Shaheen: US needs strategy to counter Russian influence

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., speaks during a news conference on opioid and heroin abuse, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen –Alex Brandon / AP

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A bolder, more aggressive strategy is needed to counter Russia’s efforts to undermine democracy in the United States and western Europe, New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Friday.

Shaheen, a member of Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, addressed a foreign policy forum at the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire. The group met at Southern New Hampshire University.

Shaheen, a Democrat, said the U.S. must recognize that the architecture of alliances that’s been at the heart of America’s national security for more than seven decades is at risk due to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

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“Putin’s goal is to restore Russia as a dominant power and to recreate a Soviet-style sphere of influence along its border,” she said. “To that end, Putin’s strategy is to disrupt, divide, and weaken the Atlantic Alliance. We need to have a clear-eyed understanding of what Putin is doing. So we really need to work together with our allies to stop him.”

Shaheen noted that Russia has been expanding its military and deploying forces to intimidate Europe and has been “stoking populist nationalism” from Hungary to the Netherlands.

She said Putin dramatically raised the stakes by interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.

“We should all be outraged by Putin’s interference in our election,” she said. “Frankly, if you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.”

A declassified intelligence report released earlier this year said Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the election to favor Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump and his supporters have staunchly resisted the findings.

Shaheen said an independent, nonpartisan investigation of Russia’s intervention in the presidential election is needed. She said the U.S. needs a commission similar to the national one that investigated 9/11 “to investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy and to prevent future attacks.”

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“The American public needs to know what happened,” she added.

Shaheen is part of a bipartisan group of senators that introduced legislation imposing tougher sanctions on Russia. It also would create an initiative that would support objective, Russian-language, independent media and watchdog groups working to combat corruption.

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