Joe Biden announced new US sanctions on Russia, including the expulsion of 10 diplomats, in retaliation for piracy and election interference.
The sanctions, heralded for weeks by the administration, represent the first retaliatory action announced against the Kremlin for last year’s hack, familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach.
In that intrusion, Russian hackers are believed to have infected widely used software with malicious code, allowing them access to the networks of at least nine agencies in what US officials believe was an intelligence-gathering operation aimed at mining. government secrets.
In addition to that stunt, US officials alleged last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to assist Donald Trump in his failed bid for re-election as president, although there is no evidence that Russia or anyone else has changed the votes or manipulated the result.
The sanctions, allegedly intended to send a clear retributive message to Russia and deter similar acts in the future, come amid an already strained relationship between the United States and Russia.
Biden told Putin this week in his second call to “reduce tensions” following a Russian military rally on the Ukraine border, saying the United States “will act firmly in defense of its national interests” regarding Russian intrusions and electoral interference.
In a television interview last month, Biden responded “Yes, I do” when asked if he thought Putin was a “murderer.” He said the days when the United States “moved” to Putin were over. Putin then recalled his ambassador to the United States and pointed to the American history of slavery and slaughter of Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.
It was unclear whether US actions would actually lead to behavior change, especially since previous US measures have failed to end Russian piracy. The Obama administration expelled diplomats from the United States in 2016 in response to interference in the presidential election that year. And while Trump was often reluctant to criticize Putin, his administration also expelled diplomats in 2018 over Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former intelligence officer in Britain.
US officials are still grappling with the aftermath of the SolarWinds intrusion, which affected agencies such as the treasury, justice, energy and homeland security departments, and are still assessing what information may have been stolen. The breach exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain, as well as weaknesses in the federal government’s own cyber defenses.
The actions would represent the second major round of sanctions imposed by the Biden administration against Russia. Last month, the United States sanctioned seven middle- and high-level Russian officials, along with more than a dozen government entities, for a near-fatal nerve agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and subsequent imprisonment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism