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NATO ALARMED BY RUSSIAN HYBRID WARFARE THREAT AGAINST ALLIED SECURITY AND TEEN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT ON SPD CANDIDATE, LKA INVESTIGATES

May 2-8, 2024 | Issue 18 - EUCOM

Mario López Ausín, Anya Golend-Pratt, Jayde Dorland, Sofia Lopez Simpson

Anya Golend-Pratt, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor


NATO Members Flags[1]


Date: May 2, 2024

Location: Europe

Parties involved: NATO; NATO member states; Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia)Germany; Poland; UK; Czech Republic; Ukraine; EU; EU member states; EU member states military; EU-NATO Task Force on Resilience of Critical Infrastructure; EU governments; EU electoral candidates; USA; Russia

The eventNATO expressed its concern following ongoing Russian hybrid warfare activities against some member nations, including Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, the UK, and the Czech Republic, claiming that such actions threaten Allied security. Recent hybrid activities include violent acts, sabotage, cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, and electronic interference, resulting in the investigation of hostile actors and subsequent criminal charges. NATO declared its solidarity with member nations, highlighting that Russian activities will not deter NATO members from maintaining Ukrainian support. NATO announced its plans to coordinate with member states to address each case individually and strengthen response capabilities to bolster resilience and their ability to deter and defend against hybrid threats and attacks.[2] The EU’s Strategic Compass strategy offers the guidelines for the development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and was approved in 2022.[3] 

Analysis & Implications:

  • The EU and NATO will almost certainly continue their cooperation to deter and combat Russian hybrid threats in European territory through frameworks such as the EU-NATO Task Force on Resilience of Critical Infrastructure. The EU’s Strategic Compass’ improved capabilities against hybrid threats such as cyberattacks, foreign influence, and propaganda will very likely favor NATO's strategic warning about Russian activity in the region. EU member states will unlikely enforce the mutual defense clause of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) and enable a joint military response to the Russian threat, almost certainly preferring the US assistance provided by the NATO framework.

  • Russia will very likely increase hybrid attacks following NATO’s declaration, likely aiming to extend its European influence and test NATO’s defense systems. Russian agents will almost certainly continue disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks attempting to disrupt pro-EU governments and increase pro-Russian sentiment in the build-up to the EU elections, very likely targeting online voting sites and candidates' campaigning advertisements and social media to interfere with election processes. There is a roughly even chance that Russia will escalate hybrid warfare in the Baltic states, likely covertly attacking critical underwater energy and telecommunications infrastructures to disrupt alliance security and identify where it can exert its influence in the area.

  • NATO, member states, and the EU will almost certainly compile their investigation's findings into Russian-backed hybrid attacks to strengthen their preparedness and future defensive actions. Analysis of hybrid attack methods will very likely identify member states’ vulnerabilities, including cyber defense capabilities, political susceptibility to exploitation, and other avenues for potential sabotage. There is a roughly even chance their evaluations will uncover unanticipated intelligence and security gaps, very likely enabling NATO members to develop existing security policies and legislation to encompass new attack methods. Updating existing cyber, information warfare, and physical defense capabilities will almost certainly increase member states' proactive approach to hybrid warfare, very likely strengthening their planning and protections for future attacks by external threats.


Date: May 5, 2024

Location: Dresden, Germany

Parties involved: Germany; German government; German citizens; German voters; German center-left political party Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD); SPD member of European Parliament (MEP) Matthias Ecke; unnamed attack victims of the left-wing Alliance 90/The Greens party; German right-wing populist political party Alternative for Germany (AfD); German center-left and left-wing EU candidates; German Federal Police (BPOL); Dresden police; Saxony State Criminal Police Office (LKA) Violent Crimes Task Force; German public prosecutor's office; German media outlets; unnamed 17-year-old attacker; 3 teenager suspects; EU

The event: A 17-year-old turned himself in to Dresden police, claiming responsibility for the assault on the SPD's lead candidate in Saxony, Ecke, who required surgery after being attacked when putting up EU election posters. The LKA’s Violent Crimes Task Force has assumed control of the investigation.[4] Police inquiries are underway regarding the involvement of three other teenage suspects in the attacks on Ecke and two Green party members. According to the public prosecutor's office, at least one from the group has ties to extremist far-right groups.[5]

Analysis & Implications: 

  • There is a roughly even chance of further far-right attacks occurring against center-left and left-wing EU parliamentary candidates in German regions populated by higher percentages of far-right followers, such as Dresden and Saxony. Campaigning incentives, such as debates and rallies, will very likely increase the risk of attack, with the publicized nature of events and politically polarized discourse likely increasing potential assailants’ motive to generate fear among left-wing candidates. The German government will almost certainly direct greater focus on investigations concerning Germany’s far-right groups to identify individuals posing security risks, encouraging the Federal Police to complete risk assessments evaluating their likelihood of committing political violence. The Federal Police will likely monitor individuals presenting a security concern in the lead-up to the EU parliamentary election, with officers banning their entry to political events to protect candidates and citizens.

  • The attack will likely polarize German citizens, challenging law enforcement’s prevention of politically motivated attacks. AfD speeches will likely continue motivating far-right activism against individuals who are seen to threaten their ideology, likely causing hatred and grievances within the German population. The AfD’s increasing popularity in Germany will likely increase the threat of attacks, discouraging German politicians from hanging posters as a form of campaigning and limiting freedom of expression. Politicians will very likely utilize other campaign strategies, such as social media, to assure politicians' safety, likely excluding voters who do not have access to internet services and limiting campaign success.

  • German citizens who are against AfD’s extremist speech and practices will very likely call for new national protests against the attack, almost certainly aiming for further civil mobilization. Large demonstrations against the extremist content of German far-right discourse will likely impact the EU election turnout, with a roughly even chance of mobilizing far-right detractors and undecided voters against the AfD. German public news outlets will very likely focus on AfD’s threat to democratic values, likely focusing on extremist speech consequences, such as recent attacks on political figures. The AfD will very likely continue to disseminate hate speech targeting other political adversaries, migrants, and non-affiliated civil society organizations, unlikely reflecting on the influence of this discourse on political attacks.

 

[1] NATO Defense Ministers Meet at NATO Headquarters by Lisa Ferdinando, licensed under Public Domain (The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement)

[2] Statement by the North Atlantic Council on recent Russian hybrid activities, NATO, May 2024, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_225230.htm 

[3] A Strategic Compass for Security and Defence, European External Action Service (EEAS), April 2024, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/strategic-compass-security-and-defence-1_en 

[4] Attacks on election poster sticking teams, Sachsen.de, May 2024, https://medienservice.sachsen.de/medien/news/1075296 (Translated by Google)

[5] Attack on SPD politician Ecke – Police suspect a right-wing extremist background in the perpetrator, Der Spiegel, May 2024, https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/angriff-auf-matthias-ecke-polizei-vermutet-rechtsextremen-hintergrund-bei-mindestens-einem-taeter-a-faf58f22-0011-4b60-9b2d-9b348a04441a (Translated by Google)

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