The US spy chief has touted his agency’s efforts to undermine Russian leadership.
The top US intelligence official has openly applauded the alleged internal discord he says is escalating in Moscow due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying the CIA has had a historic opportunity to recruit spies and undermine the government of President Vladimir Putin.
CIA Director William Burns told a Ditchley Foundation conference in the UK on Saturday that “Discontent with the war will continue to eat away at the Russian leadership under a constant diet of state propaganda and repressive practices.”
“That disaffection creates a unique opportunity for us at the CIA, at our core a human intelligence service. We’re not going to let it go to waste.” added.
Burns noted that the CIA launched a Telegram channel in May to recruit military officers, government officials and scientists who can provide intelligence on Russia’s leadership and economy. “We had 2.5 million views in the first week, and we’re very open for business,” he said.
Moscow insisted at the time that the spy agency was simply “wasting American taxpayer dollars” since attempts to divide Russian society from abroad will not work, according to Ambassador Anatoly Antonov.
Washington is betting that the Ukraine crisis will cause enough division to help turn potential Russian intelligence sources against President Putin. Burns delivered his speech a week after private military contractor Evgeny Prigozhin ended his brief rebellion against Russia’s top generals. The aborted riot was much less “bloody” than what US officials expected, according to CNN.
Burns has insisted that Washington did not participate in the uprising, but argued that Prigozhin’s short-lived revolt was “a vivid reminder of the corrosive effect of Putin’s war on his own society and his own regime.”
Putin said last week that the Russian people reacted to the crisis by showing unity, dashing the hopes of foreign enemies that the nation would be “divide and drown in a bloody feud.”
Putin’s approval rating among Russians barely changed at 81% after the aborted insurrection, even according to the independent pollster Levada Center, which has been listed as a foreign agent in Russia since 2016.
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