Since 2014, Russia has given over $300 million in cash, cryptocurrency and lavish gifts to foreign political parties in an attempt to increase its influence abroad, according to CNN.
Driving the news
- Biden administration officials requested a review earlier this summer, and have made some aspects of the international community’s findings public, per CNN.
- Albania, Montenegro, Madagascar, potentially Ecuador and one Asian country were among the countries affected by Russian covert political financing according to The Washington Post.
- The New York Times reports that the State Department named two men close to President Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin and Aleksandr Babakov, for their involvement in covert influence campaigns.
What has been said
- Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said Russian interference with elections was “an assault on sovereignty,” and “in order to fight this, in many ways we have to put a spotlight on it,” per The New York Times.
- A State Department cable was sent to U.S. embassies in over 100 countries which said, “In the coming months, Russia may increasingly rely on its covert influence toolkit, including covert political financing, in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia” according to The Washington Post.
How much is $900 million?
To put this figure in perspective, the Federal Election Commission reports that U.S. “political action committees raised approximately $13.2 billion and spent $12.9 billion in the 24-month period leading up to the 2020 election.”
Albania was one country named in this report. According to Albanian Central Elections Committee government audits of the country’s 2021 campaign for the general elections, the Socialist and Democrat parties (the two major parties) raised approximately $1.9 billion (224 billion lek).
Individual elections can be swayed by the targeted use of these funds, but often elections are “woefully inefficient,” according to FiveThirtyEight, which reports that the lack of causality between fundraising and electoral success has complicated implications for “big dark money donors.” An intelligence community assessment from the U.S. 2016 election has previously revealed that Russian efforts to influence political campaigns are becoming more sophisticated with time.
CNN reports that a Biden administration official said Tuesday “we wanted to use the exposure campaign to put our context in the broader frame of the challenge of Russian covert political influence, which is global in nature.” The report found Russia planned to transfer “at least hundreds of millions more,” and there are likely more funds that went undetected.