Joe Biden slaps Putin with sanctions after ‘massive’ Russia hacking – What does this mean?

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The Joe Biden administration is hitting back at Russia for the huge hacking programme that breached vital federal agencies, also known as the SolarWinds hack. The Russian hacking was for the purposes of election interference too, according to a senior Biden administration official. During the SolarWinds intrusion, Russian hackers allegedly infected widely used US software with a malicious code, enabling them to illegally access the networks of at least nine top agencies. The US believes this was an intelligence operation aimed at mining Government data and secrets, according to Fortune. The measures are expected to be announced on Thursday, according to the official who wasn’t authorised to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity, reports the New York Times.

Aside from the SolarWinds hack, US officials alleged last month that President Putin authorised influence operations to help Donald Trump win a second term.

However, there is no evidence that Russia or anyone else changed votes or manipulated the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

US Government is still grappling with the fallout from the SolarWinds hack, which affected top agencies including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments.

Investigators looking into the huge hack are still assessing what information may have been stolen by Russian interference.

What does this mean?

President Biden’s sanctions, due to be announced this week, are being seen as a retaliation to the SolarWinds hack and Russian interference in the 2020 US election.

Russian diplomat Dmitry Peskov said this week: “The hostility and unpredictability of America’s actions force us in general to be prepared for the worst scenarios.”

Ten Russian diplomatic officials are to be expelled from the US, and up to 30 entities blacklisted, officials said.

This, if it goes ahead as planed, will be the largest sanctions action against Russia taken by Mr Biden’s administration.

In addition, the White House could opt to issue an executive order barring US financial institutions from buying rouble bonds issued by the Russian government.

This would be a huge blow to the country’s sovereign debt and its broader economy, and is a move which could kick off as early as June, according to some reports.

Sanctions haven’t proven effective at all when dealing with Russia in the past.

Some Russian officials have even reportedly laughed off being added to the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list, comparing it to being part of an elite club.

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However senior officials said the new sanctions are intended to cut deeper than previous attempts to punish Moscow.

The threat of the ban on purchasing Russian debt has already caused a huge depression on the price of the rouble and OFZ treasury bonds.

The sanctions will add more tension to a historically strained and distrustful relationship between America and Russia.

Earlier this year, President Biden had agreed with a reporter when asked if Putin was “a killer”.

Those remarks were replayed widely on Russian state television, with President Putin responding by wryly wishing Mr Biden “good health” – an obvious dig at the President’s age.

The US head of state’s approach to Russia is significantly different than that of his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who largely tried to avoid any confrontation with Russia and Mr Putin.

When presented with a CIA assessment report that Moscow had offered and paid bounties for foreign fighters to kill US troops in Afghanistan, Mr Trump said he doubted the evidence behind the reports.

Similarly, he sided with President Putin over an FBI assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections during a Helsinki summit in 2018.

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