How big is the topic of possible Russian influence in the campaign before the Dutch election, any indications that there are some attempts from foreign actors to influence the elections? Read few comments.
Sijbren de Jong, Strategic Analyst, Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)
In general, we have seen a rise in the number of cyber attacks in recent years – similar to what other countries have experienced. In the context of this increased threat, and coupled with the realisation that Russian hackers are particularly active, the government had moved to do the ballot counting largely by hand. Later it became known that computers are allowed to be used, but cannot be connected to the internet. Also at least two people have to be present to check the vote counting when it takes place. Are the Russians specifically motivated to interfere in our elections? Much less so than in France or Germany which are much more pivotal in the whole sanctions debate and have a leader (Merkel) who is the most powerful person in Europe. One has to acknowledge that the highpoint of Russia’s interest so far has been the Ukraine referendum on the association agreement. There we saw large chunks of fake or half true lines of reasoning being put forward by the parties who were backing the referendum.
These arguments frequently came across as ‘Kremlin talking points’. Think: Ukraine is a country where there is a civil war raging (no, it’s an international conflict), far right parties are roaming the streets, Ukraine is corrupt and the EU has no business there, the EU provoked the conflict in Ukraine etc etc. You know the drill. The resemblance between these ‘arguments’ and what the Kremlin was putting forward however was not because the Kremlin somehow instructed these parties. No, not that. Let that be very clear. It is more that because this whole referendum was much more about ‘sticking it to the EU’ rather than anything else, that these messages (however false) neatly fit the frame of the parties backing the referendum as it could put the EU in a bad spot. So, clearly we have bogus lines of reasoning to deal with and the impact is severe. In effect they became useful idiots.
For Russia the fact that the Netherlands will ultimately ratify the Ukraine agreement is excellent propaganda as they can then again claim that ‘voters are not listend to in Europe’. Although there might be an element of truth to this, this is hugely blown out of proportion and goes past the fact that this whole referendum was used as a way to stick it to the EU and in fact had little to nothing to do with Ukraine.
Please do make clear that it is not the case that these parties were instructed from Moscow. There simply is no proof for this.