Russia may have delayed announcing its withdrawal from a key Ukrainian city to avoid giving the Biden administration a political boost before the midterm elections, according to U.S. intelligence findings.
According to four sources with knowledge of the intelligence told CNN that senior Russian officials discussed the U.S. elections as a factor during their discussions about announcing the withdrawal from Kherson, and a second source said the midterms were always a "pre-planned condition" of the withdrawal.
“I find it interesting they waited until after the election to make that judgement, which we knew for some time they were going to be doing, and it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems – the Russian military,” Biden said last Wednesday at a press conference, hinting at U.S. suspicions.
Military analysts say Russia had been preparing to pull back for weeks in the face of dwindling options there, and U.S. officials had been wondering when they would officially acknowledge the withdrawal.
Although intelligence sources believe the announcement's timing shows Russia's continued interest in influencing U.S. politics, they doubt whether American voters would have been influenced by developments in the Ukraine war.
“For all our hoopla about their information operations and political meddling, they’re still not that great at it in the grand scheme,” said a source familiar with western intelligence. “There is some really fundamental cultural misunderstanding there.”
However, now that the elections are over, Biden has said he hopes Russia would be more willing to negotiate the release of U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.