President Biden on Thursday announced the expulsion of 10 Russian officials from the U.S. and new sanctions to target various Russian actions against U.S. interests, including interfering it U.S. elections, the SolarWinds hack, Moscow’s crackdown on dissidents, and its occupation or Ukraine’s Crimea region. Biden did not mention, or sanction Russia over, bounties Russian intelligence allegedly paid Afghan militants to kill U.S. troops.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at Thursday’s press briefing that a review Biden ordered of classified reports found that intelligence community has only “low to moderate confidence” in the bounties reports. “The reason that they have low to moderate confidence in this judgment is in part because it relies on detainee reporting, and due to the challenging environment and also due to the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan,” Psaki said. “So it’s challenging to gather this intelligence and this data.” She said there’s strong evidence Russia’s GRU intelligence service interacts with Afghanistan’s criminal networks.
The charge that Russia was paying bounties on U.S. forces since 2019, first reported by The New York Times in June 2020, was used as a cudgel against former President Donald Trump, who claimed he had not been briefed on the intelligence and did not raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden, who was among those attacking Trump over the reported Russian bounties, did bring it up with Putin in their first phone call after he was inaugurated, the White House said. The readout of Biden’s call with Putin on Tuesday did not mention the bounties.