A month shy of the November 03 US Presidential Elections 2020, President Donald Trump and Democratic Challenger Joe Biden went face-to-face in the first of three Presidential debates, leading to heated exchanges between the two contenders.
However, with the country left divided on whether to let Trump “make American great again” or to choose former Vice President Biden, there is a fear amidst top officials and intelligence agencies based in Washington, that foreign powers led by the likes of China, Russia and Iran will look to influence the election results.
US Presidential Elections 2016
According to US intelligence agencies, in an operation which was directly ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow interfered in the 2016 US Presidential elections by wrecking Hillary Clinton’s campaign in favour of Trump in a bid to increase political and social discord in the United States.
Following multiple complaints from officials and intelligence agencies in Washington, Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to investigate the voting.
While a number of officials associated with Trump’s campaign were jailed due to a variety of charges linked to the investigation, Mueller did not establish Trump colluding with the investigation, however, he said that the President was still not exonerated from his report.
Interference By Foreign Powers
The trend has continued four years on, with National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) head, William Evanina stating that China, Russia and Iran are among a host of countries looking to influence this year’s elections.
According to Evanina, many foreign countries are trying to influence voter preferences in a bid to change US policies to “increase discord” in the country “and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process”.
While Russia is yet to be dissolved from the blame of aiding Trump’s ascension as the 45th US President, Evanina says that Putin’s government has begun operations to boost Trump’s candidacy on Russian Television and Social media as it looks to “denigrate” Biden’s candidacy and other members of a perceived “anti-Russia establishment”.
Moreover, FBI Director Christopher Wray had issued a warning to the White House that Russia has been conducting a “very active” campaign to spread disinformation and meddle in the election against Joseph Biden.
“We certainly have seen very active — very active — efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020.” said Wray.
While commenting on Russian intervention in the elections, Biden has issued a warning to “opponent” Moscow, saying that there will be a “price to pay” there if it continues to interfere. However, Trump who has frequently downplayed Russia’s role in the 2016 elections, said:
“I think the last person Russia wants to see in the office is Donald Trump. Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have, ever.”
With the Trump administration continuing its crackdown on Chinese companies and its tough military stance in the South China Sea, Beijing is not Trump’s biggest fan on the planet.
In a statement issued by Evanina, he said – “China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win re-election,”
“China is expanding its influence efforts to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and counter-criticism of China.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s comments have gone in line with the speculation, with him stating – “China would love for us to have an election where Donald Trump lost to sleepy Joe Biden. They would dream (that) they would own our country. If Joe Biden was president, China would rule our country.”
However, according to an editorial in The Diplomat, even if there is a change in leadership there will be no major change in US’ policy towards China.
“There will be a difference in tone, style and words between the Biden administration and the Trump administration on China, rather than a change in policy.” written in the editorial of The Diplomat.
Under Donald Trump, the US and Iran have not stayed the best of friends with tensions soaring sky-high since the US President’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, a deal which was signed by his predecessor – Barrack Obama.
Moreover, Washington has begun re-imposing the sanctions that had been eased under the accord and have pursued to enforce UN sanctions on the country, leading to beliefs that Iran will not be behind the Trump-wagon and would choose Biden instead.
According to Evanina, Tehran will be against another term for President Trump, which according to them will result “in a continuation of US pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change”. He also says that Iran’s focus will be on “online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and re-circulating anti-US content”.
Moreover, Trump has given his take on the situation as well by stating that Iran would “love” to see him lose the elections. However, he also said – “If and when we win, we will make deals with Iran very quickly. We will make deals with North Korea very quickly. If I did not win the elections in 2016, our country would have been in war with North Korea. We actually have a relation with North Korea.”