Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley participates in a panel discussion at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday. | Seth Wenig/AP
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday that interference in U.S. elections by another nation “is warfare,” telling an audience in New York that such meddling has become Russia’s go-to tactic.
“I will tell you that when a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that is warfare. It really is, because you’re making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want to giving out that misinformation,” Haley said Thursday at a forum hosted in New York by the George W. Bush institute. ”And we didn’t just see it here. You can look at France and you can look at other countries. They are doing this everywhere. This is their new weapon of choice. And we have to make sure we get in front of it.”
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While President Donald Trump has questioned at times whether or not the Russian government was behind a campaign of cyberattacks targeting last year’s presidential race, Haley and other administration officials have been unequivocal in blaming the Kremlin for the 2016 election meddling.
Russia’s 2016 efforts in the U.S. matched a pattern of Kremlin campaigns to influence elections across Europe, including in Baltic states and most recently in France, where centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron defeated right-wing populist Marine Le Pen.
Haley said U.S. intelligence agencies are “working overtime” to combat cybersecurity threats.
Despite his occasional suggestion that Russia may not have been to blame — or may not have been solely to blame — for last year’s election interference efforts, Trump signed legislation late last summer imposing a fresh batch of sanctions on Russia. Those sanctions prompted Russia to order the U.S. to reduce its staffing levels in Russia, a step that prompted the State Department to make similar demands of the Russian government.
“I find it fascinating because the Russians, God bless ‘em, they’re saying, ‘Why are Americans anti-Russian?’ And why have we done the sanctions? Well, don’t interfere in our elections and we won’t be anti-Russian,” Haley said Thursday. “And I think we have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable and we have to get the private sector to understand they are responsible for this too. We all have to step up from this event.”