US President Joe Biden informed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, ahead of time, that Washington would take action to respond to Moscow’s election interference, a senior administration official said Thursday.
“Earlier this week, the President spoke with President Putin again and told him, true to his word, that the United States would, in fact, be executing responses to the cyber intrusion of SolarWinds and the interference in the 2020 election,” the senior US official said.
The SolarWinds hack, carried out by Russian government-backed sides, breached more than 100 American companies and another nine government agencies.
“This week, and today, that is what we are doing. We are taking additional actions to respond to what the Russian government and its intelligence services have done to directly target American sovereignty. There will be elements of our process to these actions that will remain unseen,” the official said during a call with reporters.
His comments came shortly after the US announced wide-ranging sanctions on Russian entities and companies, including expelling ten diplomats based in the US.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday’s actions were intended to hold Russia to account “for its reckless actions.”
But Blinken said the US was looking for ways to cooperate with Russia to build a more stable and predictable bilateral relationship.
The US official echoed Blinken’s comments and said the sanctions were a “proportionate and tailored” response.
During this week’s call between Biden and Putin, the US president invited his Russian counterpart to a summit to discuss a broad range of issues. The official said Putin had not yet accepted the offer to meet Biden in a third European country.
“But we believe that in the coming months, it will be vital for the two leaders to sit down to discuss the full range of issues facing our relationship,” the official said. “Leaders of significant countries like Russia and the United States have to sit together to find a stable and effective way forward to stop any kind of spinning out of control.”
On Afghanistan and reports that Russia offered money to terrorists in exchange for targeting American soldiers, the official said there was “low to moderate” confidence Moscow sought to encourage Taliban attacks against US troops in Afghanistan in 2019.
The conclusion was based on information and evidence of connections “between criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government.
“This information puts a burden on the Russian Government to explain its actions and take steps to address this disturbing pattern of behavior,” the official said.