Top US commander in Europe says Washington lacks ‘effective’ coordination on Russian cyber attacks

Jeremy B White
Commander of the US European Command Curtis Scaparrotti warned Russia was actively seeking to spread its influence and undermine NATO: Lehtikuva/Mikko Stig via REUTERS

America’s top general in Europe is the latest official to say the US could be doing more to counter potential Russian cyberattacks.

“I don't believe there is an effective unification across the interagency, with the energy and the focus that we could attain”, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mr Scaparrotti echoed prior warnings that Russia is flexing its muscle and seeking to project influence across Europe, describing a “campaign of destabilisation” intended to undercut America and its NATO allies. He said the US still lacked a comprehensive understanding of how Russian cyber efforts are structured, saying the current picture is “not satisfactory to me”, but pointed to movement in the right direction.

“I have had my cyber-operations centre reinforced substantially. We’ve made good progress”, he said, adding that he had also received “the authorities that I’ve asked for with respect to Russia”.

Intelligence officials have concluded that the Kremlin directed a sweeping effort to interfere in the 2016 election and have warned that Russia will seek to disrupt the 2018 midterm elections. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress that hostile actors viewed elections as “opportunities to undermine democracy”.

But senior military officials have said the US has not fully marshalled its resources to confront potential Russian intrusions.

Last month, head of US Cyber Command Mike Rogers told the Senate that he had not received authorisation from Donald Trump or the Secretary of Defence to try and combat Russian cyberattacks at their source. In response to Mr Rogers’ statement, the White House said it was already engaged in planning to rebuff potential attacks.

Intelligence officials have said Russian-backed hackers targeted numerous states’ voting infrastructure during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller - who is investigating potential Russian election meddling - has indicted 13 Russian nationals for what his indictment describes as an elaborate effort to foment division and undercut Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The indictment alleges they exploited social media sites, bolstering revelations by Twitter and Facebook representatives that Russian-linked operatives used their platforms to spread disinformation.