Russia has quietly sent at least $300 million to political parties and candidates in more than 20 countries since 2014 in a bid to influence elections there, according to a US intelligence estimate released Tuesday.
A senior US official said the US “considers these estimates as a lower bound, and that Russia likely has secretly transferred more undisclosed funds”.
“We think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The US intelligence did not specify the names of the countries involved. In the past, US officials have cited Bosnia or Ecuador as examples of countries in which Russia has exercised direct influence through its economic power.
Among the most striking cases cited in this new analysis is that of a Russian ambassador stationed in an Asian country, who provided millions of dollars to a presidential candidate.
In Europe, Moscow used fake contracts and front companies to fund political parties, while Russian state companies funneled money to Central America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, according to Washington.
According to the information, Russia sometimes sent cash, but it also used cryptocurrencies and “luxury” gifts.
The Joe Biden administration had requested this estimate of his services in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, prompting the United States to do all it could to isolate Moscow and Kyiv’s arm.
The senior official said US diplomacy will share these findings with the governments of more than 100 other countries.
This new assessment does not analyze Russian interference in US politics.
But US intelligence agencies have previously accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 US election, including using social media to support Donald Trump, who has expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The official said the United States was “working hard to address its weaknesses” and was encouraging “other countries to do the same and join (them) in this important effort.”
An internal State Department document, addressed to US representatives abroad, confirmed that Russia conducted this fundraising campaign to “increase its influence over individuals and parties” and thus ensure that they “get good results in the elections.”
American accusations of meddling are often met with taunts from Russian officials, who refer US intelligence to their support for coups in Iran or Chile.
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