November 30, 2016
Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
The German media are full of stories of a major cyberattack on the network of Deutsche Telekom, which managed to cut 900,000 customers off from the internet. The German government and the federal police believe this is just the beginning of a concerted series of cyber attacks. Angela Merkel herself is getting nervous as she suspects Russia as a potential source of this threat. She said Germany would have to get used to this kind of hybrid conflict - as the Russians call it - and said that the Federal Office for IT Security will do everything to identify the sources of the latest attacks. Germany's interior minister Lothar de Maizere said the attacks were intended to hijack Telekom routers and to use them for further attacks. The latter objective seems to have failed, but this is not verified information. With further reference to Russia he said the borderline between the criminal activity within a state, and criminal activity by a state, is hard to draw. He also said there were some indications that the source of this attack was Russian.
The fear behind this incident is that Russia might seriously disrupt next year's German elections as Vladimir Putin would presumably like to see the back of Merkel. We are generally careful about the significance of such operations and their political impact. Donald Trump didn't win because of Putin. Nor does Russia have anything to do with the UK's decision to leave the EU.
Corriere della Sera notes that the only thing the European centre-left likes about Trump is his cosy embrace of Putin. Italy's foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, noted a more open approach towards Russia. He said he was not worried by this development, but happy. The paper notes that Gentiloni's views were aligned with those of Germany's pro-Russian foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The article discusses the impact on Europe of the precise relationship Trump will forge with Russia. If Trump tells Putin that the US is no longer interested in interfering in Russia's wider backyard, then this could seriously destabilise Europe and increase Russia's influence. In the context of the cyber attacks in Germany, it is not hard to see that relations with Russia could turn into one of the main political themes in Europe. The articles notes that Matteo Renzi is also getting more hostile to any suggestion of using Russian attacks on Aleppo as a reason in favour of sanctions, while in France the two leading presidential candidates are also both more pro-Russian.