In recent weeks, officials inside Germany’s security agencies have been fondly circulating an article from the website of Foreign Policy magazine that was published on Aug. 3 with the headline, “Russian Hackers Can’t Beat German Democracy.” The article speculates about what Russia could do to disrupt the German federal election, which takes place on Sept. 24, and argues that the Russians will certainly attempt to interfere. Notably, though, the magazine concludes that the Kremlin is unlikely to succeed. Germany, the article argues, is excellently prepared for dealing with any attack because politicians and voters alike have been sensitized to the threat — and because the country’s media system provides a protective shield against disinformation campaigns.
Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is responsible for counterintelligence, has been vocal in warning against Russian threats, but he recently told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that it is doubtful that a disinformation campaign directed at Germany would “fit with the Kremlin’s current political agenda.” After months of incessant warnings that Moscow might try to conduct an influence campaign in Germany, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper even reported last week of a “cautious all-clear.” Sources inside Germany’s security agencies told the newspaper they “no longer consider it likely that there would be any attempts at sabotage.”
But it seems premature for complacency. A new, little-discussed scenario has recently come into focus — one which envisions certain people attempting to sow doubt about the election results. Similar to other concerns regarding election tampering, the U.S. presidential elections provide insight into this scenario as well. Following Donald Trump’s surprising victory, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s objections reinforced people’s already considerable doubts about the election results.