Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

British spies to help EU stop Russian meddling

  • The MI6 headquarters in London (Photo: Alex France)

Britain’s spy chief has promised to work with EU states to stop efforts to hack elections, amid multiplying concern on Russia’s “hybrid” attacks.

Alex Younger, who heads MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, said in a speech in London on Thursday (8 December) that one of his priorities was to counter “the increasingly dangerous phenomenon of hybrid warfare”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He did not name Russia directly, but he said that “hostile” states were trying to “further their aims” via “cyber-attacks, propaganda [and] subversion of democratic process”.

“Our job is to … shine a light on these activities and to help our country and our allies, in particular across Europe, build the resilience they need to protect themselves,” he said.

“The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty; they should be a concern to all those who share democratic values”, he added.

The term hybrid warfare is commonly used to refer to Russia’s mix of covert military action, economic, and information warfare, as showcased in its attack on Ukraine.

US intelligence chiefs in October publicly accused Russia of disrupting the American elections.

They said “Russia’s senior-most officials” had authorised the hacking and leaking of emails from the Democratic Party to help its rival, the Russia-friendly Donald Trump, who went on to win.

Adam Schiff, a Democratic senator on the intelligence committee, also said at the time: “We’re … encouraging the [US] administration to work with our European partners, who have been the subject of even worse meddling, to coordinate a response to this”.

The concerns have been echoed by German spy chiefs and by chancellor Angela Merkel, who will fight for re-election next year against the Russia-friendly SPD party and the anti-EU AfD party.

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency, said in a statement on Thursday that Russia’s "disinformation" campaign aimed to “weaken or destabilise the Federal Republic of Germany.”

He added: “We see aggressive and increased cyber spying and cyber operations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament and employees of democratic parties”.

Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign service, the BND, told Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, in November, that “cyber-attacks are taking place that have no purpose other than to elicit political uncertainty”.

“The perpetrators are interested in delegitimising the democratic process as such … We have indications that [the attacks] come from the Russian region”.

France and Italy

France will also hold elections next year, with the Kremlin-funded and anti-EU National Front party doing well in polls.

Italy just held a referendum that toppled its pro-EU leader, Matteo Renzi, and boosted the standing of the anti-EU and Russia-friendly 5 Star Movement Party.

La Stampa, an Italian newspaper, reported that Russia-based blogs and social media accounts has promulgated fake news designed to harm Renzi.

Laura Boldrini, the parliament speaker, said afterward that Italy had to “act now” to halt media attacks.

Massimo D’Alema, a former Communist Italian PM, mocked the Russia allegations, however.

“I don’t believe there is dark, organised centre, a group of hackers in the Kremlin trying to affect the Italian referendum … I think they could care less”, he said.

Augustus Henning, a former head of Germany’s BND spy service, has also doubted the extent of Russia’s influence in Europe.

“I don’t see that Czechia is really challenged by Russia, nor is Poland’s internal structure. I don’t think Russia is so strong in the West”, he recently told EUobserver.

“The problem for Russia is that they don’t offer a very attractive model of society or the economy”, he said.

Brexit and Trump

With the UK preparing to leave the EU, Younger, the MI6 chief, said on Thursday that Britain would uphold intelligence cooperation “with our European partners, France and Germany foremost amongst them”.

With Trump’s win in the US creating further uncertainty on Western unity, Younger added: “I’m often asked what effect the big political changes of 2016, Brexit and the US election result, will have on these relationships. My answer is that I will aim for, and expect, continuity”.

“These relationships are long lasting and the personal bonds between us are strong. The threats that we faced before these events have not gone away”, he said.

Opinion

No joke: Russian propaganda poses EU threat

With the French and German elections at risk of Kremlin interference, it's time for the EU to start treating Russian propaganda as a serious threat.

Interview

Russia 'not so strong' inside EU as feared

Germany’s former spy chief has said Russian propaganda was failing to make an impact in Europe and that Russian intelligence was weaker than imagined.

Poland: Russia seeks 'new empire' in Europe

Polish minister said Russian military “aggression” in Europe was a threat even to "lucky" states, such as Ireland, which are not on the front line.

EU close to face-saving deal on Ukraine

Dutch PM Rutte seeks solution to the No vote on EU-Ukraine treaty. Meanwhile, diplomats say there is a “consensus” on the roll-over of Russia sanctions.

Russia courts Serbia amid EU dispute

Serbian PM Vucic cut short a trip to Brussels, the same day as Russian foreign minister said the EU was pushing Balkan countries to "antagonise" Russia.

Macron puts trade policy on summit table

France's president wants a "political discussion" on EU trade policies at Thursday's summit, amid domestic concerns over Canada and South America deals. But his colleagues are likely to avoid a lengthy debate.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement