The U.S. has charged a Russian national with conspiring to influence American society and politics.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, from at least December 2014 through March 2022, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov led a foreign malign influence operation in the U.S.
Ionov is the founder and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, and he used that organization to carry out a Kremlin influence operation.
From Moscow with Love
According to the Justice Department, Ionov worked under the FSB, a Russian intelligence agency with primarily a domestic focus that is similar to the FBI. He recruited political groups in the U.S. and managed them.
The FBI has found at least three political groups – one in Florida, one in Georgia, and one in California, all of them unnamed in the indictment – that Ionov worked with.
“Ionov allegedly orchestrated a brazen influence campaign, turning U.S. political groups and U.S. citizens into instruments of the Russian government. The Department of Justice will not allow Russia to unlawfully sow division and spread misinformation inside the United States,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a press release.
Ionov’s purported goal was to sow discord, spread pro-Moscow propaganda, and interfere in elections.
“Secret foreign government efforts to influence American elections and political groups threaten our democracy by spreading misinformation, distrust and mayhem. The department is committed to ensuring U.S. laws protecting transparency in the electoral process and the political system are not undermined through foreign malign influence,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said.
Ionov also allegedly bankrolled the political groups, directed them to publish pro-Russian propaganda, coordinated “direction action” with the aim to advance Moscow’s interests in the U.S., and coordinated the actions of the political groups with media coverage by Russian outlets.
“The prosecution of this criminal conduct is essential to protecting the American public when foreign governments seek to inject themselves into the American political process. We will continue to work with our partners at the FBI to investigate these events, and we will continue to follow the evidence to ensure justice is done,” said Roger B. Handberg, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, where Ionov was arrested.
The Russian national has been charged with conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of Moscow. Ionov is facing a maximum sentence of five years behind bars if he is found guilty.
Russian Influence Operations
“The impact of Russian malign foreign influence cannot be overstated. The FBI will aggressively pursue any foreign government that attempts to divide American citizens and poison our democratic process,” Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division stated.
Russia has had a long history of influence operations against the United States. Perhaps the most well known example is the interference in the 2016 presidential election, when Russian intelligence services targeted all candidates and tried to shape the narrative that would fit Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin the best.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.