Speculation that Russia could influence elections in a foreign country is spreading across the Atlantic, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel claiming that Moscow could try to impact Germany’s general elections next year through cyberattacks.
Accusations of Russian involvement in the US presidential race began to surface this summer after Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails were published by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016.
Since then, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s allegations that Moscow engaged in hacking to damage her bid for the White House have become a major issue in the ongoing US election campaign.
While offering no proof, the Democrats accused the Kremlin of hacking into their computer networks and publishing sensitive information in order to swing the election in favor of Clinton’s GOP rival Donald Trump. In particular, Clinton claimed that Russia had supplied the whistleblower website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the account of her campaign chair, John Podesta.
WikiLeaks has so far refused to reveal its source of the leaks, but a hacker named Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the attack. Russia for its part has repeatedly denied the accusations, asserting that it has no interest in influencing the US election or any other country’s political choice.
Yet on Tuesday, just before the Americans went out to vote, German Chancellor Angela Merkel who faces massive discontent at home over her “open door” migrant policy, said that Moscow might “also” try to influence the German election. Answering a question about whether Germany could experience similar cyberattacks to those which have been reported in the US, Merkel, without a shred of evidence, alleged that Russia’s interference could be a possibility.
“We already know that we have to deal with reports from Russia or also with cyberattacks from Russian sources or even with the reports from which we are confronted to some extent with false information,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “To deal with this is our daily task and therefore it … will also play a role in the elections.”
Merkel, who still hasn’t declared her candidacy for the September 2017 elections is widely expected to run for a fourth consecutive term despite growing opposition to her policies.
In September Merkel and her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) were trounced in regional elections, particularly her home state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. There Merkel’s CDU finished in third place behind the second-place anti-immigration and anti-EU Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) Party.
To divert the public’s attention from her party’s shortcomings and failed policies, Merkel is trying to adopt the tactics used by the Democrats in the US and create an existential threat in form of Russia, former German intelligence officer, Rainer Rupp told RT.
Merkel’s statement on Tuesday ahead of the US election is a “reflection of her insecurity,” Rupp says. “It is a reflection the way her party is dealing [with the loss] in regional elections.”
“They [CDU] are in the free fall. So from that point of view it is much easier to blame it on the Russians. They are the bad guys anyways,” the expert added.
In spring this year, Hans-George Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, warned that German government, business, and educational facilities were under “permanent threat” from Russian cyberattacks.
Without offering any proof to his claims, the head of the BfV stated that cyberspace is a place for “hybrid warfare,” a platform “espionage and sabotage” operations by Russia.
“The campaigns being monitored by the BfV are generally about obtaining information, that is spying,” he said. “However, Russian secret services have also shown a readiness to carry out sabotage.”
Maassen comments which he made in May follow a series of allegations of Russian hackers involvement in cyberattacks on German state institutions and political parties. German authorities have pinned the blame for lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, cyberattack on Russia. Germany also believes that Russian hackers were behind cyberattacks on the headquarters of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.
These “cyberattacks carried out by Russian secret services are part of multi-year international operations that are aimed at obtaining strategic information,” Maassen said without offering any evidence to the claims. “Some of these operations can be traced back as far as seven to 11 years.”