The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior US administration officials tell BuzzFeed News.
Russia first broached the subject in July, when one of Vladimir Putin’s top diplomats arrived in Washington with a sheet of proposals aimed at addressing a top concern of the US government: A resurgence of Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.
At the time, the midterms were 16 months away, but Washington had only just begun to understand the extent of Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election, including the widespread use of troll accounts to disseminate inflammatory messages, and efforts to probe US voter registration databases in 21 states. The consensus among cybersecurity experts was that the US was ill-prepared to defend against another concerted effort by Moscow to influence US elections.
The Russians were also feeling insecure. Putin, who has long feared US-backed regime change efforts, faces reelection in March. And although he is universally favored to win another six-year term, the former KGB officer is eager to avoid the type of mass protests that followed Russia’s disputed legislative elections in 2011, a defiant uprising he continues to attribute to US interference.