a major offensive in Ukraine and needs to secure significant ammunition supplies from other countries beyond what it already has.

But he estimated Russia would be able to sustain its war economy for three to four more years and also said “it will be some time” before Ukraine has amassed the munitions and personnel it needs to mount its own large-scale offensive operations.

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Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Patricia Zengerle, Steve Holland and Sabine Siebold; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, David Brunnstrom, Humeyra Pamuk, Jonathan Landay, Elizabeth Piper, John Irish, Jeff Mason, Daphne Psaledakis, and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington

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How US strike curbs for Ukraine morphed from caveats to ‘common sense’

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BRUSSELS — In late May, the Biden administration announced a major policy change: Washington would now let Ukrainian forces fire American-provided weapons into Russia — though only around one region in the northeast.

This had long been a bright red line in the administration’s support for Kyiv, fearing an expanded war.

It took only a few days for Ukraine to say it wasn’t enough.

“Is that sufficient? No,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at a news conference in Singapore hours after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The comment was a microcosm of a much longer-term challenge for Washington. In an effort to avoid escalation, the administration has withheld certain weapons requested by Ukraine, only to later change course. The result is an ever-shifting policy that often leaves Kyiv dissatisfied — why accept one change to the rules when pushing for another could loosen them more?

The latest and perhaps most significant example of this situation has been cross-border strikes. The limited authority the White House gave Ukraine to fire into Russia is already expanding. And if this continues, analysts say, it may make a real impact in the fight.

“It could really change the war,” said George Barros, who leads the Russia and geospatial intelligence teams at the Institute for the Study of War, a public policy research outfit.

Two weeks after Zelenskyy’s comments, a senior U.S. official defense official said the policy may just be moving in that direction. On the sidelines of a June meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the official listed examples of things Ukraine has wanted that America has changed its mind on: fighter jets, long-range missiles, shooting into Russia.

“If you look back over the course of a conflict, you can find a number of areas where we were reluctant to do something and then we did it,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, per Pentagon policy. “So never say never.”

The path to the late-May policy change began weeks before Zelenskyy’s comments in Singapore.

Earlier in May, Russia launched a new offensive near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Unlike other major urban areas in the country, Kharkiv sits near the Russian border — about 20 miles away. Largely due to limitations on how Ukraine could use Western-provided weapons, Russia was able to fire from its side of the border without significant retaliation.

“You could just look at the maps … showing the Russians amassing just across the border and using that to strike into Ukraine,” the U.S. defense official said.

Ukraine asked for the ability to fire into Russia, which Washington granted after some European partners publicly supported the request. But it would be limited: Ukraine could fire U.S. weapons — like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, with a range of nearly 50 miles — across the border to defend itself around Kharkiv. It still couldn’t fire long-range American weapons — such as the ATACMS missile with a reach of about 186 miles — at targets deeper into Russia.

Within weeks U.S. officials were crediting the change, in part, to a more stable front line. When Austin visited NATO headquarters in June, members of the U.S. delegation called the mood “upbeat.”

“What I see is a slowing of the Russian’s advance and a stabilizing of that particular piece of the front,” Austin said.

Some analysts were skeptical of that account.

Michael Kofman, who studies the Ukraine war at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, said that by the time America’s policy changed, Russia had already started to lose momentum.

“The Russian offensive had already culminated before the policy change went into effect,” he said.

That isn’t to say the approval to fire into Russia was useless. The point is to create dilemmas, according to Barros. Under the current policy Russian forces will have to spread farther apart, lest they become easy targets. That will make it harder to launch new offensives.

But that’s a limited benefit, Barros told Defense News.

“It’s not going to make a massive difference in the long run, as it stands,” he said.

Hence, a bevy of officials in the U.S. and abroad have pushed to end the remaining restrictions. Among this group is NATO’s secretary general.

Shortly before the June meeting in Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg stepped into the headquarters lobby to speak with reporters. On strikes into Russia, he made two points: Because the border and the front lines are so close near Kharkiv, Ukraine would struggle to defend itself if it couldn’t fire into Russia. And the burden shouldn’t be on Ukraine to avoid escalation.

“Ukraine has the right to strike military targets on Russian territory — part of the right to self-defense — and we have the right to support them in defending themselves,” he said.

