06:34 GMT29 March 2020
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    President of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) Bruno Kahl suggested that Russia could meddle in the country's upcoming elections, although Moscow has always maintained that it does not engage in such activities. In an interview with Radio Sputnik, political analyst Pavel Svyatenkov dismissed these unfounded claims as disinformation.

    It has become customary to invoke the supposed threat emanating from Russia in the West and Germany is no exception, he said.

    Germans "have also resorted to this social tactic, speaking not only about 'scary Russian hackers,' but also soldiers. German intelligence services have not merely tried to spread misleading information through media, but have adopted a more fundamental approach. They have used more or less rational grounds [to criticize Russia], but have failed to take one aspect into account. All Russian activities in Kaliningrad and Crimea have been undertaken in response to NATO's eastward expansion," the analyst explained.

    These comments came after Kahl told Der Spiegel that the Russian leadership could try to influence the outcome of the German elections because Moscow wants Berlin to lift anti-Russian sanctions. He also asserted that "the Russian threat has become greater," adding that the BND is "taking it extremely seriously."

    "It isn't just the propaganda threat. Conventional issues are likewise returning to the agenda," he elaborated. "Russia has doubled its forces on its western border – and we aren't just talking about Iskander missiles. There are also a lot of missiles in the Crimea region. And conventional armed forces. You can't interpret all that as being part of a defensive stance against the West. It also must be seen as a potential threat."

    High-ranking Russian officials have always said that any deployments along the country's western border are purely defensive and come as a response to NATO's unprecedented military buildup in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region.

    Svyatenkov also suggested that German intelligence services could be trying to use the non-existent threat from Russia to convince the government and the people to boost the military budget.

    "This could be used to convince Germans to support increased military spending, something the United States has strongly advocated," he said. "In addition, Germany has always been Russia's geopolitical rival."

    The Trump administration has been critical of the NATO members who spend less than the required 2 percent of GDP on defense. In 2015, only five countries, comprising the United States, the UK, Poland, Estonia and Greece, met the threshold.

    This issue had been on the agenda of the first meeting between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    On March 17, Trump described the current spending imbalance as "very unfair" to the United States, but added that he thanked Merkel for her government's "commitment to increase defense spending and work toward contributing at least 2 percent of GDP."  Last year, Germany allocated 1.2 percent of GDP on defense.

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    defense spending, military buildup, "Russian threat", NATO, German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, Germany, Russia
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