The United States announced sanctions against Russian Federation on Thursday and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's USA election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.
The moves marked the first actions the United States has announced it has taken against Russian Federation in reaction to last year's massive cyber hack against US federal agencies, known as the SolarWinds breach, and for the "bounties" it had reportedly offered in Afghanistan.
The United States on Thursday announced a sweeping series of sanctions against Russian Federation over election interference, cyber hacking, and other "harmful foreign activities", it said, including reports of Russian Federation offering "bounties" for Taliban attacks against USA troops, and Russia's occupation and alleged human rights abuses in Crimea.
The Treasury Department sanctioned 32 organizations and individuals for their alleged influence operations aimed at the USA election.
The U.S. government, "critical infrastructure" and "allied networks are consistently scanned, targeted, and exploited by Russian state-sponsored cyber actors", they said. And the goal is to send a signal that cyberattacks will lead to retaliation, even though at the same time the administration is saying, look, we want to have a good relationship with Russian Federation.
The adversary's compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain is said to have given it the ability to remotely spy or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide, according to the executive order issued by the USA government. The Obama administration expelled diplomats in 2016 in response to interference in that year's presidential election. The White House now says US intelligence has high confidence that Russian intelligence was responsible for that.
She said that although Biden had spoken to President Vladimir Putin about his interest in normalising relations, his administration's actions testified to the opposite. State Department officials have called US allies and are preparing for potential Russian responses.
Other measures are expected as well, although the administration is not likely to announce them. "We intend these responses to be proportionate and tailored to the specific past activities, past actions that Russian Federation has taken".
The Biden administration vowed to respond to Russia's aggressions against the United States and its allies in the early days of Biden's presidency.
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"The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party", Trump tweeted last July. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow is on the line. "The safety and well-being of US military personnel, and that of our allies and partners, is an absolute priority of the United States", the White House said Thursday.
Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019.
After the sanctions were announced, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that "such aggressive behavior will undoubtedly trigger a resolute retaliation". The sanctions presumably meant to send a clear retributive message to Russian Federation and to deter similar acts in the future come amid an already tense relationship between the United States and Russian Federation.
The Obama administration expelled diplomats from the USA in 2016 in response to interference in that years presidential election.
They said that Russian Federation was still involved in cyber actions against the United States and other allies. But they are certain to exacerbate an already tense relationship between the USA and Russian Federation.
In a television interview last month, Biden replied "I do" when asked if he thought Putin was a "killer". Putin later recalled his ambassador to the USA and pointed at the US history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.
It is unclear whether the new US actions will result in changed behavior, especially since past measures by the USA have failed to bring an end to Russian hacking. And though Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin his administration also expelled diplomats in 2018 for Russian Federation alleged poisoning of an ex-intelligence officer in Britain.
It also said the attack on SolarWinds highlighted the risks posed by Russian attempts to target victims via their supply chains and served as a warning of the risks of using ICT and services supplied by companies that operate or store user data in Russia, or rely on software development or technical support there.
USA officials are still grappling with the after-effects of the SolarWinds intrusion, which affected agencies including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments, and are still assessing what information may have been stolen. Last month, the US sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a almost fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.