Worries about Russian meddling in the U.S. election in November are not isolated, as European nations are now displaying alarm that Russia is interfering in upcoming elections in Germany as well as attempting to subvert democracy in places like Britain, according to Reuters and The Telegraph. Warnings from both German and British intelligence agencies put Russia squarely at the helm of disinformation campaigns, fake news, and hacking that targets democratic processes like elections with the aim of swaying the outcome in a way that is favorable for Russia’s interests.
Reuters reports that intelligence officials in Germany, France, and Britain are alarmed at how the attacks have increased in recent weeks. Many are outright calling Russia’s tactics “psychological warfare,” including Estonia’s Foreign Minister and the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. The latter went so far as to say that the attacks pose a “fundamental threat to British sovereignty,” according to The Telegraph.
Germany’s BfV agency has reported “growing evidence” that Russia is attempting to influence the outcome of next year’s German federal election, according to Yahoo! News. The agency cites “cyberespionage” against political parties and lawmakers in the country. They say the aim of these cyber-attacks is to manipulate the media in Germany in order to stir up anger in citizens over issues such as the refugee and migrant crisis, create dissent within the European Union in order to loosen sanctions against Russia, and to undermine voter trust in the political system, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Russia has blatantly denied such accusations, says Yahoo! News. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said in November that Russia expects its own share of cyber-attacks during elections from Germany and “other European countries,” insinuating that the hacking tactics to influence voters is mutually used.
Russia has also downright denied any involvement in the hacking that took place during U.S. elections, including the hacking and release of Democratic National Committee emails. President Obama has even recently ordered a review of the cyber-attacks that took place during election season in the U.S., to be carried out by intelligence agencies.
Britain’s MI6 head, Alex Younger, said in a recent speech that world connectivity and globalization can be “exploited by states with hostile intent,” according to The Telegraph. He went on to say that the risks involved with this interference are high, and that they should absolutely concern anyone with democratic values. He additionally called the interference of Russia in Syria, as well as the Russian government’s choice to back Assad, a “human tragedy.”
Another worry for officials concerning Russian cyber-attacks is that social media’s increasing popularity only means that people will be more vulnerable to disinformation and propaganda. An example of Russia’s attempts to influence public opinion in Germany in a less insidious, yet equally alarming, way is the presence of Russian-controlled news and media outlets, as well as pro-Russia blogs, which regularly report on crimes committed by German migrants. They blame the incidents on the German Chancellor’s move to allow hundreds of thousands of them into the country.