Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops refers to United States intelligence findings that Russian military intelligence agency offered bounties on U.S. troops to Taliban-linked soldiers in Afghanistan. Russia has denied the allegations. According to reports, U.S. intelligence briefed President Donald Trump on the bounties in 2019. Some criticized the White House for a lack of action on the matter. Three U.S. soldiers’ deaths have been linked to the bounties.
On June 26th, 2020, the New York Times reported that the Russian intelligence community had offered Taliban militants bounties on U.S. Troops. They wrote:
American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
White House Briefings
On June 30th, the Associated Press reported that officials briefed the White House, including President Trump on the matter in 2019. They write:
Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
The New York Times also reported that the White House received a written briefing on the situation in February 2020, linking the bounties to an April 2019 car bombing that killed three U.S. Marines. One of the officials told the Times that the report was included in the President’s daily briefing on February 27th, 2020.
White House Response
President Trump has denied knowing about the report and, according to the Times, attempted to play down the intelligence assessment.” They also claim that “Trump was never briefed about the matter and portraying the conclusion as disputed and dubious.”
On June 27th, 2020, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence tweeted a statement by Director Jon Ratcliffe tweeted a statement denying that “neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times.” The first tweet in a series of two received more than 44,000 likes and 23,000 retweets in less than three days (shown below). The statement goes on to describe news reports on the allegations “inaccurate.”
The news of the alleged bounties were the subject of conversation on numerous subreddits, including /r/news, /r/politics, /r/worldnews and more. Many of these threads received more than 20,000 points.
People also discussed the controversy on Twitter. Some of Trump’s supporters described the reports as a hoax, claiming that there is no evidence for the allegations, despite the reports.Twitter user @Lrihendry tweeted, “There is absolutely no evidence that Russian spies have been offering bounties for US troops in Afghanistan. Just another HOAX!” The tweet received more than 1,300 likes and 620 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below).
On June 30th, Twitter user @JoyceWhiteVance tweeted, “If Trump will lie about being briefed on Russia’s murder-for-hire scheme against American troops, lie that he didn’t know about it when he said he wanted Russia back in the G-7, what won’t he lie about? What else has he lied to you about?” The post received more than 8,100 likes and 2,800 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Either he knew and chose to do nothing, or he didn’t know because he couldn’t be bothered to do his job.” The tweet received more than 24,000 likes and 7,500 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, center).
Reporter Kyle Griffin wrote, “The mother of a Marine killed last year in Afghanistan wants an investigation of reports that her son and two other Marines may have been the targets of Taliban-linked fighters who collected a bounty on US soldiers offered by a Russian military intel unit.” The tweet received more than 21,000 likes and 9,200 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, right).