Upcoming Dutch elections at risk of Russian hacking, propaganda: Foreign Min.
Security experts in the United States are convinced that the Netherlands will be targeted by Russian hackers in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in March, like the American Democratic Party was during the U.S. elections, NOS reports. "The Dutch government is very, very alert", Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs said to the broadcaster. "I have no concrete evidence that this is the case, but I am not naive."
Last week the American intelligence services concluded that Russia is behind an email hack on the Democratic Party during their elections. The Americans expect that the Russians will also try to sow discord in the Netherlands by influencing the parliamentary elections with propaganda.
Koenders is currently in Washington to see whether the Americans have any specific information about Russian cyber operations aimed at the Netherlands. During his visit he spoke with Senator John McCain, who criticized President Barack Obama for the "soft" way he reacted towards Russia after the Democratic Party was hacked. "I shared concerns with him that we also have in the Netherlands about this type of activity from Russia.
The main purpose for Koenders' visit to the United States is to emphasize the importance of cooperation between Europe and the U.S. "At a time when both Europe and the United States appear to be divided, it is extremely important."
So far president elec. Trump seems to be aimed at an American First policy and openly wondered whether America must fulfill its NATO obligations. But Koenders is not overly concerned. "It means that there is much work to be done. Especially when you have different opinions on climate, security and terrorism, is it important that cooperation proves itself. That is why I am here: to strengthen the relationship between Europe and the U.S. and to dispel concerns."
The Dutch Foreign Minister was also in New York this week, where Trump is forming his government and preparing for his inauguration. According to NOS, it is tradition in the U.S. that between the election and inauguration the new president takes guidance from diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These diplomats help the new president when foreign leaders and diplomats come to talk to him. With Trump, this is apparently not the case - he is accepting no guidance, the broadcaster reports.
This makes it difficult for Koenders to open diplomatic channels with the upcoming government. "They're holding their cards against the chest", he said. According to the minister, he'll only be able to make contact once the new government is formed. "But I am making contacts with people within Trump's network."