DNI: Russia is Attempting to Influence US Midterms, Divide Transatlantic Alliance

Dan Coates, the Director of National Intelligence, has issued a strong warning that has received little attention.

Dan Coates, the Director of National Intelligence, made some strong statements Friday that have received too little attention.

Atlantic Council (“Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats: Russia is Attempting to Influence US Midterms, Divide Transatlantic Alliance“):

Russia is attempting to influence the midterm elections in the United States in November as well as divide the transatlantic alliance, US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned at a meeting co-hosted by the Atlantic Council in Normandy, France, on June 8.

Coats said Russia had already undertaken an “unprecedented influence campaign to interfere in the US electoral and political process” in 2016. Russia, Coats pointed out, has also meddled in France, Germany, Norway, Spain, and Ukraine. “It is 2018, and we continue to see Russian targeting of American society in ways that could affect our midterm elections,” he said.

Coats’ comments are aligned with assessments by the US intelligence community and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who in his previous role as director of the Central Intelligence Agency warned that he expected Russia to attempt to disrupt the midterm elections.


Coats said Russia had conducted cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns with the intent of “degrading our democratic values and weakening our alliances.”

“These Russian actions are purposeful and premeditated and they represent an all-out assault, by Vladimir Putin, on the rule of law, Western ideals and democratic norms,” he said.

“[Putin’s] actions demonstrate that he seeks to sow divisions within and between those in the West who adhere to democratic norms,” he added.

Coats, a former US congressman and senator, delivered a clear warning of Russian attempts to split the transatlantic alliance.

“The Russian threat in particular has awakened Europe to the need to reinvigorate NATO and bolster our collective defenses,” he said. “The Russians are actively seeking to divide our Alliance, and we must not allow that to happen.”

Coats used his speech to explore ways in which democracies can be strengthened. Perhaps mindful of the challenge the United States currently poses to the liberal world order, he said: “In my current position, my responsibility is to focus on foreign threats to our democracy—and refrain from commenting on politics in the US. It is not pretty.”


While firm on the threat posed by Russia, Coats underscored the importance for the United States to have enduring relationships with its European allies to stand up to that challenge.

Ashish Kumar Sen, who reported on the event co-sponsored by the Atlantic Council, couldn’t resist a bit of editorializing:

Trump has roiled the transatlantic relationship and strained ties with many of the United States’ longstanding friends and allies by his dogged pursuit of an America First policy. Such an approach has seen the United States withdraw from multilateral agreements—the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate pact are prominent examples—and impose metal tariffs on the European Union (EU), Mexico, and Canada on the pretext of preserving US national security. These actions have increasingly left the United States alone on the world stage.

Quite right. Indeed, my first thoughts on seeing Sen’s headline was that Trump himself has done much more to undermine the transatlantic alliance than Putin.

Moreover, the President seems, at best, oblivious to and, at worst, allied with the Russians in their efforts to influence American elections. It’s heartening that the Intelligence Community, including its Trump-appointed leadership, seems to be actively sounding the alarm bells and seeking to thwart the Russian efforts. It would, of course, be better if the Commander-in-Chief had their back in that regard.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Waiting for the tweet claiming that this is “fake news”

  2. PJ says:

    It’s all legal because it is Trump who is doing it! And even if it would be illegal, Trump can pardon himself! All hail King Trump! Vassal of Moscow!

  3. Charon says:

    The Republicans in Congress under the leadership of McConnell and Ryan are quite disinterested in interfering with Russia’s activities. I wonder how much Russian money will again be funneled through cutouts like the NRA, or again wind up in the campaigns of GOP pols.

  4. Kathy says:

    Seriously, you need to kick the GOP off Congress. Granted Putin’s Puppet will still handle foreign policy, but a Democratic controlled Congress can better investigate him and put pressure on him.

  5. TM01 says:

    The 1980s called.

    They want their foreign policy back.


  6. Ben Wolf says:

    If Coats had stopped after the third paragraph there wouldn’t be a problem. But then he wrote this. . .

    Coats said Russia had conducted cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns with the intent of “degrading our democratic values and weakening our alliances.”

    “These Russian actions are purposeful and premeditated and they represent an all-out assault, by Vladimir Putin, on the rule of law, Western ideals and democratic norms,” he said.

    “[Putin’s] actions demonstrate that he seeks to sow divisions within and between those in the West who adhere to democratic norms,” he added.

    . . .which would be funny if it weren’t an expression of exactly what’s tearing this country apart.

