Sen. Angus King said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to lash out with cyberattacks aimed at the United States and other countries as his frustration builds over Ukrainian resistance to his invasion and the near universal condemnation of his actions.

Sen. Angus King Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

“We have to be more and more concerned about and prepared for a cyberattack, which means individual people at their desktops in small and large businesses in the U.S. need to be really careful,” King told Maine reporters during a virtual news conference Thursday.

As co-chair of Congress’ Cyberspace Solarium Commission, King has been a leading voice about the need to prepare for cyberattacks, including from Russia.

“Right now, Vladimir Putin is the most dangerous single individual in world history,” King said. “He has nuclear weapons. He has this dream of reuniting Russia and creating a greater Russia. He’s paranoid about the West.”

“Hitler’s ambitions didn’t stop at the Sudetenland, nor do Putin’s,” he said, referring to the German dictator’s first annexation of foreign territory, a portion of Czechoslovakia with a large German ethnic minority. “If somebody tells you who they are, you should believe them. Vladimir Putin for many years has been talking about rebuilding the Soviet Union’s empire.”

King did not cite any specific intelligence reports about planned Russian cyberattacks during the news conference, but his warnings echo those of other experts. And some potential targets are preparing.


Reuters reports that global banks have been increasing monitoring of their networks for cyberattack threats and lining up extra staff to stand by in case of a ransomware, malware, data theft and other types of attacks.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is advising “all organizations – regardless of size – adopt a heightened posture when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting their most critical assets.”

CISA recommends individuals adopt multifactor authentication for all of their email, social media, online shopping and online bank accounts. “A password isn’t enough to keep you safe online,” it advises, suggesting a second layer like text and email confirmation or fingerprint ID. It also advises people to update the applications and operating software on their computers and mobile devices, including web browsers, and to be wary of emails that trick people into clicking links that load malware, disable their systems, or trick people into revealing their passwords and other critical information.


King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said Putin has grossly miscalculated how people in Ukraine and around the world would react to his unprovoked assault on his southwestern neighbor and is now in an unwinnable situation. He has the power to carpet bomb Ukraine but would find it impossible to hold the country of 40 million in the long term.

“The most likely scenario that I see is that they will be an occupying force and will eventually be just worn down by an insurgency in Ukraine,” he said. “It’s very hard to hold territory in a foreign country when you are unwelcome.”


“Hopefully, he is going to see that this is folly and it is not going to succeed and in the end that there will be an off ramp” for him to end the conflict, he added.

King said calls for the U.S. and its allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine are misguided because enforcing such a policy would require shooting down Russian aircraft, a move that could escalate into a direct conflict between the world’s nuclear superpowers. “I don’t think that’s a practical or safe alternative,” he told reporters in the virtual call from Washington.

King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he had seen no intelligence bearing on Putin’s mental state, a subject of speculation among international-relations and security experts concerned about his apparently irrational and unprovoked invasion, which has shaken the post-Cold War international order and made his country an international pariah almost overnight.

King also said he was supporting a Senate resolution to ban U.S. imports of Russian oil and natural gas, a move he said would have some effect on prices paid by consumers.

Russian oil accounted for about 3 percent of all crude petroleum shipments imported into the U.S. last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.



Reached by telephone from the Capitol, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said she also supported an oil and gas import ban. “We are trying to figure out every possible sanction that would hurt Russia, their economy and their banks and people are digging into how to get to the oligarchs around Putin, the idea that we would seize their homes and yachts. We’re going at it at every level,” Pingree said.

Pingree said the U.S. House had been experiencing a rare moment of bipartisan unity.

“Putin’s evil and he’s dangerous and I think there is very broad agreement on that,” she said. “There are a few holdouts who are speaking under their breath about whatever admiration they had for Putin and his dictator ways. But it’s been right to the top in terms of bipartisan agreement.”

Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, sent a written statement saying he supported a ban on all Russian imports to cut off funding for Putin’s military operations; increased sanctions on Russian banks; and a boost in domestic oil production to help protect American consumers from price increases.

“I look forward to supporting additional resources for Ukraine in the days ahead once we have an agreement on an assistance package with the Senate,” Golden wrote. “As part of this aid package, Congress should also consider providing resources to protect civilian lives in Ukraine, such as the Iron Dome system,” referring to the Israeli air defense system designed to shoot down incoming artillery shells and short-range missiles.

Maine’s senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, also has been taking a tough line on Putin’s invasion.

“Putin’s attempts to re-create the old Soviet Union have been rejected by people who have chosen freedom and democracy,” she said in a statement released on Feb. 24. “So now he has resorted to brute military force against a peaceful country that posed no threat to Russia. He has once again shown himself to be a ruthless autocrat who does not hesitate to kill innocent people while trampling international law.”

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