US-Council News

Donald Trump's US-Russia joint cyber unit may become a reality as Kremlin confirms 'talks underway'

Trump previously tweeted about creating a cybersecurity unit after talks with Putin but backtracked after receiving flak.

Donald Trump's tweet of creating a joint cybersecurity unit with Russia may become a reality. Russia is reportedly in talks with Washington to create a joint cyber unit. Kremlin special envoy on cybersecurity, Andrey Krutskikh, reportedly said that the Kremlin is engaged in discussions with the Trump administration over creating the cyber unit.

Russian news agency RIA cited Krutskikh as confirming that Moscow and Washington are discussing establishing a working joint cyber unit. "There is no need to raise the fuss around (US President Donald) Trump, the negotiations are going on ... Different proposals are being transmitted to each other, are being studied, no one is moving away from understanding the need for negotiations, contacts," Krutskikh said, RIA reported.

Last week, after a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, US president Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that the two discussed creating an "impenetrable cybersecurity unit" to prevent election hacking and other "negative things". However, Trump backtracked after receiving flak for the idea and later tweeted claiming that just because the discussion took place with Putin "doesn't mean I think it can happen".

Trump also tweeted that during his two-and-a-half hour meeting with Putin, he "strongly pressed" the Russian president "twice" about election meddling. Trump appeared to take Putin's word, adding in his tweet the Russian leader "vehemently denied" the allegations.

However, US and European intelligence and security officials told Reuters that they were not involved in the talks. The discussions were allegedly limited to mid-level political officials. One unspecified official said that a cooperative effort between the US and Russia over cybersecurity was a "pipe dream".

Trump's top counterterrorism official Thomas Bossert, reportedly told reporters last weekend on the Air Force One flight back to US that it would be premature to suggest that Russia and US had reached a "partnership" about a cyber unit.

"A partnership suggests that you've reached a place where you believe that you have a trusted relationship and you've come to some common agreement on ideals and goals and behaviors," Bossert said, Reuters reported. "I don't believe that the United States and Russia have come to that point yet in cyberspace. And until we do, we wouldn't have the conversation about partnership. But we had to have a dialogue, and that's where we'll start."

Meanwhile, the head of the US State Department's head of international engagement on cybersecurity Chris Painter, is reportedly stepping down from his post at the end of July, which will leave yet another administrative position vacant.