BRUSSELS — The hacking of Democratic Party computer systems, widely thought by U.S. intelligence officials to be the work of the Russian government, may be giving Washington a new taste of unconventional Kremlin tactics that have long been employed to influence politics in neighboring European countries.
Russia has tried hard in recent years to tug Europe to its side, bankrolling the continent’s extremist political parties, working to fuel a backlash against migrants and using its vast energy resources as a cudgel against its neighbors. Two-and-a-half years into the Ukraine crisis, Obama administration officials say that the Kremlin may now be engaging in similar trickery in the U.S. presidential campaign in an effort to boost Russia-friendly Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The alleged effort would be an unusually blunt challenge to the U.S. political system, but one familiar to Europe, where officials and analysts see Russian fingerprints on a wide spectrum of initiatives designed to split Western unity and encourage acceptance of Kremlin policies. European leaders say Russia has been involved in such actions as an April referendum in the Netherlands that rejected a European Union trade deal with Ukraine and the strengthening of cross-border bonds among Euroskeptic parties.
With many U.S. and European voters feeling left adrift by the tides of globalization and threatened by migration, the Russian efforts have played on existing Western weaknesses and found a receptive audience.
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