German domestic security agency chief Hans-George Maassen issued a stern warning earlier this week that Moscow may try to interfere in the elections next fall.might carry out cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure for some reason, did not dispute the spy chief's claim, instead pointing to similar claims that Russian intelligence had secretly tried to manipulate the recent presidential election in the US.
Berliner Morgenpost's article on Maassen's warning even featured a big color photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by the caption "Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of influencing election campaigns in Western countries through targeted disinformation and even hacking attacks."
The newspaper worriedly explained that "even during the US presidential campaign, the US government accused Moscow, in mid-October, of hacking into the email account of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. The release of these emails was meant to persuade American voters to vote for Donald Trump. At the time, US Vice President Joe Biden even threatened that the US would retaliate against Russia."
Talking about a 'hybrid Russian threat' "which seeks to influence public opinion and decision-making processes," Maassen said that Germany must work to 'publically expose' such efforts. "When people realize that the information that they are getting is not true…then the toxic lies lose their effectiveness."
Reuters, which conducted the interview with the German domestic spy chief, prefaced their story with a commentary recalling that German officials have already accused Russia of trying to manipulate the media "to fan popular angst over issues like the migrant crisis, weaken voter trust in moderate mainstream government under Chancellor Angela Merkel and breed divisions within the European Union so as to drop sanctions against Moscow."
Chancellor Merkel herself said recently that she could not rule out Russian meddling in elections next year, the news agency noted. Furthermore, authorities have also said that Moscow may try to use the media to influence Germany's estimated five million Russian-speaking citizens.
In any case, "I can say one thing for sure," Debrer noted. "Dear Germans, do not even think it. Putin is not going to choose your next chancellor. He is up to his ears in work of his own to do at home!"