WASHINGTON — Russia has covertly given at least $300 million to political parties, officials and politicians in more than two dozen countries since 2014, and plans to transfer hundreds of millions more for the purpose of exerting political influence and influencing elections , said one state. Department summary of a recent US intelligence investigation.
Russia may have given even more that has gone unnoticed, the document said.
“The Kremlin and its proxies have transferred these funds in an effort to shape foreign political environments in Moscow’s favor,” the document said. It added: “The United States will use official liaison channels with the targeted countries to continue to share classified information about Russian activities targeting its political environment.”
The State Department’s document was sent to US embassies around the world on Monday to summarize the talking points for US diplomats in talks with foreign officials.
State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed at a news conference on Tuesday that the findings about Russia were the result of work by US intelligence agencies. He added that Russia’s meddling in the elections was “an attack on sovereignty”, akin to Russia’s war against Ukraine. “To combat this, we need to bring it to the fore in many ways,” he said.
The document appears to be a first attempt by the Biden administration to use intelligence material to expose the extent of Russian interference in political processes and elections, and to rally other countries to help combat it.
US intelligence has determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald J. Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate. The methods include using cyber operations to spread disinformation online.
The new document says a range of Russian agencies and individuals run global operations, including the Federal Security Service and other security services, as well as corporate figures.
The document named two men, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Aleksandr Babakov, both close associates of Mr Putin, as involved in the influence or interference campaigns. In April, the Justice Department accused Mr. Babakov, who is also a Russian lawmaker, and two other Russian citizens of conspiracy to violate US sanctions and conspiracy to commit visa fraud while running an “international foreign influence and disinformation network to advance the interests of Russia.”
The Russians pay in cash, cryptocurrency, wire transfers and lavish gifts, the document said. They move the money through a wide variety of institutions to protect the origin of the funding, a practice called using clippings. Those institutions include foundations, think tanks, organized crime groups, political consultancies, shell companies and Russian state-owned companies.
The money is also being given secretly through Russian embassy accounts and funds, the document said.
In one Asian country, the Russian ambassador gave millions of dollars in cash to a presidential candidate, the document said. US agencies have also discovered that in recent years Russia has used fake contracts and shell companies in several European countries to give money to political parties.
“Some of Russia’s covert political financing methods are especially prevalent in certain parts of the world,” the document said. It added: “Russia has relied on state-owned and large companies to covertly move funds to a number of regions, including Central America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and on think tanks and foundations mainly active in all of Europe.”
According to the document, last year a Russian businessman tried to use pro-Russian think tanks in Europe to support far-right nationalist parties. The document warned that in the coming months Russia could use its “secret influence toolkit,” including covert political funding, across wide swathes of the world to try to undermine American-led sanctions against Russia and “increase its influence in these regions.” in the midst of the ongoing war in Ukraine.”
Although US intelligence agencies have been studying Russian election interference and influence in the world for years, the intelligence agency’s investigation was ordered by senior government officials this summer, US officials said. Some of the findings have been released recently so that they can be widely shared.
Officials say one of the goals of the US campaign to reveal details about Russian political interference and influence is to bolster democratic resilience around the world, a pillar of President Biden’s foreign policy. Government officials are focused on ensuring that countries that participated in last year’s Summit for Democracy, which Biden held in Washington, can support their democratic systems. The government plans to convene a second summit soon.
The State Department summary listed measures the United States and partner countries could take to mitigate Russia’s political interference campaigns, including imposing economic sanctions and travel bans on known “financial factors” and “influencing actors.”
The State Department also recommended that countries coordinate intelligence sharing, improve foreign investment screening, strengthen investigative capacities for foreign funding of political parties and campaigns, and enforce and expand registration rules for foreign agents.
It said governments should also expel Russian intelligence officers involved in related covert financing operations.
The State Department said in the summary it urged governments to guard against covert political funding “not only by Russia, but also by China and other countries that imitate this behavior.”
Julian E. Barnes reporting contributed.