The Russian government said today that if any foreign powers attempt to interfere in the Russian presidential election in March, the Kremlin will "have to take retaliatory measures."
"We have information that some countries plan to destructively interfere in Russia's domestic affairs during the presidential election campaign," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a press briefing, according to Russia's TASS news service.
"I would like to reiterate that all such attempts will be suppressed and if they continue, we will have to take retaliatory measures, particularly by making the information we have public," she said.
American officials will likely see a healthy bit of irony in Moscow's warning, since it comes a year after the U.S. intelligence community released a report accusing Moscow of widespread interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election [PDF]. Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations, even if Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed that some "patriotically minded" hackers may have been involved in election-related cyber-attacks.
Zakharova's claim also comes as former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden revealed details about how he said the highest levels of the American government decided not to call out Russian interference more forcefully before the 2016 election -- the delicate position Russia claims to be in now.
Biden said there was a "constant battle" over what to reveal publicly because the Obama administration did not want to be seen as itself improperly influencing the election. They also ran into partisan roadblocks when considering acting with congressional Republicans, Biden said.
"I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out," he said. "The bottom line was it was tricky as hell. It's easy to say now, well maybe we should have said more. But I'll ask you a rhetorical question -- can you imagine if the President of the United States called a press conference in October... and said, 'Tell you what, the Russians are trying to interfere with our elections and we have to do something about it.' What do you think would have happened?"
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