- The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia does not want former Vice President Joe Biden to win the 2020 election, while China prefers him.
- “Many foreign actors have a prefererence for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer,” National Counterintelligence and Security Centre Director William Evanina said in a statement Friday.
- China prefers Biden over President Donald Trump because of concerns over the Trump administration’s criticisms of Beijing’s handling of COVID-19, and its efforts to derail China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
- Russia, meanwhile, wants Biden to lose because it views him as being part of the anti-Russia “establishment.”
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The US intelligence community has concluded that America’s great power rivals Russia and China are on opposite sides of the 2020 election, with one favouring a Trump win and the other hoping for a loss, National Counterintelligence and Security Centre Director William Evanina said Friday.
“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer,” he said in a statement.
“We assess that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win reelection,” the NCSC director wrote, pointing to Chinese concerns over the administration’s criticisms of Beijing’s handling of COVID-19, the shuttering of one of its diplomatic missions, and its efforts to derail China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, among other things.
The US and China have long been strategic competitors, but tensions between the two powers have spiked this year, leading some observers to characterise the worsening bilateral relationship as being on the brink of a new Cold War.
Russia, however, is an on the other side of the election.
“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment,'” Evanina wrote. “This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.”
“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” Evanina added.
The director also called attention to Iran, noting that it has no particular preference but would rather “undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country.”
In July, Evanina provided a general overview of potential election threats, focusing on adversarial countries, with the promise to provide more information as it becomes available. While there have been suspicions that China and Russia desired such outcomes, the statement Friday marks the first official US statement expressing the findings of the US intelligence community.
The US intelligence community and national security apparatus has increased its focus on foreign election interference since the 2016 election, during which it concluded that Russia interfered in the race to propel Trump to the Oval Office.
In recent weeks, both Russia and China have taken advantage of civil and political unrest in the US amid the coronavirus pandemic to sow disinformation and stoke discord ahead of the election.
Russian interference in the US this time will likely be more sophisticated than it was in 2016, Steve Hall, the CIA’s former chief of Russian operations, told Business Insider earlier this year.
“The organisations that conduct these activities for the Russian government are intelligence services that are very capable and have unlimited resources,” Hall said. “Putin counts himself as an intelligence officer too, you know, he says, ‘There’s no such thing as a former KGB officer.'”
Russian intelligence services are “also very good at learning their lessons and improving their game since they have been doing this for so long,” he added. “They have probably learned a lot from 2016.”
China is also taking a page out of Russia’s playbook.
“The Chinese aren’t as adept as the Russians are at this, but they will step into the breach a little more because of this unique situation with COVID-19,” Michael Allen, the former majority staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, told Business Insider.
“The country is in a state of trauma,” Allen said. “People are angry. And when they’re out there seeking information, and it’s readily available in a variety of forms, that’s a ripe environment for foreign interference and disinformation.”