US intelligence agencies are working with European governments to prevent the kind of Russian cyber attacks that were allegedly carried out to influence the 2016 US presidential election, a new report says.
The US intelligence community has shared with foreign governments the classified version of their report on what they believe was a Russian plot to help Republican President Donald Trump defeat his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, POLITICO reported, citing senior intelligence officials and lawmakers.
Key American lawmakers say such an intelligence exchange is vital because Russia reportedly plans to carry out similar cyber attacks in Europe to influence elections in a way that serves Moscow’s interests.
“It’s widely understood” that Moscow wants to expand “Russian political influence in Europe, that they want to prop up populists,” a senior intelligence official said. “Their goal is still to do what they can to weaken NATO, the NATO alliance and strengthen their own influence.”
“Our intelligence agencies have direct relationships with European services, so it can take a variety of forms,” House of Representatives Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff told POLITICO. “Some through more formal channels, but often just through individual relationships on the ground in Europe.”
Kremlin officials are “trying to break the competence in democracies” around the globe, said Senator Lindsey Graham, who ran for the White House in the Republican primary elections.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to “undermine the perceived validity of the democratic model and try to suggest an authoritarian model is equally valid,” said Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in last year’s election.
Several European countries, including Germany, France, Norway and the Netherlands, are scheduled to hold elections in 2017.
However, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, who served on the executive committee of Trump's presidential transition team, downplayed fears that Russian hackers could actually alter the election results.
“I find it hard to believe they could digitally tamper with the results. It’s possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely,” Nunes told POLITICO.
Despite Russia’s alleged cyber attacks of mostly Democratic officials during the US presidential race, American intelligence officials have acknowledged there is no evidence that hackers altered the election itself.
During his presidential campaign and afterwards, Trump repeatedly praised Putin and called for closer ties between Washington and Moscow, despite the hacking allegations.