White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster says Western countries need to counter Russia's “destabilizing behavior,” saying that Moscow is running "a very sophisticated campaign of subversion" to undermine free and open societies.
In an interview with the BBC that was posted online on December 19, McMaster also said Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year was "certainly" a national security threat.
U.S. President Donald Trump's new national security strategy, released a day earlier, labeled Russia and China "rival powers" that are seeking to "challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity."
“Of course, we have to counter Russia's destabilizing behavior and the sophisticated campaigns of propaganda and disinformation,” McMaster said.
Those were "efforts to polarize communities and pit them against each other, especially in the democratic world and free and open societies," he said, adding that the objective was to "weaken their popular will and their resolve."
"I believe that Russia is engaged in a very sophisticated campaign of subversion to affect our confidence in democratic institutions, in democratic processes, including elections,” he said.
Trump's national security adviser said that the Russian campaign was targeting both sides of the U.S. political landscape during the 2016 election campaign.
"They'll support very left groups; they'll support very right groups,” he said. “What they want to do is create the kind of tension, the kind of vitriol that undermines our confidence in who we are.
"One of the most important things is to pull the curtain back on this activity and to expose it," he added.
Russia denies it meddled in the election, despite what U.S. intelligence officials say is powerful evidence.
Responding to the new U.S. national security policy on December 19, the Kremlin denounced the "imperialist character" of the document and said it "cannot accept that the country is treated as a threat to the security of the United States.”