Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN Español Wednesday that Russia has an obligation to stop cyberattacks like those on the JBS meatpacking plant and the Colonial Pipeline and not “harbor criminal enterprises that engage in these attacks.”
In an exclusive interview, Blinken also touched on the challenge of irregular migration, Israeli elections, and said that President Joe Biden could announce a global vaccine distribution plan as early as Thursday.
Asked if he had spoken to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the latest ransomware attack on JBS, which has meat production plants around the country, Blinken said he had not been in touch with his Russian counterpart since they met May 19. At that meeting, both foreign ministers said their countries would respond to any aggressive action from the other.
On Wednesday, Blinken called on Russian leaders to control the criminal enterprises working within their borders.
“We are seeing, unfortunately, a new front in in cyber threats, and that is criminal organizations using what’s called ransomware to hold hostage companies, to hold hostage critical infrastructure for financial gain,” Blinken said. He noted that the criminal groups were often connected simply by virtue of being based in the same place.
‘An obligation on Russia’s part’
“I think it’s the obligation of any country to do whatever it can to find these enterprises, and to bring them to justice, including in the case of the attack on the Colonial Pipeline. The enterprise that was responsible [for] that attack, its leaders were in Russia, are in Russia, so I think there’s an obligation on Russia’s part to make sure that that doesn’t continue,” Blinken said.
He added that while the US and other countries need to fortify their defenses, the international community needs “countries around the world to make commitments and then make good on those commitments, not to harbor criminal enterprises that engage in these attacks and on the contrary to seek them out and to stop them.”
Both the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which triggered gas shortages along the eastern US in May, and the ransomware assault on JBS have been attributed to groups affiliated with Russia.
The JBS hack, which the White House described Tuesday as ransomware deployed by Russia-based criminals, affected all of company’s US meatpacking facilities, according to an official at the United Food and Commercial Workers union that represents JBS employees. The cyberattack resulted in the closure of plants in Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the union official said.
In a statement Wednesday, the FBI attributed the attack “to REvil and Sodinokibi and are working diligently to bring the threat actors to justice. We continue to focus our efforts on imposing risk and consequences and holding the responsible cyber actors accountable.”
Blinken arrived in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose Tuesday for meetings with counterparts from Central America and Mexico. According to readouts, Blinken discussed migration, anti-corruption, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change with the leaders. His trip comes ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the region.
Blinken also said that Biden will soon announce a plan to make 80 million doses of Covid vaccine available in the region and around the world, after being asked about the large advantage that Russia and China have built in the region through their vaccine diplomacy.
The President has finalized his plan to distribute the millions of coronavirus vaccines worldwide after months of deliberation, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans.
This week, officials will detail which specific countries are getting vaccines while cautioning that this is expected to be a lengthy, complicated process, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
Touting the US contribution of $2 billion to the World Health Organization vaccination effort, COVAX, and another $2 billion pledge to be given between now and the end of 2022, Blinken said the US will distribute the doses without strings attached.
“We will begin to make available around the world, including in the hemisphere, 80 million vaccines that we now have access to that, we will, as I said, begin to make available,” Blinken told CNNE.
“But here’s what’s important: We’ll distribute those vaccines working in coordination with COVAX, doing some of the work directly ourselves, we’ll do it on the basis of equity. We’ll do it on the basis of science, of need, and we will do it without political strings attached, which has not been the case, or some other countries that have been engaged in providing vaccines.”
CNN’s Brian Fung and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report