Members of Congress, prominent Democrats among them, have urged the Biden administration to loosen restrictions for Ukraine. Many European partners have joined them.

“Russia is organizing the attacks from Russian territory, and we put restrictions on Ukraine,” Lithuanian Defence Minister Laurynas Kasčiūnas said in an interview with Defense News. “It’s nonsense.”

But based on several recent statements from American officials, it’s unclear what those restrictions are.

When asked to clarify America’s policy on strikes into Russia, the U.S. defense official speaking in Brussels paused and opened a binder of prepared notes. Reading them, the official listed several of the talking points the administration has used when discussing the policy: “limited,” “military targets,” “just across the border.”

“That’s not much more detail,” the official said, as reporters in the room laughed.

In a news conference later that day, Austin answered questions about the policy, framing it around Ukraine’s northeast. “The ability to conduct counterfire in this close fight in Kharkiv region is what this is all about,” he said.

But several days later in an interview with PBS, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the permission to strike “extends to anywhere that Russian forces are coming across the border from the Russian side to the Ukrainian side to try to take additional territory.”

“This is not about geography,” Sullivan added. “It’s about common sense.”

From Ukraine’s perspective, the policy is “quite clear,” according to Dmytro Klimenkov, the deputy minister of defense for procurement. He declined to comment on whether the policy should be looser.

When it comes to long-range fires, specifically the ATACMS, the Biden administration has drawn a red line. But there are reasons for the limit.

The U.S. wants Ukraine to concentrate its responses to Russia’s invasion as much as possible — the difference between one uppercut and multiple jabs in a boxing match. Preventing Ukraine from firing even farther into Russia forces the embattled nation to focus on what U.S. officials call “the close fight” around Kharkiv and other parts of the front line.

There’s also the escalation factor: Russia is a nuclear-armed country and has threatened to use those weapons multiple times during the war, although that hasn’t happened. The Russian government can also harass the U.S. and other allies elsewhere: supporting militant groups targeting American forces or staging limited attacks in European cities.

Concern over a deeper or wider war has influenced the Biden administration’s policies since the full-scale invasion two years ago. But that concern has changed as the Pentagon gets a better sense for Russia’s actual willingness to escalate.

“The risk of escalation is not as high as maybe it was at the beginning of the process,” Gen. CQ Brown, the U.S. military’s top uniformed officer, said during a March roundtable with reporters. “You understand a bit more over time.”

And over time, with the threat of escalation unrealized, Ukraine has received more capable weapons and greater authority to use them.

It wasn’t until March when the Biden administration sent Ukraine the long-range ATACMS missiles. The country is already using them by, for example, hitting air defense batteries stationed in Crimea, a peninsula Russia seized in 2014.

Ukraine’s ability to hit Russian assets on Crimea has made Moscow restructure its forces there, shifting much of its naval fleet farther away. One could imagine a similar move elsewhere if the ban on long-range strikes into Russia were lifted, said Barros, the analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. For example, Russia would likely be forced to spread its air defense and electronic warfare assets farther apart.

It might also struggle to launch as many raids on Ukrainian cities, threatened by Russian bombers that sit on airfields that are out of reach under the current policy.

“Russia is permanently firing in calm, knowing that Ukraine will not fire back,” Zelenskyy said at the news conference in Singapore.

But Ukraine has fired back. Throughout this year, its military struck oil refineries across Russia in an attempt to damage one of the government’s core sources of revenue.

The strikes proved controversial in Washington.

During a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in April, the assistant secretary for defense for international security affairs said the Pentagon doesn’t want Ukraine attacking civilian infrastructure.

“So far the strikes that we have seen against Russian energy sources have not significantly altered Russia’s ability to prosecute the war,” Celeste Wallander said.

But Ukraine wasn’t using American-provided weapons for those strikes, which meant they didn’t apply to existing restrictions.

“This is Ukraine’s sovereign decision,” Wallander noted.

A senior Ukrainian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, told Defense News his country has two sets of long-range weapons: drones that can fire up to 900 miles and missiles that can reach 430 miles. The limiting factor for these capabilities, the official said, is scale.

