Outgoing US President Barack Obama warned European NATO allies yesterday (8 January) of an “accelerating” threat of Russian interference in their elections.
Last week, a US intelligence report said Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a campaign, including cyber attacks, to hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s bid and boost Donald Trump.
Under fire for the timing of the report, which appeared to question the legitimacy of Trump’s election, Obama defended his decision to order the investigation and said he underestimated the impact hacking can have on democracies.
“Part of the reason that I ordered this report was not simply to relitigate what happened over the last several months, but rather to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe. Initially, in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers but increasingly in western democracies…” Obama said in a televised interview.
“There are going to be elections coming up among our NATO allies that we have to pay attention to”, the president said. “I anticipate that this kind of thing can happen again here. And so in addition to the report assessing what exactly happened, what we have also done is to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence teams are working with the various folks who run our elections.”
General elections will be held in the Netherlands on 15 March to elect the 150 members of the House of Representatives. Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders has vowed to press ahead with his hoped-for referendum to leave the EU.
Presidential elections will take place in France in April-May, in which the candidate of the National Front, Marine Le Pen is expected to make it for the second round. The populist party is believed to have received significant financing from Russia.
This autumn, Germany will hold federal elections. Although the chances for Angela Merkel to win a fourth mandate are significant, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency reported a striking increase in Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilising German society, and targeted cyber-attacks against political parties.
Russia is said to favor the populist, anti-Islamic Alternative für Deutschland party, and reports have surfaced about its growing relations with Moscow. In line with Marine Le Pen, the AfD has pushed for a more friendly relationship with Russia, adopting, at times adopting a more strident anti-American tone.
Donald Trump accepts US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia was behind cyber attacks affecting the US presidential election, his incoming chief of staff said yesterday. This marks a step back from previous dismissals by Trump of Russian interference, and comes after pressure from fellow Republicans who want the president-elect to punish the Kremlin.