Sunday July 23, 2017

How Russian interference in the German election could destabilize Europe

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival for the first day of the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival for the first day of the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

Listen 25:46

Say you're a hostile foreign power and you want to disrupt an enemy government. Or you'd like to cause a country to lose confidence in its democracy. Or you are determined to sow discord in a powerful alliance that opposes your policy goals.

You would be well advised to keep your intercontinental ballistic missiles in their silos, and instead, launch a massive cyber offensive of disinformation, hacking and denials of service.

So long, Cold War. Hello, cyber war.

These days, every news headline seems to feature an endless "drip, drip" of details about yet another secret meeting between Russians and Trump campaign officials. We are receiving a real-life primer on how Russian cyber operatives disrupted the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Obama White House was so concerned about a possible election-day cyber attack, that they planned a counter-response that would have involved sending armed federal law enforcement agents to polling places, and mobilizing parts of the military. 

CYBER-ATTACK/

A hooded man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

As countries in Europe have been preparing for elections this year, they have also been putting measures in place to protect themselves from attempts to interfere in their democratic process. 

The question of Russian influence hung over the recent presidential election in France. Many countries — particularly those in Eastern Europe — have been on guard against cyber attacks on their democratic processes for years. And now, Russian interference is a significant concern in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel will be seeking re-election this September. 

Constanze Stelzenmüller studies Germany and European foreign policy, and security at the Brookings Institution. 
She recently testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, about the potential impact of Russian interference on the German election. 

Belgium NATO Cyber Defense

A computer expert operates at the NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) technical centre, at NATO's military headquarters in Belgium. (Yves Logghe/The Associated Press)

She spoke with guest host Nahlah Ayed about how Russian election tampering works, and why the upcoming German election is such an important target for a Russia intent on destabilizing Europe. 

Click 'listen' to hear the interview.