Allegations that the Russian government launched an organized campaign to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election have unsettled Europe. With national elections approaching in Germany in September, policymakers in Berlin are concerned that Europe’s largest economy could be the next target. “We of course have to assume that in the German campaign there will be attempts to influence the outcome of the federal elections,” said Daniela Schwarzer, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent podium discussion on cyber security. The discussion, which took place during the Munich Security Conference, was attended by interior and defense ministers from a host of nations. They listened as security experts Klaus Schweinsberg and Marco Gercke ran simulations in which a fictional European nation faces a cyber attack aimed at its elections.
In the first scenario, social networks are flooded with fake news; in the second scenario, the government doesn’t know if its networks have been infiltrated or not. “It always comes down to whether or not those in positions of power have grappled with how to react immediately in a crisis situation,” Mr. Gercke said.
That was the problem in the United States, the experts concluded, with the U.S. government simply unprepared to ward off a concerted effort by a foreign power to influence its elections.
U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed “with high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to undermine former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and help U.S. President Donald Trump win the election.