  7. Mikey says:

    DNI Coats: Russia is attempting to divide Western alliances, influence our elections, and degrade democratic norms and support for the rule of law.

    TrumpistMoron01: Obama said something dumb six years ago!!!! Hillary committed a gaffe nine years ago!!!!


  8. Ben Wolf says:

    Coats: Russia is attempting to divide Western alliances, influence our elections, and degrade democratic norms and support for the rule of law.

    Non-partisan: Russia didn’t just blame the kid at Kinko’s for “forgetting” to put 119,000 people on the voter rolls in a primary. There’s no “democratic” country in the world other than the U.S. that considers that a norm.

  9. Liberal Capitalist says:
  10. Paul Peterson says:

    These two arguments are not inextricably linked. The ire should be aimed at those who seek to turn a blind eye because they gain by the confusion. It is absolutely true NATO members with the exception of a few do not contribute to their own defense on the level they themselves agreed to. They play the fools game pulling out one pocket to show its empty while the other is jammed packed. The contribution they agreed to is monetary and directly slated toward defense but the liberal left has succeeded in manipulating non defense spending as somehow offsetting their long standing deadbeat history towards defense. Commingling efforts serves to muddy the water and nobody plays the game better than the EU. The fact is the US has a trade deficit with every major “trading partner” in the EU and Canada. How is this fair or for that matter statistically possible unless it was a concerted effort by these trading partners and the willingness of malefactors in the US? Shall the US behave like a battered wife afraid to point out repeated abuse for fear she be tossed out? Trump stands behind rule of law, the agreement with NATO for a common defense was signed by all. Stop trying to convince US we need to accept the abuse or loose our support, it’s disgusting especially coming from the bleeding heart liberals. There is a reason Trump was elected, he said he would call out the hypocrisy and he is doing a darn good job at it.

  11. george says:

    Of course Russia is trying to influence the midterm elections and split NATO. Similarly, of course the United States is trying to influence Russian elections and split Russia from its allies. That’s what major powers do.

    The question of interest is: is Donald Trump going along with it? Russia working against America is not treasonous, its the political norm for the last 2500 years (and probably longer, but the earliest politics I’ve ever personally read about is the ancient Greeks – and they were already involved in influencing and splitting alliances back then. Trump working with Russia against America on the other hand would be treason.

    Russia isn’t the bad guy here (or no worse than us or anyone else). Our own president working with them would be a very bad guy – I’m certain Putin is not working against Russian interests.

  12. Mikey says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Russia didn’t just blame the kid at Kinko’s for “forgetting” to put 119,000 people on the voter rolls in a primary.

    You’re right, they didn’t. They just leveraged that sort of thing, and other anti-democratic features of America’s electoral system (GOP voter suppression of minorities, the electoral college).

    Which, of course, is why the Democrats should work very damn hard to ensure every voter’s rights are protected, and to eventually get rid of the electoral college so a voter in Virginia has the same say in electing the President as 20 square miles of prairie dog shit in Wyoming does.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @Paul Peterson: a few points:

    – After two world wars started on Europe, the US decided that a heavily armed Europe was not really in our interests — we took over a substantial amount of their defense. This also made them very dependent upon us, and aligned Western Europe in a foreign policy that was run by us. This held the peace for close to 70 years.

    It’s reasonable to question that policy and whether it is still working for us, but it’s also important to understand it as a backdrop to “Europe not doing their part” — we encouraged it for at least 50 of those 70 years. (There has been some minor grumbling since the 2000s or so.)

    – Regarding trade deficits, all of those countries have a much more active economic policy to support manufacturing, ranging from education of workers, support for entrepreneurs, socialized health care (a major drain on US businesses), etc.

    Which seems more likely — a large number of countries with similar domestic economic policies that perform better than us, or those same countries somehow conspiring to bright us down?

    They do better than us right now because we have been shooting ourselves in the foot for the past 40 years — sacrificing long term investment in our economy for short term gains. We should be looking to Europe and Canada to see what is working better, and what we can adopt here that will fit with our society (not all of their policies would, we should pick and choose).

    Rural areas and small towns in Europe have been doing much better than similar areas in the US. Why?

  14. An Interested Party says:

    The 1980s called.

    They want their foreign policy back.

