By Steve Holland and James Oliphant
U.S. President Donald Trump‘s administration said on Monday that Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries globally, but stopped short of accusing Moscow of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election
The criticism of Russia, laid out in a new national security strategy based on Trump’s “America First” vision, reflects a view long held by U.S. diplomats that Russia actively undermines American interests at home and abroad, despite Trump’s own bid for warmer ties with President Vladimir Putin.
“Through modernized forms of subversive tactics, Russia interferes in the domestic political affairs of countries around the world,” said the document.
It avoided directly citing what U.S. intelligence agencies say was Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
“Russia uses information operations as part of its offensive cyber efforts to influence public opinion across the globe. Its influence campaigns blend covert intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls‘,” the document said.
Trump has frequently spoken of wanting to improve relations with Putin, even though Russia has frustrated U.S. policy in Syria and Ukraine and done little to help Washington in its standoff with North Korea.
In a speech laying out his strategy, Trump noted that he received a call from Putin on Sunday to thank him for providing U.S. intelligence that helped thwart a bomb attack in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
Trump said the collaboration was “the way it’s supposed to work”
“But while we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before,” he said at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington.
The audience of about 650 people frequently applauded the speech. It included the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, several Cabinet secretaries, lawmakers, military personnel and officials from the intelligence community and other agencies.
A U.S. Justice Department investigation is looking into whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia, something that Moscow and Trump both deny.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russians tried to tip the election to Trump through hacking and releasing emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and spreading social media propaganda.
Facebook, Google (GOOGL.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) are facing a backlash after saying Russians used their services to anonymously spread divisive messages among Americans in the run-up to the election.
Other Western nations, including France, have accused Russia of trying to interfere in their elections.
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