U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) on Monday proposed the creation of an office to investigate Russian influence in Europe, citing the threat of Russia’s attempts to undermine Western democracies.
Suozzi said a bill would create the Office of Anti-Corruption Relating to Illicit Russian Financial Activities in Europe in the State Department “specifically designed to investigate Russian corruption in Europe and Eastern Europe.” The office would collaborate with the Treasury Department to train U.S. officers and diplomats to uncover and prosecute illegal Russian financial activity, according to a statement.
Given Russian involvement in Ukraine and attempts to influence both the American election and French elections, Suozzi said the threat is clear.
“Let’s open our minds to the fact that there’s something very dangerous going on in the world right now with the influence of billions of dollars by the Russian government and the Russian oligarchs exporting propaganda, exporting corruption, and exporting their efforts to try and destabilize the western world,” Suozzi said.
“The United States needs to send a message that this is not permissible,” Suozzi added.
Suozzi said that during the Cold War, the Soviets were pushing an ideology. But now the Russians are instead trying to undermine democracies, their greatest threat, to increase their influence and validate authoritarianism, Suozzi said.
“The Russian government is not necessarily trying to promote an ideology,” Suozzi said. “Putin and his team are making a lot of money — hundreds of billions of dollars — and they’re trying to export their influence to other places in the world and promote instability and discourage democracies.”
While the ongoing conversation about members of the Trump administration being involved with the Russians is important, Suozzi said that Russian corruption elsewhere in the world has been buried by the partisan politics.
“We need the American citizenry and we need my Republican colleagues, quite frankly, and we need the Democratic colleagues, everyone, to recognize that this is a serious threat to democracies in the world right now, and we need to take it seriously and address it,” Suozzi said.
He also noted that this bill would let Republicans say they’re “still tough on Russia” by focusing on Europe rather than the president.
“This is an opportunity for the Republicans to be tough on Russia, but not get mixed up with Trump,” Suozzi said.