    At least Reagan actually did call the Soviet Union the evil empire…the Orange Toddler just kisses Putin’s ass…the Gipper would be ashamed of what has happened to his party…

  15. Paul Peterson says:

    Gustopher- I think you are obliquely referring to the Marshall plan but sort of left out the 13 billion US dollars (110 in today’s dollars) used to rebuild Western Europe economically devastated (US largely spared) after WW2. Understanding that the West’s precious resources had to be funneled to rebuilding a shattered infrastructure and the situation with Communist expansionism the US took upon themselves the defense of Western Europe albeit in their own interests as well. As long as NATO and the U.N. have existed the US has footed the lions share of the budget. Rarely has the NATO treaty been involved and during these times some of these members lent token support while placing stipulations on combat. Sort of one sided by any measure.

    Over the past several decades what were once mainly US Corporations (Ford, GM and many others excluded) were primarily US centric. Remember “what’s good for GM is good for America”, that is history as most companies operate globally. Being good stewards these globalists seek to define themselves as internationalists not nationalists. Money flowed in buckets into 3rd and 2nd world countries to maximize return on investment. Since the US Chamber of Commerce is the most powerful lobbying concern in Washington and represent these same global concerns our trade policies enabled this shift away from the US elsewhere. I already acknowledged previously there was help from the US creating the current situation. Business is complicated but major trends are clear, our social contacts once supported by these corporations have also evolved. During the past administrations pension funds both private and public have been bailed out by the US taxpayer. The ACA also allowed business to stop providing healthcare to employees in favor of Medicare supplemented plans designed to implode and bring forth the single payer system it would appear you favor. We have only to look at the only functioning single payer system of scale operating in the US supported by the US government as an example. The US Veterans Administration is a money pit filled with corruption and an extremely poor performance record. Medicaid is in contrast run far better but there are ample examples of abuse in the millions of dollars. Who elects the commissions who set rates, policies for coverage? I’m sure you’re familiar with the adage “eliminating the middle man”? Sending a single dollar the Washington never results in that whole dollar returning unless others lost even more by subsidizing that return. All that aside, Heathcare in the UK and Canada have had serious problems. You make a point of “short term” mentality, I juxtapose that to microscopic evaluation of public good e.g. electric vehicles are more cost effective, less polluting. This completely ignores the question of how the electricity was generated, in what form was it stored (lithium batteries which are toxic nightmares). No, I and many like minded people while recognizing a portion of society that needs aid do not feel socialized medicine is a good. It’s true business offloaded that cost, at the expense of taxpayers while they park their profits outside the US.

    If I may condense your reply into one concept it would be socialism. I contend the EU is canabalzing weaker members and that is leading to a collapse of this workers paradise. The US resists the trend despite many here who fall for the farce despite overwhelming evidence socialism is not sustainable unless there is a net inflow of money hence trade deficits flowing out of the US and into the workers paradise. “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”, I think that is an accurate quote.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    If I may condense your reply into one concept it would be socialism.

    Yes, of course, if all else fails, throw out the scary “socialism”…it’s just so much better to live in an oligarchy…and while we’re trashing government-run healthcare, do tell us exactly how privately-run healthcare for profit is so much better…

  17. Charon says:

    @Paul Peterson:

    What a long-winded load of horse dung aka right-wing talking points.


  18. PJ says:

    In other news, Dan Coates wants to spend more time with his family.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Paul Peterson: We live in a hybrid capitalist-socialist society, and we always have. We have Socialized police and fire departments, for instance, and energy production is so tied into government policy that it is nearly government policy.

    I’m pragmatic. If the private sector fails at something repeatedly, then it’s time for the government to step in.

    Health care costs have been rising at 3-4 times inflation for my entire life. Meanwhile, the health “insurance” companies (they are barely insurance, more like health care buying clubs), have every incentive to try to kick out anyone who needs health care. It’s the wrong incentives.

    Meanwhile, Canada, Europe, and Australia all are providing better average results than the US for cheaper.

    I’m not so prideful that I won’t look elsewhere for a working solution. And, if we can eliminate a massively increasing liability for any company that hires people at the same time? That sounds good to me.

    ObamaCare tried to prop up the existing failed system. It didn’t go far enough. It does things to steer people into lower cost care — Medicare expansion — but it doesn’t remove the profit motive that encourages the healthcare buying clubs from stuffing their members, or spending $N to kick the cab down the road so someone else pays $N+1.

    America is different from Europe, but not radically so. We have better health care for those who can afford it than the socialized countries do, and we should find a way to preserve that. Supplemental insurance on the free market.

  20. Gustopher says:

    @Paul Peterson: I’m not referring to the Marshall Plan. I’m referring to the reality of NATO and the Western alliance for the past 70 years.

    We emerged from WWII as a Superpower because we paid for the privilege. Trump is pulling us back from that — which ultimately might be the right policy, but it’s inport to understand the previous status quo and the rationale for it.