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Democrats reveal Putin’s efforts to undermine U.S. democracy

Sheetal Sukhija - Thursday 11th January, 2018

WASHINGTON, U.S. - In a shocking expose, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have released a sweeping report outlining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decades-long efforts to undermine the U.S. democracy.

Officials pointed out that the report was commissioned by the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and written by Democratic staff.

The report reportedly details the Putin government’s “relentless assault” on the rule of law in Europe and the U.S.

Issuing stark warnings that the Kremlin will likely move to influence upcoming U.S. elections, including those this year and in 2020, those behind the report have urged the U.S. President Donald Trump to acknowledge the threat posed by the Russians or risk a regime that “will become further emboldened.”

On Wednesday, Cardin said in a statement, “It is imperative that the American people better understand the true scope and scale of Putin’s pattern of undermining democracy in Russia and across Europe. This threat existed long before President Trump took office, and unless he takes action now, it will continue long after his administration.”

He added, “While President Trump stands practically idle, Mr. Putin continues to refine his asymmetric arsenal and look for future opportunities to disrupt governance and erode support for the democratic and international institutions that the United States and Europe have built over the last 70 years.”

As part of the report, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not only made calls for Trump to address the ongoing influence campaign, but also urged governments to hold social media companies accountable.

They called on the govenrment to fix “woeful” vulnerabilities to cyberattacks and establish an international task force to counter such threats.

While the report did not mention Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it cited ongoing investigations by the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees.

Authors of the report delve into Putin’s aggregation of power beginning nearly two decades ago and cited a history of “exploiting blackmail, fears of terrorism and war.” 

They wrote that the Russian strongman has “made it a priority of his regime to attack the democracies of Europe and the United States” as such governments “present an attractive alternative to his corrupt and criminal rule.”

According to watchdog groups, under Putin’s leadership, he and his oligarchs have pilfered an estimated $24 billion from state resources. 

Since he took power in 1999, at least 31 journalists have been killed inside Russia. 

Further, Russia has moved to attack countries including Georgia and Ukraine with military force and cyber warfare.

Last month, Putin confirmed that he would seek a fourth six-year term as president in this March and is widely expected to win.

According to the Democrats behind the report however, many European countries have moved to deter such efforts at home. 

Before its elections last year, Germany moved to test for computer vulnerabilities at its federal election authority.

In the U.K. meanwhile, top officials issued public warnings meant to chastise Russian hacking attempts.

In November, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

Such efforts, they pointed out have been missing in the U.S.

In November, when the Russian President met Trump, he assured him that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 presidential election and Trump went so far as to say that he believed Putin.

Trump stated, “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

In Wednesday’s report, Senate Democrats voiced their displeasure with such opinions and wrote in the paper, “The U.S. president continues to deny that any such threat exists, creating a leadership vacuum in our own government.”

Cardin said that Trump would have to take a leading role in the protection of America’s democracy from Russian influence alongside the release of the report, and issued a rallying cry to “mobilize our country.”

He said, “President Trump must be clear-eyed about the Russian threat, take action to strengthen our government’s response and our institutions, and — as have other presidents in times of crisis — mobilize our country and work with an international coalition to counter the threat and assert our values.”

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