The US spy chief has touted his agency’s efforts to undermine Russian leadership
America’s top intelligence official has openly cheered the alleged internal discord that he claims is rising in Moscow because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying the CIA has been given an historic opportunity to recruit spies and undermine President Vladimir Putin’s government.
CIA director William Burns claimed on Saturday at a Ditchley Foundation lecture in the UK that “disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression.”
“That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at CIA, at our core a human intelligence service. We’re not letting it go to waste,” he 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 the Russian leadership and economy. “We had 2.5 million views in the first week, and we’re very much open for business,” he said.
Moscow insisted at the time that the spy agency was simply “wasting American taxpayers’ dollars” as attempts to divide Russian society from abroad won’t work, according to Ambassador Anatoly Antonov.
Washington is betting that the Ukraine crisis will stir enough division to help turn potential Russian intelligence sources against President Putin. Burns made his speech one week after private military contractor Evgeny Prigozhin ended his brief rebellion against Russia’s top generals. The aborted mutiny was far less “bloody” than US officials had expected, according to CNN.
Burns has insisted that Washington played no part 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, spoiling the hopes of foreign enemies that the nation would be “split asunder and drown in a bloody feud.”
Putin’s approval rating among Russians was little changed at 81% after the aborted insurrection, even according to the independent pollster Levada Center, which had been listed as a foreign agent in Russia since 2016.