In other words, the official claimed, Ukraine knows how to build them and could increase production, but it lacks the funding to do so.

Klimenkov, the Ukrainian defense procurement official, was more cautious.

“We don’t have enough capacity” to build the required amount of long-range weapons alone, he said.

That means for now, Ukraine will need to keep using other countries’ weapons and conforming to their rules. But building its own long-range fires remains a top priority, he added.

“That is not easy,” he said. “It takes time.”

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.


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US teams up with NATO to seize control of Kremlin-backed bot farm

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Published: 13:12 BST, 10 July 2024 | Updated: 14:46 BST, 10 July 2024

The Justice Department is claiming a win after announcing the shutting down of a Kremlin-backed bot farm that was set up in order to spread discord across the US regarding Russia‘s foreign policy. 

According to a press release from the DOJ, the bot farm ran close 1,000 accounts on Elon Musk‘s X social media platform. 

The South African billionaire has made dozens of posts in recent days regarding election integrity but has not so far mentioned the presence of politically active bot accounts on X.  

‘Today’s actions represent a first in disrupting a Russian-sponsored Generative AI-enhanced social media bot farm,’ FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. 

‘Russia intended to use this bot farm to disseminate AI-generated foreign disinformation, scaling their work with the assistance of AI to undermine our partners in Ukraine and influence geopolitical narratives favorable to the Russian government.’

The person behind the scheme is believed to be a Russian national who is registered a foreign agent with the State Department. He was formerly the editor-in-chief of the state-controlled Russia Today.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long maintained that his government does not meddle in other country’s affairs 

An example of a fake social media post that was created by the bot farm, according to the DOJ 

An example of a fake account that the Justice Department says was created to post pro-Russia content

‘Since at least 2022, RT leadership sought the development of alternative means for distributing information beyond RT’s standard television news broadcasts,’ the DOJ’s statement read. 

‘In response, Individual A led the development of software that was able to create and to operate a social media bot farm.’

Russia’s FSB security service agents also accessed the bot farm which saw accounts posing as Americans posting pro-Kremlin content. 

The advisory said that as of last June, the software – known as Meliorator – only worked on X but that its functionality probably could be expanded to other social media networks. 

A joint cybersecurity advisory from the countries involved in the operation, including Canada and Israel, is calling on the tech giants behind social media sites to do better in terms of security against nefarious foreign agents. 

‘We support all civic engagement, civil dialogue, and a robust exchange of ideas. But those ideas should be generated by Americans, for Americans. The disruption announced today protects us from those who use unlawful means to seek to mislead our citizens and our communities,’ prosecutor Gary Restaino said Tuesday. 

The disruption of the bot farm comes as U.S. officials have raised alarms about the potential for AI technology to impact this year’s elections and amid ongoing concerns that foreign influence campaigns by adversaries.

Another fake account in which the ‘user’ encouraged followers to ‘question everything’

Russia’s FSB security service agents also accessed the bot farm which saw accounts posing as Americans posting pro-Kremlin content

Officials said that the Russian operatives intended for the bot farm to spread beyond X and on to other platforms

 Officials are concerned that bot farms could sway opinions of unsuspecting voters, as happened during the 2016 presidential campaign when Russians launched a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Among the fake posts, according to the Justice Department, was a video that was posted by a purported Minneapolis, Minnesota resident that showed Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that areas of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania were ‘gifts’ to those countries from liberating Russian forces during World War II.

In another instance, the Justice Department said, someone posing as a U.S. constituent responded to a federal candidate’s social media posts about the war in Ukraine with a video of Putin justifying Russia’s actions.

At the same time the farm was taken down, security officials in the US said they had not seen Russia shift on its preference from previous presidential elections on who it prefers to win this year, a U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday, indicating that Moscow again favors Trump.

The official, briefing reporters on U.S. election security, did not name the former president and presumptive Republican nominee when asked who Moscow wants as the next U.S. president. 

But he indicated that Russia favored Trump, saying the U.S. intelligence community had not changed its assessments from previous elections.

Those assessments had found that Moscow tried through influence campaigns to help Trump win in 2016, opens new tab against Hillary Clinton and in 2020 against President Joe Biden.

