Reuters reports that the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which has ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, developed strategies to tactically undermine the 2016 U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump.
The institute, then led by former lieutenant general Leonid Reshetnikov, is composed of retired Russian intelligence officials appointed directly by Putin. U.S. officials described the think tank as the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy authority, according to Reuters.
U.S. intel personnel referred to two documents originating in June that were authored by the group, which were acquired after the election. These documents reportedly detail the framework surrounding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” said an unnamed former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, as the documents referenced are still classified.
The first document refers to a strategy paper issued to high-ranking Russian government officials, although the document did not name any specific individuals. It suggested the Kremlin should launch a propaganda campaign that would influence voters to vote for a president that would be more lenient to Russia than the Obama administration had been.
The second document issued by the think tank indicated that Hillary Clinton was expected to win, signaling that it was time to end the pro-Trump propaganda stage and move on to playing on suspicions of fraud through intensified negative messaging. Russian officials were hoping the damage to Clinton’s reputation would be irreparable enough to diminish all legitimacy.
Although Putin has denied any sabotage on behalf of his administration, the Obama administration concluded that Russia had mounted a “fake news” campaign in conjunction with cyber attacks on the Democratic Party.
The Russian think tank describes itself as the provider of “expert appraisals”, “recommendations”, and “analytical materials” to the office of the President, cabinet, ministries, National Security Councils, and parliament.
In January, Putin’s office and his think tank posted pictures and transcripts from the meeting between Reshetnikov and his successor Fradkov, with Putin at the Kremlin, providing evidence of the link between the two. In the meeting, Putin thanked Reshetnikov for services that were performed and instructed Frankov that he wanted the think tank to provide analysis and objective information.
“We did our best for nearly eight years to implement your foreign policy concept,” said Reshetnikov. “The policy of Russia and the policy of the President of Russia have been the cornerstone of our operation.”