“The German political establishment and intelligence agencies are all but certain that Russia will try to influence the elections that will be called in 2017. There are a few reasons, though, why Germany has a greater resistance to the methods the Kremlin is alleged to have used in the U.S. Germany would require a different approach.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was the most active proponent of sanctions against Russia after its aggression in Ukraine, giving President Vladimir Putin a score to settle. Throughout Europe, Russia has backed nationalist and populist parties that aim to weaken the European Union. In Germany, the far-right, Euroskeptic party AfD, or Alternative for Germany, could use help fighting establishment political forces. So Merkel has reason to worry.
In a speech to Parliament last month, Merkel talked about the changed media landscape. “Fake pages, bots, trolls can distort views,” she said. “Today, self-regenerating opinions can reinforce themselves through certain algorithms. We must learn to deal with this.” Merkel’s warning didn’t mention Russia, but last week, a communication from Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service, left no doubt about where he believed the threat lay.
Maassen wrote of the likelihood of a Russian disinformation campaign to “introduce insecurity to German society, weaken and destabilize the Federal Republic.” He also warned of cyberattacks by a group known as Advanced Persistent Threat 28, or Fancy Bear — a hacking team accused of breaking into the U.S. Democratic National Committee. Maassen said spear-phishing activity aimed at parties and parliamentary factions has been on the rise and will probably increase as the election draws closer.”