GOP Sen. Roy Blunt says the US should 'treat Russia like it's virtually a criminal enterprise' amid cyberattacks

  • GOP Sen. Roy Blunt on Sunday said the US should treat Russia as a “criminal enterprise.” 
  • “They harbor criminals, they don’t appreciate the rule of law or any kind of level of personal freedom,” he said.
  • His comments follow recent cyberattacks in the US.
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Sen. Roy Blunt said Sunday that the United States should treat Russia as a “criminal enterprise” following recent cyberattacks in the US.

Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, made the comments during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” when asked by moderator Chuck Todd about how the US should respond to Russian aggression.

“Remember, 2016, as late as early 2017, we had cyber defense capabilities, but we didn’t have the authority — the president had never given the authority — for cyber offense,” he said. “And so when we did push back, we pushed back pretty hard. In 2018, it stopped.

“I think to some extent, Chuck, you really have to treat Russia like it’s virtually a criminal enterprise,” Blunt, who earlier this year announced his intent to retire from the Senate at the end of his term, added. “You know, they harbor criminals, they, they don’t appreciate the rule of law or any kind of level of personal freedom. And I do think we have to push back. When there’s no, no penalty, there’s no sanctions — hard to find who’s doing it.” 

The White House last week said it believed that Russian criminals were likely responsible for a cyberattack on the world’s largest meat producer, JBS. 

The Russian government has denied being linked to recent cyberattacks in the US, including the May attack on Colonial Pipeline by ransom group DarkSide, which caused gasoline shortages and price hikes on the East Coast.  

Hackers also infiltrated New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority in April, The New York Times first reported, though the group behind the hack reportedly has links to the Chinese government. The hackers did little damage and did not access train controls, according to MTA officials.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, also a Republican, on Sunday made similar remarks about Russia and the recent attacks on the US cyberinfrastructure.

“Our critical infrastructure is very exposed and we need to harden it but more than anything else, we need to go on offense. You can only play defense so long,” Graham said during an appearance on “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren.”

“It’s time for the Russians to pay a price here because none of this would happen without their looking the other way or actively encouraging it,” he continued. 

Biden will take his first foreign trip as US president this month, where he will meet with world leaders from across the globe, including a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency was investigating 100 different types of ransomware and said many of them linked back to Russia.

“If the Russian government wants to show that it’s serious about this issue, there’s a lot of room for them to demonstrate some real progress that we’re not seeing right now,” Wray told the Wall Street Journal.

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