This week, security officials in the US said that the Kremlin still wants Donald Trump in the Oval Office 

‘We have not observed a shift in Russia’s preferences for the presidential race from past elections, given the role the U.S. is playing with regard to Ukraine and broader policy toward Russia,’ said the official from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The Trump campaign responded to this allegation by saying Biden was weak on Russia, as evidenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘When President Trump was in the Oval Office, Russia and all of America’s adversaries were deterred, because they feared how the United States would respond,’ Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s press secretary, said in a statement. 

Trump frequently has criticized the scale of U.S. military support for Ukraine – some $60 billion since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 – and called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ‘the greatest salesman ever.’

Two of Trump’s national security advisers have presented him with a plan to end U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless it opened talks with Russia to end the conflict.

On policy toward NATO, Trump has said he would ‘encourage’ Russia to do ‘whatever the hell they want’ to any alliance member that did not spend enough on defense and he would not defend them. 

The NATO charter obliges members to come to the defense of members that are attacked.

The ODNI official conducted the briefing on condition of anonymity with ODNI colleagues and officials from the FBI and the National Coordinator for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, an agency that conducts cyber defense for the government and works with private industry.

Russian-run bot farms were behind Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential election, experts believe 

He defined election influence as efforts to shape the outcome of polls or undermine democratic processes, while interference constitutes efforts to disrupt the ability of the U.S. to hold a free and fair vote.

The U.S. has not monitored plans by any country to “degrade or disrupt” the country’s ability to hold the November elections, he said.

But Russia, he continued, through social media and other means has begun trying to influence specific groups of U.S. voters in battleground states, “promote divisive narratives and denigrate specific politicians,” whom he did not identify.

“Russia is undertaking a whole of government approach to influence the election, including the presidential, Congress, and public opinion,” he said.

Moscow “determines which candidates they’re willing to support or oppose largely based on their stance toward further U.S. aid to Ukraine and related issues,” said the official. “It’s all the tactics we’ve seen before, primarily through social media efforts” and “using U.S. voices to amplify their narratives.”

A new intelligence community assessment published this week on the ODNI website said Russia “remains the primary threat to our elections” and that unidentified “Russian influence actors” secretly plan to “sway public opinion” in swing states and “diminish U.S. support for Ukraine.”

Russia recently has been seeking to influence U.S. audiences through “encrypted direct messaging channels,” said the official. He did not elaborate.

China is assessed as currently not planning “to influence the outcome of the presidential race,” the official said.

The U.S. views China as its leading geostrategic rival. Beijing and Washington have been working to ease strains. The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing is trying to expand its ability to collect and monitor data from social media platforms “probably to better understand and eventually manipulate public opinion,” the official said.

The official called generative artificial intelligence a “malign influence accelerant” being increasingly used to “more convincingly tailor” video and other content ahead of the November vote.


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US doesn’t change policy on Ukrainian strikes inside Russia after attack on children’s hospital

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The U.S. will not permit Ukraine to strike deeper inside Russian territory following the deadly July 8 attack, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing.

“There’s been no change in our policy. You saw the president several weeks ago gave guidance to Ukraine that they can use U.S.-supplied weapons to strike targets just over the border. That’s still the case,” Kirby told reporters on July 8.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told PBS News in June that Ukraine was allowed to strike “anywhere that Russian forces are coming across the border from the Russian side to the Ukrainian side to try to take additional Ukrainian territory.”

The Russian military struck the Okhmatdyt hospital, Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center, with a Kh-101 cruise missile, according to the preliminary data obtained by the State Security Service (SBU). At least two people were killed and 50 injured, including seven children, according to local authorities.

Kirby added that it is part of the course for “Putin to hit civilian infrastructure” and he “doesn’t care if people are in hospitals or residential buildings.”

Across the country, over 170 people were injured, while at least 37 were confirmed killed due to the July 8 Russian attack, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

As the NATO summit officially begins on July 9 at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, Kirby said there will be “a very strong set of signals and messages to Mr. Putin that he cannot wait out NATO, he cannot wait out the United States. We are going to continue to support Ukraine.”


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My Opinion: Mr. Biden does not have to demonstrate that he has a 100% of mental or cognitive acuity; no one single person has it all of the time. However, his team and his aides as the “collective Presidency” have this acuity.

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