Why Denmark is an unlikely target for election interference

Denmark’s two security intelligence services, FE and PET, have issued an assessment of the risk of foreign attempts to manipulate the upcoming election.

Why Denmark is an unlikely target for election interference
Denmark's election is not an attractive target for a coordinated foreign disinformation campaign, according to analyst. Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

In a press statement, the two security services said they had not previously confirmed “coordinated and systematic foreign state interference activities in relation to elections in Denmark”.

Although examples of interference have been seen in other countries, PET and FE do not expect it to target the Danish parliamentary election on November 1st, they said.

“Neither do we expect at this parliamentary election to see a prepared, coordinated campaign to influence [the result] – from either Russia or China,” PET’s head of counter-espionage Anders Henriksen told news wire Ritzau.

“It is the assessment of PET and FE that Russia has the capacity to attempt to influence the upcoming parliamentary election, but that a comprehensive and well-coordinated campaign needs time and significant resources,” the agencies said according to DR.

“In light of the major political and economic pressure in Russia currently, it is the assessment of PET and FE that it is less likely that Russia will prioritise carrying out a prepared, coordinated campaign on the Danish parliamentary election,” they said.

As such, major interference from Russia is unlikely but a threat does exist according to the agencies.

Russia could attempt to influence the election at a lower level if the opportunity arises to increase division in the Danish population or between Danish decision makers, they said.

Intelligence services are therefore taking potential threats seriously, Ritzau writes.

Manipulation of elections from abroad usually occurs in the form of internet actors which seek to establish personal networks. People in Denmark are therefore encouraged to take a critical approach to online information and report anything they suspect as being disinformation.

Henriksen said that PET has not, however, seen signs of “Russian manipulation narratives” gathering to a greater extent on social media in Denmark.

Trolling and disinformation campaigns targeting democratic processes have previously emerged from Russia, China and Iran, senior analyst Jens Monrad of IT security firm Mandiant told Ritzau.

But Denmark is not a particularly attractive target for such campaigns because it has a high level of consensus on geopolitics and international security, Monrad said.

“We have previously seen these three actors be extremely active in efforts to intervene in elections in different ways. But seen from my perspective, there’s not much to gain for those three countries from getting involved in the Danish election,” he said.

“There is consensus between the parties on how we deal with geopolitical challenges as well as on topics like NATO and participation in international agreements,” he said.

“It makes little difference to, for example, Russia if the Social Democrats, Conservatives or Liberals are at the head of the table in the government,” he said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Danish business authority reports Russian organisations to police

The Danish Business Authority (Erhvervsstyrelsen) has reported two government-controlled Russian organisations in Denmark to the police.

Danish business authority reports Russian organisations to police

The Business Authority suspects the two organisations of skirting EU sanctions, it confirmed to newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The two organisations, which operate in Denmark, have had their assets frozen in the Nordic country.

The Business Authority told Jyllands-Posten that it had undertaken investigations following reporting by the newspaper on the Russian organisations.

Both organisations – Rossotrudnichestvo and Russkiy Mir – are on the EU’s sanctions list.

The EU and experts say that Rossotrudnichestvo is part of Russia’s “soft power” apparatus and part of Moscow’s information war against the West. The organisation has offices in 79 countries.

“This organisation plays a quite special role as the extended arm of the Kremlin and is very visible in several EU countries where in can act to undermine,” senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), Flemming Splidsboel, has previously told Jyllands-Posten.

Rossotrudnichestvo is part of the Russian interior ministry and its Danish office is based out of the country’s Copenhagen embassy. Its official purpose is related to cultural, educational and social activities.

In its justifications for sanctions against the organisation, the EU states that it “funds various public diplomacy and propaganda projects, consolidating the activities of pro-Russian players and disseminating the Kremlin’s narratives, including historical revisionism”.