The United States has joined hundreds of allies around the world in an intelligence report that reveals Russia has begun a new phase of its campaign of disinformation and interference aimed at damaging and undermining public trust in the United States. elections, governments and the democratic process. To do this, according to a cable whose content was explained by a US official, the Kremlin uses a mix of traditional espionage, content published and disseminated on the Internet and Russian state media.
North American diplomacy did not provide details of the cable shared by hundreds of allies, beyond the fact that this campaign of interference is focused mainly on the elections taking place between 2020 and 2022, in nine unknown countries . There is also disinformation on social networks about elections in 17 other countries, which are also unknown to the US official, who revealed the content of the cable last week in a conversation with journalists, who requested anonymity. the disclosure of information.
“Russia considers this kind of strategy reliable and successful,” the official said. “Undoubtedly, the US election case is a factor.”
In 2020, US intelligence already warned that Russia was conducting a campaign of interference to sow doubts about the legitimacy of the vote and the subsequent count. That campaign advanced in tandem with Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat and leave power, sparking the insurrection that is now being judged in court.
In 2022, Brazil will have its own elections, with the same problem, and another uprising took place in January of the same year. Kremlin disinformation has been spreading lies about election fraud for years in democracies around the world where elections are free and transparent, unlike in Russia.
A Brazilian group with ties to Spain, targeted by Washington
In Spain, one of the most relevant cases is the Catalan election in December 2017, which was organized after the suspension of autonomy. Sputnik, a media outlet owned by the Russian regime, published about alleged allegations of fraud in those elections, citing anonymous voters it identified only by first name. One note was titled: “Independence movement’s fear of fraud marks Catalonia’s uneventful elections.”
In the recent General election, in July, there were also political complaints of fraudulent voting by mail which had no legal basis. RT, another Russian public propaganda portal, however, published information in which it spoke of “anomalies”, “suspicions”, and “extraordinary” increases in votes. The notes, without signature, are full of incorrect, irrelevant statements, such as: “For years … the existence of vote-buying networks in the autonomous city (of Melilla) has been suspected. ” In the previous regional elections, held in May of this year, there was a similar strategy, as published in the portals of the Kremlin, which was authorized by the European Union and the United States after the invasion of Ukraine. A Sputnik note shared by the networks said: “Atypical local elections in Spain: ‹There are symptoms of the loss of democratic quality.” That note says that according to “political scientists”, Spain is suffering from a “loss of democratic quality.” However, the quote is not from an impartial political scientist, but from Manuel Morenowho is a representative of Podemos, a party encouraged and supported after its birth by the same Russian disinformation media.
According to the document transmitted to the allied countries through the US diplomacy, this strategy marks an evolution of Russian tactics with the specific aim of losing confidence in the basic management of the electoral processes.
One example cited by the cable mentions a 2020 election in an unnamed European country, where Russia’s Federal Security Service (formerly the KGB) tried to covertly plant agitators to intimidate workers in campaign and organize protests on Election Day. That year there was a disputed election in Belarus, in which the dictator Alexander Lukashenko, Putin’s ally, won. In a 2022 election in an unnamed South American country, Russia used the Telegram app to spread false coverage of alleged voter fraud, according to the report. That year there were elections in Brazil, and the media in this country criticized the abuse of messaging services by Bolsonaro’s group, although there were also elections in Colombia and Costa Rica.
US diplomats and intelligence officials plan to meet with partner countries to detail threats to their election systems posed by Russia, with the goal of encouraging other countries to expel Russian diplomats or take other steps to counter these efforts.