- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Most Americans believe that Russia had placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year, while more than half support placing sanctions on Moscow in response, said a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

The poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday, comes in the wake of reports that U.S. intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence agents had offered the bounties to militants linked to the Taliban.

The New York Times reported President Trump was briefed on the matter and that the National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March. Mr. Trump has maintained that he was not previously briefed on the reports.

The latest poll found that 60% of Americans said they believe the reports to be “very” or “somewhat” credible, while 21% said they were not and 20% were unsure.

Nearly 40% of respondents said they believe Mr. Trump “did know” about Russia’s placement of bounties on U.S. soldiers prior to the reports last month, while 26% said Mr. Trump was unaware of the targets.

More than 80% of Americans said they see Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to the U.S. Just 35% of respondents said they back Mr. Trump’s handling of Russia, while 52% do not.

A majority of Americans — 54% — said the U.S. should impose sanctions on Russia in response for the bounties. In the poll, 9% backed military strikes as a response, while another 9% preferred a more diplomatic route.

Lawmakers in the U.S. have said that if the reports prove to be credible, it would warrant a forceful response.

Despite repeated assertions by Mr. Trump that the reports are a “hoax,” White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said last week that national security officials took the intelligence reports seriously enough at the time to prepare options for the president, although they decided not to present Mr. Trump with unverified intelligence.

The poll collected responses from 1,114 adults across the U.S. and holds a margin of error at 3 percentage points.

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