US bill to target Russia's possible influence in European elections

Ben Jacobs in Washington
A video of Russian president Vladimir Putin is displayed at a Russian history museum in Moscow. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A bipartisan resolution in the House of Representatives targeting Russia for its role in election hacking will be announced on Wednesday.

The bill, introduced by Republican congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois and Democrat congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, will declare that it is US policy “to sanction entities and individuals within Russia or associated with the Russian Government engaged in hacking, cyber-attacks, and propaganda campaigns with the intention of interfering in democratic elections”.

The legislation comes after bipartisan concern about the Russian role in influencing the 2016 election through hacking, including of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

But the proposed legislation is forward-looking and is focused on potential Russian interference in European elections in 2017 including the upcoming presidential election in France, rather than the 2016 cyberattacks, which are currently being investigated by multiple congressional committees.

In particular, the legislation cites the expressed desire of Russian officials “to divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, weaken democratic institutions, and support extremist, pro-Moscow candidates throughout Europe” as a cause for alarm and urges Russia to immediately cease all cyberattacks in Europe. It also specifically cites the Russian use of a “troll army” to rally support for Brexit in the run up to the 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom.

Although the Putin regime has long been a bête noire for many Republicans, Democrats have joined in strident opposition in the aftermath of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The two cosponsors reflect the bipartisan concern over Russian interference in western elections. Roskam is a longtime foreign policy hawk who has been vocal on Iran sanctions and is a former member of House leadership while Cicilline, a vice chair of the Progressive Caucus, has been a comparative dove on foreign policy.

In a statement, Roskam told the Guardian “Russia is attempting to undermine democracy and democratic institutions across the Western world ... it’s important we present a bipartisan front and make it very clear the U.S Congress strongly condemns Russian malfeasance in Europe and around the world.”

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